North Carolina offers plasticulture guidance

The North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Agronomic Division is holding a workshop Aug. 17 to help growers interested in plasticulture production learn more about this growing technology.

The free workshop is being held at ERW Farms in Bailey, but organizers ask attendees to register.

Plasticulture, which involves growing crops on plastic with drip irrigation, is a relatively recent practice in North Carolina, starting in the early 1980s on a limited basis.

“It has been primarily used to produce strawberries and a few specific vegetable crops,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “Today, many small family farms are experimenting with a much wider range of crops in an effort to maintain profitability and sustainability.”

Plasticulture is radically different from traditional farming. It uses plastic materials, such as film mulches and drip irrigation tape, to moderate the crop production environment. This technology helps crops withstand extreme fluctuations in weather, especially temperature and rainfall. It can also improve produce quality and yield, extend the growing season and optimize use of land and water resources.

Workshop attendees will learn how to avoid common and expensive pitfalls such as under-watering or applying the wrong balance of nutrients. The workshop will focus on fumigation regulations, weed control and disease management. Certified Crop Advisor credits and pesticide recertification credits will be available in connection with this training.

To register, contact Kent Messick at (919) 733-2655.

The goal of the training is to provide growers and other agricultural professionals with the management skills necessary to transition smoothly from traditional field crop production, said Messick, NCDA&CS Field Services Section chief.

“Plasticulture is receiving wide support largely because it is seen to be both environmentally sustainable and economically profitable,” Messick said. “It is a promising choice for growers who are downsizing their operations and trying to earn more profit on fewer acres.”

This is the second workshop being offered on plasticulture production. The first emphasized water management, fertilization and plant tissue sampling. Handouts on these topics are available online at

Growers who were unable to attend the first workshop can contact their regional agronomist to ask questions about these handouts or to schedule a site visit. Both workshops are funded by a grant from the North Carolina Tobacco Trust Fund Commission.

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