Project Details


The proposed project targets two important aspects of crop production in New Jersey (and the region): 1) Steady reduction in quality land available for production agriculture, and 2) Steep increase in energy costs. Controlled environment plant production systems can produce more crops with higher quality and yields from smaller land areas compared to traditional field production. Our close proximity to large population centers provides significant marketing opportunities while keeping transportation costs down. Sophisticated control systems allow for sustainable use of resources (e.g., water), minimizing the environmental impact. On the other hand, energy prices have sharply increased during the last decade and these increases have had a major impact because most greenhouse facilities are designed for maximum light transmission and not energy retention. For the industry to remain profitable in the years to come, it is clear that energy conservation and management need to be optimized. Research on the engineering aspects of controlled environment production systems has long been a strong component NJAES' contribution to the national research agenda and New Jersey's program has been responsible for substantial technical improvements in the industry over the years. This was recognized by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE) in 2000 citing the Rutgers University greenhouse engineering developments one of the top 100 contributions of the profession over the past century. In 2004, one of these engineering developments, the air-inflated double-layer polyethylene covered greenhouse, was selected by ASABE as its 44th Historic Landmark. The proposed project will build on these developments and aims to integrate previous and future results into profitable and sustainable practices and decision support systems. During the last eight years, work has focused on: 1) Construction and testing of an open-roof greenhouse system, 2) Environmental control for greenhouse crop production, 3) Floor heating, 4) Supplemental lighting, 5) Impact of temperature perturbations on (tomato) fruit growth and development, and 6) Energy generation (from landfill gas) and use. The high cost of traditional supplemental lighting systems using high intensity discharge lamps has made alternatives such as light emitting diode (LED) technology very attractive. Preliminary work is underway in growth chambers in which only LED lamps are used for plant growth and development and then compared to traditional light sources. Funding was received from the NJDEP to install a microturbine system adjacent to the NJ EcoComplex research greenhouse in Burlington County. Landfill gas is pumped to the microturbine that generates electricity and heat. This project provides an opportunity to develop a decision support tool that aids a grower with the daily decision how best to use the generated electricity and heat energy since excess electricity can be delivered to the local grid for additional income. For growers not located near a landfill, alternative fuel sources (e.g., digester gas, natural gas) can be used in similar systems.
Effective start/end date10/1/089/30/13


  • National Institute of Food and Agriculture (National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA))


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