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A three-year experiment evaluated the beneficial effects of independent and combined practices on thermal conditions inside high tunnels (HTs), and further investigated the temperature impacts on lettuce production. Specific practices included mulching (polyethylene and biodegradable plastic films, and vegetative), row covers, cover crops, and irrigation with collected rainwater or city water. The study conducted in eastern Tennessee was a randomized complete block split-split plot design (RCBD) with three HTs used as replicates to determine fall lettuce weight (g/plant) and lettuce survival (#/plot), and the changes in soil and air temperature. The black and clear plastic mulches worked best for increasing plant weight, but when compared to the bare ground, the higher soil temperature from the plastics may have caused a significant reduction in lettuce plants per plot. Moreover, the biodegradable mulch did not generate as much soil warming as black polyethylene, yet total lettuce marketable yield was statistically similar to that for the latter mulch treatment; while the white spunbond reduced plant weight when compared with black plastic. Also, row covers provided an increased nighttime air temperature that increased soil temperature, hence significantly increased lettuce production. Cover crops reduced lettuce yield, but increased soil temperatures. Additionally, irrigation using city water warmed the soil and provided more nutrients for increased lettuce production over rainwater irrigation.

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