MightyVine is a relatively new business in the Chicago area focused on the local market. From the very beginning the company applied shading product to protect the tomatoes from the harsh climate.
There aren’t many large greenhouse tomato operations in the Midwest. Over a fairly short period of time, MightyVine has grown into a valued supplier of vine and cherry tomatoes for local retailers. ‘We are putting the emphasis on taste rather than on maximum production and this is being noticed,’ says Ruben Vicencio, Head Grower. The farm in Rochelle currently is 9 hectares (22.5 acres) and will expand to 12 hectares (30 acres) in April.
The entire greenhouse cover consists of diffused glass. Diffused glass distributes the sunlight among the crop, which creates a balanced climate.
‘We cannot grow without a coating on the glass of the greenhouse. The climate here is simply too harsh for that. In the summer period, radiation runs up to 1100 or 1200 W/m2 and the temperature rises to 35°C. We have to do something about that. If we do not use any coatings, we run into Blossom End Rot (BER) and thin heads on the plants, and that adversely affects production,’ he says.
REDUSOL OR REDUHEAT?
He tried out ReduSol in the past. ‘The staff found that very effective, but it removed too much light for the tomatoes. They became too vegetative and lagged in terms of production. Since then, we have been using ReduHeat with great results. This heat-reflecting coating lowers the greenhouse temperature and prevents problems such as BER and thin heads. Therefore, minimal leaf pruning is needed to keep the plant’s top strength up.’
This contributes to high-quality production, even in difficult periods. Today, protection is proving even more necessary because recent summers have become dryer with increased radiation.
Every year determining when to apply and remove ReduHeat is discussed. ‘I use 15 April and 15 September as a rule of thumb, if only the weather would then cooperate as well. Here in the Midwest, it is always difficult to predict what the weather is going to be. When the wind comes from the North, it is cool, when it comes from the West, it is dry and hot, and when it comes from the South, it is humid. Fortunately, our supplier, Plant Products, is always prepared, knowing that we will be placing our order in spring. The company already has the products on hand. It is important to apply the coating on time. When you are too late, this can cost you a truss.’
MightyVine uses its own equipment to apply ReduHeat to the greenhouse glass. They also remove the coating themselves. On the one hand this provides for maximum flexibility, but on the other hand it is a necessity, because since there are so few greenhouse farms in the region There are no contractors that can do this work.
Vicencio is very satisfied with ReduHeat and will continue to use the product, and that includes on the new greenhouses in April.