Greenhouse production of healthy sunflowers requires careful control of nutrients, water, light and temperature as well as disease and pest management.

Sustainable and safe greenhouse crop production

By Mary Wicks and Peter Ling

Ohio’s production of crops grown under controlled environments (CE), i.e. greenhouses and plant factories, is growing. From 2012 to 2017, floriculture and bedding crop production increased by 12%, based on square footage. During the same period, the area allocated for greenhouse production of vegetables, herbs and tomatoes increased about 4-fold, with total sales of about $75 million in 2017.

Like any other crop, those grown in CE require careful management to maintain plant health and maximize yields. Unlike field crops, CE production allows for control of growing conditions. Understanding how to manipulate climatic factors, such as temperature, humidity and lighting, as well methods to manage pests, can optimize plant growth while minimizing negative environmental impacts.

For CE production of vegetable crops, eliminating the risk of foodborne pathogens is also critical. The National Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) Program provides training and resources to educate growers about methods of growing, storing and transporting food crops that protect consumers. By learning more about the fundamentals of controlling all aspects of crop production, a grower can improve the economic and environmental sustainability of the business.


Learn more from the experts

On January 16 and 17, 2020 greenhouse growers will have the opportunity to learn how to ensure safe and sustainable greenhouse production of their ornamental and food crops. The OSU Greenhouse Management Workshop, which is held annually, brings together experts in industry and academia to provide practical information based on the latest research. Below is an overview of topics that will be addressed.

Thursday’s program addresses the fundamentals of greenhouse management. Peter Ling and Chieri Kubota, both with Ohio State University (OSU), will talk about controlling climatic factors. Methods for disease and integrated pest management will be addressed by OSU’s Francesca Hand and Luis Canas. Ling and Kubota will wrap up the day with discussions on the importance of balancing energy, water, CO2 and photosynthesis.

Friday’s program, with two concurrent sessions, takes a deeper dive. One session focuses on reducing chemical inputs for ornamental crops. Jennifer Boldt, USDA-ARS, and Uttara Samarakoon, OSU, will discuss the use of chemicals to control fungi and improve plant health. OSU’s Michelle Jones and Kaylee South will advise on using beneficial bacteria to enhance plants’ stress tolerance. Matt Foertmeyer, an Ohio grower, will provide information of managing nutrient discharge at his operations, and Hand will discuss the biology and ecology of pathogens of ornamental crops.

The other session will provide GAPs training for hydroponic grown food crops. A team of OSU educators, Melanie Ivey, Sanja Ilic and Beth Schekelhoff, will talk about the biology of foodborne pathogens and how to keep food crops pathogen free during growing and throughout harvest and transport. Attendees will learn how to develop a food safety plan and will receive a GAPs Certification of Attendance.

The workshop will also feature a tour of OSU Wooster Campus research greenhouses and a networking reception on day one as well as a tour of Green Circle Growers in Oberlin on day two. There is also an option to attend online, where presentations will be viewed via a webinar format, but virtual attendees will miss the tours, exhibitors, and networking reception. Online attendees interested in receiving the GAPs certification will need to complete an online quiz.

For program and registration details, visit our website:


Mary H. Wicks and Dr. Peter Ling, Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering. Phone: 330.202.3533; 330.263.3857. E-mail: and This column is provided by the OSU Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering, OSU Extension, Ohio Agricultural Research & Development Center, and the College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.



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