Pollination in the Hay Grove

Decision Case Study
Jeffrey Taylor
Dr. Heather Karsten
August 8,2003

In late February of 2003, Lancaster County farmer Steve Groff made a decision to purchase a $25,000 Hay-grove. Hay-groves are large plastic high tunnels that can provide an early season crop. Steve purchased a one-acre Hay-grove and expects to get 30 tonnes of fresh market tomatoes out of it. Steve modestly expects that the tunnel will pay for itself in three years.

The tunnel was constructed in March and the tomatoes were planted in mid April. The spring of 2003 in Lancaster County brought record low temperatures and constant rain. This weather slowed the growth of the plants but the crop was still expected to bring early season high value crops.

After the cool temperatures and constant rains stopped Steve was expecting pollination to begin. The plants grew blossoms and were showing promising signs of healthy plants. However, because the humidity was so high and the wind movement in the tunnel was almost non-existent the plants just would not pollinate. Steve, frustrated with the lack of pollination, began to search for answers within the community.

He learned of greenhouse growers that went through their tunnels and physically shook the plants to help pollinate. There were even incidences of growers that went through tunnels with a leaf blower to move the pollen around. Some growers in the community were putting bumblebees in their tunnels to insure that pollination would take place.

All of these methods have proven to be beneficial in tunnels to pollinate plants. Shaking the plants involves approximately one half hour of labor per day. This is a cost of $4.00/day for about two weeks. The leaf blower would cost Steve about $200 plus $4.00/day in labor costs plus approximately $10 in fossil fuel costs. The bees and beehives would cost $750 dollars to start.

Method of pollination Cost
Bumblebees $750
Leaf blower $238
Shaking the plants $24