Florida – SARE Southern

Last Updated on August 22, 2023 by Hannah Stevens

High Tunnels Provide Pest and Disease Control Benefits in Tropical Climates

High tunnels in subtropical environments reduce pest and disease pressures in organic vegetable cultivation. Using high tunnels can help control pests and diseases in cherry tomato plants. Also, high tunnels were used to determine if they could extend the growing season. 

Vegetable growers in subtropical climates such as Florida are subject to high levels of heat, humidity, and rainfall. This can lead to severe pest pressure and disease risk. Organic and sustainable practices will be a challenge for them. Season extension presents many unique challenges due to climate. Production is at its highest in the winter months while it drops during the summer.

High Tunnels can protect crops from heavy rains, which can bring down pests and diseases. They also extend the growing season, which can provide additional income to farmers.

“Season Extension & Increased Economic Sustainability for South Florida Growers” by Kashem 

He compared yields and pest pressures of an open and a high tunnel. The results showed that the high tunnel trial had a 15% decrease in the incidence of bacterial spot, and that there was a 20% decrease in pest damage. He observed that there is no prolongation of the growing season due to the high tunnels. Instead, he observed a decrease in flower production during the summer months which led to lower fruit production. The yields of high tunnel and open field production were similar.

High heat is the primary reason for the reduced flower production and fruit set in high tunnels. Therefore, it is suggested that shade cloth could be an option to lower the temperature.

High tunnel use in the normal growing season (September through April) is still an option. Normally tomatoes are the most pest-ridden crop on organic farms. They can spread pests and diseases to other crops like eggplants, okra, and peppers. High tunnels can make tomatoes more affordable to grow, and allow other crops to grow without being subject to the same pests and diseases.

SARE in Florida

Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University are collaborating to facilitate the Florida SARE program. Our collaboration aims to create a program that improves the state’s environmental, social and economic sustainability through education and research. Florida SARE works with extension faculty, farmers, community organizations, researchers, and producers to find and implement science-based practices in all areas of Florida’s agriculture system. SARE provides education in sustainable agriculture through a variety of training each year. 

You can also read more about Farm Certifications – SARE Southern.

Florida Impacts

  • $8.1 million in funding since 1988
  • 174 projects funded since 1988

You can also read about the Arkansas – SARE Southern and the Georgia – SARE Southern.

Professional Development Program

In each state, agricultural educators work directly alongside farmers and ranchers to promote sustainable agriculture production and marketing. SARE state agricultural coordinators offer support in sustainable agriculture education and outreach strategies through a program called “The Professional Development Program” (PDP).

Fellows Program

The Sustainable Agriculture Fellows Program is offered by SARE and NACAA. It enhances Cooperative Extension staff’s knowledge of sustainable agriculture and gives them broad-based national exposure to unique and successful sustainable agriculture programs.

State Contacts

SARE State Coordinators play a vital role in expanding sustainable agriculture training for Extension, NRCS and other agricultural professionals. This will help producers transition to a more sustainable farming system.

Cassel Gardner

Interim Director, Center for Water and Air Quality
Florida A & M University

Email | (850) 599-3594

Marilyn (Mickie) Swisher

Dept. of Family, Youth & Community Science
University of Florida

Email | (352) 273-3538

SARE Funded Projects in Florida

Southern SARE provides grant possibilities for individuals or institutions across the Southern region. Below is a comprehensive list containing the currently funded SARE projects in Florida. You may search the Project Database to find complete reports on Florida’s previously funded projects. Before you apply for a grant, it is helpful to read through the reports in order to understand the types of projects SARE funds and supports.

Research and Education Grants

Graduate Student Grants

On-Farm Research Grants

Producer Grants

You can see more Farm Grants for Females elsewhere on this website.