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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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Greenhouses Can Be Profitable

LAS CRUCES -- Greenhouse vegetables can mean big profits to growers who take the time to learn the complexities of indoor vegetable production, said a New Mexico State University horticulture specialist.

"High light intensity and a mild climate make New Mexico an excellent area for greenhouse production," said George Dickerson, with NMSU's Cooperative Extension Service.

But growers should research all the costs before investing, he said.

"There's a big difference between growing vegetables in a hobby greenhouse and on a commercial basis,"Dickerson said. "Greenhouses may cost as much as $200,000 per acre. When you consider that, you better have a crop that makes big bucks."

A clear understanding of greenhouse production technology, a thorough knowledge of cultural practices and a keen perception of marketing are all necessary before investing in a greenhouse operation, Dickerson said.

A farmer's first decision will be selecting the construction material, which best suits the farmer's needs. Most greenhouses are made of wood or metal, Dickerson said, but frameless, inflatable structures are also available. Coverings include glass, polyethylene and fiberglass.

Tomatoes and cucumbers are two of the most popular greenhouse crops, Dickerson said. Harvest should be timed for late fall or spring, when locally-grown fresh vegetables are at a premium.

Leaf and bibb lettuce can be grown in cooler areas of the state, where heating a greenhouse may be a problem. "Yields can often be increased by pumping carbon dioxide into the greenhouse," Dickerson said. "Increases of 20 to 40 percent are not uncommon, especially if the greenhouse has been closed up for several days to conserve heat."

Growers interested in greenhouse crop production will benefit from the Greenhouse Conference to be held on November 8 at the 4-H Center in Albuquerque.

The conference will cover greenhouse construction, integrated pest management, production techniques, hydroponics and marketing.

The 4-H Center in Albuquerque is located at 1510 Menaul NW. For more information on the conference, call Dickerson at (505) 275-2526.