TUNNEL FARMING AND
By: Asmat Babar
Growing out-of- season crops in controlled
atmosphere inside polythene tunnels is called
Tunnel Farming. Tunnel farming was first
introduced by William Fredrick 2600 years
before. They usually semi-circular, square or
elongated in shape. The interior heats up
because incoming radiation from the sun warms
plants, soil, and other things inside the building
faster than heat can escape the structure. Air
warmed by the heat from hot interior surfaces
is retained in the building by the roof and wall.
Temperature, humidity and ventilation can be
controlled by equipment fixed in the polytunnel.
WHY NEED TUNNEL FARMING?
Importance of vegetables in human diet cannot be
ignored these are major source of roughes that are
helpful for digestion process. They also provide
vitamins and minerals and also help to control
cholesterol in our body. Many vegetables are famous
for their low-caloric value being used by diet
With the increasing population of the world and
shortage of land for agricultural use coined the idea
of producing vegetables in tunnels. To produce
winter vegetables in summer by creating an artificial
environment is much costly which cannot be
practiced at a large level in Pakistan, but production
of summer vegetables in winter by providing them
optimum environment in tunnels is very much
possible, as the plastic sheets saves the energy of
sun and does not allow them to go back and
provides enough warmth for vegetable production
Types of Tunnels:
1) Low Tunnel: Low tunnels are less expensive as
compared with the High tunnels but crop yield is
low. Soil preparation, spraying and picking is difficult
is this tunnel. Cucumber, melons, watermelons,
bitter gourds, squashes, and snake gourds etc can
be grown in these tunnels.
2) Walk-in Tunnels: These are lower in height as
compared with High tunnels. Walk-in-tunnels
provide high yield compared to Low tunnels. The
tunnel is suitable for growing tomatoes, cucumbers,
sweet pepper and hot pepper.
3) High Tunnel: High tunnels give maximum yield
of crops and make easy soil preparation, picking,
spraying due to its width and height. The tunnel is
suitable for growing tomatoes, cucumbers and
Important Points for Tunnel Farming:
Prior to start off-season vegetable
farming in tunnels, the investor must
have practical knowledge about farming.
Soil and water quality should be tested
before starting the farming.
Self-pollinated plant should be grown.
Recommended seed should be used.
Farmer must have the updated market
information to earn high profit.
HOW TO MAKE A LOW TUNNEL IN
YOUR OWN GARDEN:
1/2” PVC cut into 5 feet pieces.
1/2-in x 2ft steel rebar pins. You will need 2 rebar
pieces per “hoop.”
Spun bonded row cover. This is the material you
will lay over the hoops to protect the plants from the
Place each rebar piece in the ground at about a
35-45 degree angle inward. For each hoop there
are 2 rebar pieces that will face each other.
Space the rebar pieces 6 feet apart along the row.
Bend PVC pipe over slanted rebar pieces.
Cover with row cover and weigh down the row
cover with weights on either side of low tunnel.
Rocks work very well.
Now your plants are protected from the cold
winter elements, and you can keep growing into
the winter months!
SUITABLE CROPS FOR
Following crops are high value vegetables
and have shown significant increase in
MANAGEMENT OF TUNNELS:
Best Growth of
For proper production of vegetables in
tunnels, fertile soils with PH range 5-7 are
preferable. Well-decomposed organic
matter should be added to increase fertility,
porosity and water holding capacity of soil.
Pakistani soils have capability to produce
vegetable in such a huge amount that these
can be exported. But it is impossible
without practical help of government
Fertilizer requirements vary from crop to
crop and type of soil but generally
Phosphate should be given prior to
planting, as plants need it in emerging
stage. Nitrogen is applied at different level
of crop growth, part of it as top dressing
before planting along with phosphorus and
Fertigation is a term used for fertilizing
along with watering is a good way to
provide nutrients along with water. Proper
irrigation is another important measure to
obtain proper yield. But it mainly depends
on crop and type of soil. In all
circumstances it should be managed that
plants may not bear water shock or water
stress. . In severe summer irrigation to
vegetables is required after every 5 - 7
days depending on the type of soil, whereas
in December, January light water is
required after 15-21 days.
WHICH TYPE OF IRRIGATION IS
Row irrigation is most appropriate method
In water shortage areas the best way of
irrigation is drip irrigation. Drip irrigation
improves the water use efficiency if
fertilizers are applied though drips as
fertigation and offers more splits of
fertilizers, even micronutrients can be used,
through the initial growth periods.
Hybrid seeds are produced through a
special process and give crop yield 3 to 4
times more than ordinary seeds. F1 hybrid
seeds are recommended for cultivation in
tunnels because they have the ability to
resist multiple diseases and have above
90% germination capacity as compared to
that of ordinary one.
Are Pest And Diseases a Problem?
During the ten years that growers have
used plastic tunnels in Fresno County, no
serious outbreaks of pests and diseases
have been reported. Trials in the field with
plastic tunnels and different crops have
shown that tunnels do protect the crop
from insects well into the season. However,
plants should be insect-free at
transplanting, since the warmer
environment will stimulate insect
development, usually aphids
AREAS OF PAKISTAN UNDER
Tunnel farming is gaining popularity, and
being practiced in many areas of Punjab
like, Faisalabad, Mamokanjan, Gujranwala,
Okara and Sahiwal. But still their cultivation
is not at a level to be exported(55000 acre)
This technology can successfully be adopted
in coastal districts of Sindh which have
favorable conditions for off-season
vegetable farming. The tunnel farming in
districts Thatta, Badin and Hyderabad can
reduce the production costs.
EXPORT PROSPECTS: Pakistan is not yet exporting
vegetables due to their perishable nature, although
there is huge demand in international market. The
facility of growing off-season vegetables also allows
for growing non-conventional varieties and
vegetables, which are in high demand in Europe,
Middle East and Far Eastern countries.
Awareness programs for the farmers should
processed by the Govt to introduce this technology
ESTABLISHMENT OF STORAGE MARKET: An
established market is also needed to handle with
production, as the production is increasing but
markets cannot intake the whole production.
Another challenge is the waxing and packaging of
vegetables; these units should be introduced at their
respective production area so people may able to
export their commodities as well as save them for
longer use at local level.
A PROJECT OF NBP AND PDUCTION OF
VEGETABLES IN TUNNELS: This project is
focused on the study of three crops only i.e.
Tomato, Capsicum and Cucumber, cultivated on
area of 9 acres. The land utilized for cultivation is
recommended to be leased. The off-season
vegetable project using high tunnel technology on
area of 9 acres needs a capital investment
estimated at Rs. 6.64 million for construction,
purchasing machinery and equipment. In addition to
this, a sum of Rs. 0.3 million is required as working
capital, which would be used for purchasing of
seeds, fertilizers and pesticides etc. The total project
cost is estimated at Rs. 6.94 million. The estimated
yield potential of the farm varies according to the
selected type of vegetable. For this project, three
proposed vegetables are selected. For this vegetable
crop mix, it is estimated that a 9-acre farm unit will
yield a total of 210,000 kg vegetable per annum.
Total Production Capacity
Expected Production and Land
Production Production Sale Price*
Rs./ (kg )
*The prices of vegetables depend on demand and supply and environment conditions.
Normally the off – season vegetables prices are higher than seasonal vegetables.
Total expected production:
total of all three=8190000/annum
SIGNIFICANCE OF TUNNEL
Because of controlled atmosphere, Tunnel
farming is the source of higher yields and
earlier production, and this earlier and quality
produce gives good profits to farmers.
It is clearly evident that off season production
through tunnel farming can increase many fold
the share of Pakistani fruit and vegetable in
international market, which will not only bring
prosperity for farmer but can also earn foreign
exchange for the country in the field of
agriculture and particularly in horticulture.
As plants grow inside high tunnels so they tend
to experience less disease and insect pressure
Less use of pesticides so input cost reduced.
They can help farmers better utilize labor by
providing work in bad weather and potentially
creating year-round positions.
The structure, high tunnel crops tend to be of
higher quality and produce higher yields than
Premium prices at early farmers’ markets and
additional income for farmer
As competition increases among restaurants,
they are willing to buy off season vegetables at
any cost which provides benefits to farmers
using tunnels vegetables.
Long lasting benefits. An iron high tunnel costs
few thousand rupees but it can be profitable for
more than 20 years.