Evaluating Row Cover Establishment Systems for Cantaloupe and Summer Squash

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Hanna, H. Mark
Extension Agricultural Engineer
Rosentrater, Kurt
Steward, Brian
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Center for Crops Utilization Research
In the 1980s a crisis existed in American farming—a crisis of overproduction, underutilization, and decreasing international market share for raw commodities. Also, the United States’ growing dependence on imported oil and long-term forecasts for increasing oil prices put America at risk. To address this crisis, Center for Crops Utilization Research (CCUR) was established in 1984 through a special appropriation from the Iowa legislature. The center was tasked to respond to the urgent need to improve America’s agricultural competitiveness. Four decades later, there are new opportunities to increase demand for Iowa’s crops. Consumer demand is increasing for new healthful food ingredients, biobased alternatives to petroleum-based products, and sustainable and environmentally friendly industrial processes. The rapid advancement of new food processing technologies and industrial biotechnology enable those demands to be met in an economically viable way. While CCUR’s core mission of increasing demand for Iowa crops remains relevant, the center is also taking these opportunities to grow our connection with companies and entrepreneurs to help them to test, troubleshoot, and optimize their ideas in an industrial-friendly setting.
Organizational Unit
Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering

Since 1905, the Department of Agricultural Engineering, now the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering (ABE), has been a leader in providing engineering solutions to agricultural problems in the United States and the world. The department’s original mission was to mechanize agriculture. That mission has evolved to encompass a global view of the entire food production system–the wise management of natural resources in the production, processing, storage, handling, and use of food fiber and other biological products.

In 1905 Agricultural Engineering was recognized as a subdivision of the Department of Agronomy, and in 1907 it was recognized as a unique department. It was renamed the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering in 1990. The department merged with the Department of Industrial Education and Technology in 2004.

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  • Department of Agricultural Engineering (1907–1990)

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Center for Bioplastics and Biocomposites
Human Computer Interaction

Use of row covers offer an alternative to pesticide application for management of insect feeding and disease transmission and can be beneficial for extending the growing season. Unfortunately, labor required to establish cover is significant (particularly for single rows) and larger pieces of multi-row cover are subject to fatigue from wind and sun. Development of a mechanized single-row cover system or a durable multi-row cover system advances potential for use of covers. Field tests of a commercial semi-mechanized cover implement were conducted. Successful wire insertion ranged from 74 to 100% and depended on careful adjustment of the implement. Success was unaffected by soil type, but partially improved with wetter soil (R2 = 0.37). Costs of a single-row mechanized system using spunbond polypropylene or polyethylene mesh as row covers were compared to those of a conventional chemical application strategy without cover. Total costs of the spunbond polypropylene system were $1620 ha-1 to $5290 ha-1 ($650 acre-1 to $2140 acre-1) greater than the conventional system depending on operational size. Smaller production areas were more costly due to machinery costs. The polyethylene mesh system was $1500 ha-1 ($600 acre-1) more costly than using spunbond polypropylene due to material costs. In addition, a multi-row cover system using either of the two types of cover material was investigated including evaluation of support structure during mid-summer field conditions (wind and sun). Sagging cover material over time suggested limiting distance between single supports to 2 m (7 ft) or less. Tennis balls atop single supports avoided cover damage better than rebar caps. Spunbond polypropylene had more tears and damage than polyethylene mesh. Wire hoops spaced 2.3 m along the row avoided cover damage while keeping material off the crop.


This is a manuscript of the article Hanna, H. Mark, Brian L. Steward, and Kurt A. Rosentrater. "Evaluating Row Cover Establishment Systems for Cantaloupe and Summer Squash." Applied Engineering in Agriculture (2018). DOI: 10.13031/aea.12217. Posted with permission.

Mon Jan 01 00:00:00 UTC 2018