A 3-year study in western Washington from 2010 to 2012 evaluated five tomato cultivars for tomato disease development and yield in open-ended high-tunnel versus open-field settings. Findings in 2010 revealed that severity of late blight, caused by Phytophthora infestans (US-11), was significantly (P = 0.002) lower in high-tunnel compared with open-field experimental plots based on area under disease progress curve (AUDPC) values of 0.02 versus 321, respectively. In spite of rescue foliar fungicide applications to open-field plots in 2011 and 2012, the mean number of late blight infections across cultivars was 1.8 to 30.8 compared with only 0 to 6.5 in high tunnels for these years. Furthermore, accumulated hours of leaf wetness were fewer in high tunnels than the open field each year (857 versus 1,060 in 2010, 598 versus 998 in 2011, and 885 versus 923 in 2012). Cultivar susceptibility to late blight could not be differentiated in high tunnels due to low disease pressure. However, all five cultivars proved susceptible in the open field, with ‘Oregon Spring’ consistently having the most lesions. In contrast, high-tunnel production contributed to an increased severity of physiological leaf roll compared with open-field production each year, and these values differed significantly (P = 0.0335 and 0.0252) in 2011 and 2012, respectively. AUDPC values for physiological leaf roll showed that Oregon Spring was significantly (P = <0.0001) less susceptible than other cultivars each year. Physiological leaf roll correlated positively (r values of 0.758 to 0. 960) and significantly (P < 0.05) with leaf wetness and air temperature in all years in both high-tunnel and open-field settings but the same was not true for relative humidity. Even with severe physiological leaf roll, high-tunnel production in 2010 resulted in significantly (P < 0.0001) greater total tomato yield than open-field production (35.0 versus 10.6 t ha−1). Although a significant interaction between production system and cultivar occurred in 2011 and 2012, tomato yield always was greater in high-tunnel than open-field plots. Open-ended high tunnels offer tomato growers a potential tool for managing late blight in western Washington while also increasing yield, and could be especially useful in organic production.
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