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High tunnel pilot project announced for Nevada



The US Department of Agriculture launched a pilot project to fund high tunnels in December.  Guidelines to implement the program in Nevada have now been released by the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Applicants must be agricultural producers who raise or sell at least $1,000 worth of agricultural products each year, and the high tunnel must be installed on existing cultivated land.

Successful applicants can receive financial assistance amounting to about 75 percent of the cost of the high tunnel and related costs.  Beginning, socially disadvantaged, and limited resource farmers can receive 90 percent of the costs.

High tunnels are structures that modify the growing climate, allowing for tender, sensitive, and specialty crops like certain varieties of vegetables, herbs, berries, and others to grow where they otherwise may not. High tunnels can lengthen local marketing of quality produce, which increases sustainability while lowering energy and transportation inputs. In arid climates, high tunnels may slow evaporation and decrease irrigated water use. An extended growing season and steady income may offer advantages to small, limited resource, and organic farmers.  They can also assist producers transitioning to specialty crops.

The maximum size for the high tunnel is 5 percent of one acre, or 2,178 square feet. The high tunnel systems must be purchased as manufactured kits, will not include electrical, heating or ventilation systems, be at least 6 feet high, and have an expected life of at least 4 years.

High tunnels are constructed of metal or plastic bow frames at least 6 feet in height, covered with a single layer of polyethylene. For this pilot project, plants must be planted in the ground or in permanent raised beds, and not containerized. Since water runoff from high tunnels can cause erosion, pooling, and other environmental concerns, conservation practices, such as runoff management, irrigation, drain structures for water control, crop rotation, and critical area planting, may be installed. These additional practices will need to be planned and installed as a condition for the installation of a high tunnel. Additional practices that might be considered as part of a conservation plan include nutrient and pest management, cover crop, and irrigation water management.

Participating growers will help evaluate the effects of high tunnels on natural resources.  A short questionnaire will be completed annually covering nutrients and pesticides used and crop season dates.

Anyone interested in the High Tunnel Pilot Project should contact their local NRCS Field Office or go online to www.nv.nrcs.usda.gov.

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