Written Paper

Energy use and yields in tomato production: field, high tunnel and greenhouse compared for the northern tier of the USA (Upstate New York)  [2011]

De Villiers, D.S. Wien, H.C. Reid, J.E. Albright, L.D.


In light of recent periods of worldwide energy shortages, public concern has been raised about the energy required to produce our food. When one considers the energy used in production of the crop, as well as that required to produce the structure in which the crop was grown, and transportation energy, what production method is most efficient at getting a kilogram of tomatoes into a local grocery store? We compared energy use and yields for a trellised field tomato crop, a high tunnel crop, and a modern greenhouse tomato crop in Upstate NY using published and estimated values. While the greenhouse tomato crop produced a yield of 496 tonnes per ha in an 8‐month harvest period, it required direct and embodied energy inputs of 26 000 GJ ha-1 y-1. Trellised field production (estimated from published Florida winter crop data) resulted in 40 tonnes per ha of yield over a 2-month harvest period, for which it required 285 GJ ha-1 y-1. High tunnels yielded 163 tonnes per ha over a 4 month harvest period, requiring energy inputs of 452 GJ ha-1 y-1. Thus a comparison of the three production systems in terms of energy needed per unit of fruit harvested showed that high tunnel production requires the least energy with 2.8 MJ per kg, followed by field production with 7.1 MJ per kg and the greenhouse system with 53 MJ per kg. This would imply that in a future energy‐limited world, local high tunnel production of tomatoes will be favoured when seasonal climate permits.


Acta horticulturae

ISSN : 0567-7572