Hoop House Pepper Study. Encouraged by the results of several hoop house tomato yield trials during 1996, we decided to take a close look at another promising hoop house crop – bell pepper. As with all climate modification structures, space is at a premium. Consequently, the first question we addressed pertained to plant density.
On March 24, 1997 bell pepper transplants variety 'Juniper' were set into three, 40 inch wide beds equipped with drip irrigation and black plastic mulch. Treatments consisted of a high plant density (2.6 sq. ft/plant - 3 rows per bed) and a low plant density (3.75 sq. ft/plant - 2 rows per bed). All plants were spaced 18 inches apart in the row. Excluding a pre-plant fertilizer application, all nutrients were supplied via the drip irrigation system based on a fertigation schedule developed by the University of Florida. The house was covered with a 55% shade fabric June 12. We began harvesting on May 30. The final harvest occurred on July 9.
The low density treatment surpassed the high density treatment in every category with the exception of number of marketable fruit (table 1). Fruit harvested from the low density treatment on or before June 24 were of excellent size and quality. Average fruit weight exceeded 0.4 pounds per fruit making this early harvest far superior to any field crop of peppers grown at the Foundation.
In an attempt to offset expenses associated with hoop house production, growers often increase plant population. However, as these results show, too much of a good thing isn't always beneficial. The only thing increased when you overplant is your cost of production.
Hoop house production enables growers to take advantage of consumer demand for early season locally grown produce. Bell pepper can be an important component of the hoop house growers early market crop mix.