DEVELOP IMPROVED TECHNOLOGIES FOR SOILLESS GREENHOUSE PLANT PRODUCTION TO MINIMIZE WATER, LABOR, AGROCHEMICAL INPUTS & ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS
Location: Application Technology Research Unit
Title: Virtual Grower: Estimating Greenhouse Energy Costs and Plant Growth Using New Computer Software
Submitted to: HortScience
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: March 14, 2007
Publication Date: July 14, 2007
Citation: Frantz, J., Runkle, E., Blanchard, M., Locke, J.C., Krause, C.R. 2007. Virtual Grower: Estimating Greenhouse Energy Costs and Plant Growth Using New Computer Software. HortScience Annual Meeting, July 16-19, 2007 in Scottsdale, AZ. 42:1018.
Greenhouse crop production is a complex, integrated system wherein a change in one component inevitably influences different, sometimes seemingly disparate components. For example, growers may modify their heating schedules to reduce energy costs, but a cooler temperature set-point can delay crop development, which at times can make it more expensive to grow a crop at lower temperatures due to longer production periods. Current greenhouse software has not simultaneously addressed heating, greenhouse configuration and materials, and crop growth. Virtual Grower is a free software package that was released by the USDA-ARS in January, 2006. It allows a user to choose their location among over 230 cities in the US, design a virtual greenhouse, create a heating schedule, predict plant growth, and calculate some of the costs associated with their production inputs. We have developed a novel system of integrating crop-specific growth responses to the environment as well as calculating the impact of different types of energy curtains in different structures while predicting the impact on crop growth. This software will serve as an additional decision-support tool for the greenhouse industry to rapidly estimate many production costs and how the management decisions impact crop growth and scheduling.