AMARILLO – Rows of brilliant red salvia fill one high tunnel, and the aroma of basil drifts through another.
Dr. Charlie Rush, Texas A&M AgriLife Research plant pathologist in Amarillo, is diversifying his high tunnel research into seed production this year.
Rush has spent the past four years building high tunnels and researching their use in growing vegetables at the Bushland research station. Previously, he has concentrated on tomato and pepper production, but this year he is working with Ball Horticultural and Pan American Seed to determine how well high tunnels work for seed production in other plants or crops.
“We are planting all these crops both inside the tunnels and outside in mirrored replicas so we can help producers understand the issues they may face and offer potential solutions where possible,” Rush said.
PHOTO GALLERY (Texas A&M AgriLife photos by Kay Ledbetter)
Salvia being grown for seed production fills one high tunnel. Transplants from San Antonio were planted the second week of April.
The inside planting was mirrored outside, but the rain delayed planting until after mid-May, and it has been hailed on several times. It’s really tough to grow it outside, Rush said.
The basil crop for seed production is just amazing, he said. This crop has taken off, although it suffered from herbicide drift at the front of the high tunnel. It did not wipe out the whole thing, but there was tremendous damage done to the outside plantings.
Rush is growing basil as an organic crop, with no herbicides. When the crop is ready, the flowers are replaced by seed and then the top of the crop is cut off to harvest the seed. Ball Horticultural and Pan American Seed will direct the harvest.
Seed heads are still flowering.
The basil has been subjected to a foliar disease called downy mildew, which is common on basil. Rush said it won’t hurt the seed crop if the plants survive.
Tomatoes and peppers have been the mainstay of the high tunnel project until this year. This year the inside production is extremely prolific, with the exception of some herbicide drift damage on the edges of the crop.
First rain delayed planting outdoors, then herbicide drift and multiple hailstorms set the tomato and pepper crops outside the high tunnels back significantly this year.