Summer to Fall Mixed Leafy Trial
Kale, endive, and cress in NFT production in Ohio
By: Dr. Natalie Bumgarner
While lettuce fills a large majority of the spaces in most greenhouse nutrient film technique (NFT) systems in the US, there are many other crops that can be profitable for growers in these systems. In addition to herbs, other leafy crops, such as kale, cress and endive are currently being investigated by growers to address specialty markets. In recent years, more growers are experimenting with these varied leafy crops. However, less is known about crop productivity and timing in relation to both cultivar and seasonal impacts. It is also important to note that unlike bibb and some other lettuce types, most kale, endive and cress are not specifically bred and developed for controlled environment production. So, there is a potential for greater seasonal variability in production than is seen in some of the common bibb lettuce crops. This trial was designed to evaluate a selection of kale and other leafy crops through a range of summer to fall conditions to evaluate their potential for greenhouse growers in the Midwest and Northeast. This trial obviously only used a portion of the cultivars available, but was intended to provide information for future more extensive trials.
Timing and Conditions
* Watercress was seeded with multiple seeds per cube as is typical in production, but this increased the yield variability. Additionally the multiple plants grew together and created difficulty in accurately assessing yield per cube, so those comprised data are not presented, and a more upright cultivar was chosen for the next two runs of the trial.
Daily Biomass Accumulation
Some thoughts on the trial
• My final comments are based on both data and observations and discussions with growers. When growing alternative leafy crops, like kale, endive, and cress, it is essential to know your market and select cultivars based on the needs of your buyers and your productivity. The cress is an example of that fact in that the highest biomass producing cultivars may have been less marketable due to their difficult to manage size. In the kale, there were large differences in cultivar biomass production and appearance. It may well be that the most desirable cultivars for buyers may not be the most productive. So, growers need to be aware of the production capacity so that prices can be properly established. This knowledge and preparation will enable growers to best capitalize on the demand for these less common leafy crops.
|Red Russian Kale- 20 days after seeding|
|Red Russian Kale- At harvest (38 days after seeding)|
|Starbor Kale- 20 days after seeding|
|Starbor Kale- 38 days after seeding|
|Toscano- 20 days after seeding|
|Toscano- 38 days after seeding|
|Cress 38 days after seeding|
|Cress- 20 days after seeding|
|Endive- 38 days after seeding|
|Endive- 20 days after seeding|