Crop production is a challenging business, with the crops being constantly exposed to unfavorable weather conditions. Weather and climate conditions play an important role in determining the pace of crop production. However, during times when the global food security strongly depends on crop production, there is no place for any limitations. Therefore, the search for solutions resulted in farm management practices that involve farming in a controlled environment. Greenhouse farming is one of the basic variations of farming in a controlled environment.
What Greenhouse Farming Involves?
Greenhouse farming is the unique farm practice of growing crops within sheltered structures covered by a transparent, or partially transparent, material. The main purpose of greenhouses is to provide favorable growing conditions and to protect crops from unfavorable weather and various pests.
Greenhouse farming is a broad term that involves various types of sheltered structures. Important elements that are associated with this type of farming include:
- Shape of the structure
- Cover material
- Size of the farm
- Level of farm management technology
Each greenhouse structure is inclusive of aspects that react differently then and to other farm management aspects. These variables include:
- The amount of sunlight
- The amount of natural ventilation
- The size of the farm
- Heating requirements
- Condensation run-off
- Efficiency of materials
Considering the different types of structure, the term Greenhouse farming also includes:
- Glasshouses; structures covered with glass
- Shade houses; covered in woven or other material with gaps that allow sunlight, air, and moisture to pass
- Screen houses; covered with screening material that provides protection from pests and severe weather conditions, mostly practiced in hot or tropical areas
- Crop top structures; structures without walls, covered only with a roof
The Best of Greenhouse Farming
Crop production is a very risky business. The most powerful advantage of greenhouse farming is that it enables effective management and reduces risks caused by unfavorable weather conditions. More concretely, greenhouse farming optimizes growing conditions and protects the crops from extreme weather events. Additionally, some types of greenhouse farming (greenhouses with managed heating) extend the growing season or even allow farmers to grow the crops outside of the typical season. Greenhouses that are additionally equipped offer the possibility to take complete control of the crop production, which leads to faster growth and higher yields.
Are There Any Disadvantages?
Greenhouse farming is more appropriate on a smaller surface. For this reason, it's limited to the production of vegetables, flowers, herbs, and small fruits, such as strawberries. Another disadvantage of greenhouse farming is the lack of pollination due to the enclosed structure. In addition to the aforementioned disadvantages, greenhouse farming is often criticized for being an expensive farm practice. However, the costs of greenhouse construction and maintenance depend exclusively on the type of greenhouse structure and farm management technology being used. In other words, modest types of greenhouse structures are much more affordable for smallholder and family farmers.
In times when food production is seriously threatened due to climate changes, greenhouses are definitely a promising farm management practice.
After all, the beauty of farming is in the diversity of farm management practices, with one common goal: to feed the world!
Text sources: DPI