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10 Snow-Related Causes of Greenhouse Failure

November 26, 2014

10 Snow-Related Causes of Greenhouse Failure

From David Kuack, Greenhouse Grower, 6/4/2013:
John Bartok Jr., an agricultural engineer and University of Connecticut Professor Emeritus, says snow varies considerably in consistency and weight. It can be light and fluffy with a water equivalent of 12 inches equal to 1 inch of rain. Snow can also be wet and heavy with 3 to 4 inches equal to 1 inch of rain. Snow having a 1-inch rainwater equivalent loads a structure with 5.2 pounds per square foot. This amounts to about 6.5 tons on a 25- by 96-foot greenhouse.

Bartok says there are 10 reasons for structure failures during snow storms.

1. Drifting Snow: In nor'easter storms, adjacent greenhouses or bays of gutter-connected houses that have a north-south ridge orientation tend to collect more snow on the leeward side. Snow that is lifted over the ridge of the first house can be dumped on the windward side of the second house. This creates an off-center load on the roof.

2. Proximity Of Adjacent Greenhouses: Building greenhouses too close together is a common cause of failure. This is especially the case with overwintering structures that are only 4 to 6 feet apart. When snow slides off the greenhouse roof, it fills the space and crushes the house's sidewall frame. Usually there is inadequate space to get in with a bucket loader to remove it. To save the structure, some growers cut the plastic covering to allow the snow to flow into the greenhouse and relieve the pressure. Other growers install two-by-fours to brace the side frame.

3. Greenhouse Frame Shape: The gothic-shaped greenhouse was developed to eliminate the flat spots that can collect snow on the top of hoop-shaped structures. Since 1994, when the nursery industry changed from the hoop design to a gothic design for overwintering structures, there have been fewer structure failures.

4. Poor Frame Connectors: Check and tighten all bolts and tek screws before the winter season. These fasteners tend to loosen over time. Brace bands and u-clamps can slip if they are not held in place with tek screws. The screws should be at the side of frame members, not at the bottom. Several greenhouses have failed at the point where tek screws were placed at the bottom of hoop tubing. This created weak spots.

5. Greenhouse Frame Racking: Many manufacturers do not include bracing with their greenhouse kits. All greenhouses should have diagonal braces from near the peak at the endwall to the baseboard about 16 to 20 feet from the endwall on all four corners. This provides stability and keeps the frames vertical. Frames lose considerable strength when they are not vertical. Install tubing or a 1- by 4-inch board and secure with a U-bolt at each hoop.

6. Poor Welds: Welds that are not continuous or that have burned through the metal are weak spots. Areas that should be checked include truss braces, welds between sections of gutters and tubing sections that are welded together without an insert. Although expensive, professional inspection and x-ray testing may be worth the added expense.

7. Inadequate Air Inflation: Heavy wind can create rippling of plastic coverings causing failure at the structure attachments. This can be prevented by increasing the polyethylene film's inflation slightly by opening the blower's intake valve. Make sure any holes or rips are taped. Check to see that the inflation fan intake cannot be blocked by snow.

8. No Heat Or Inadequate Heat: Most greenhouses that fail don't have heat or were heated to 40F or less. When heavy snow is predicted, the greenhouse heating system should be turned on and the thermostat set at 70F or higher. Energy screens should be left open. The few extra gallons of oil or therms of natural gas burned are less expensive than replacing a collapsed greenhouse.

9. Open Vents, Doors Or Louvers: The effective force of the wind is doubled when it is allowed inside a greenhouse. Latch doors and tape vents and shutters so that they cannot open.

10. Plugged Gutters And Downspouts: Once snow has accumulated, it is important to have provisions for its removal. Removing snow from the roof lets some light in, allowing warming of the inside. This causes some melting, which helps to reduce the snow load. Once the snow is melted, it is important to keep the gutters and downspouts free of ice. Ice socks filled with calcium chloride placed in gutters and downspouts will melt the ice. If available, magnesium chloride or sodium acetate is more environmentally friendly and reduces corrosion.

Shoveling is not always the answer. It can be very expensive to remove the snow. You also need space to dispose of it. If the snow is light, there is not much danger of collapse. If the snow is heavy, some growers have found that as it settles, melts and refreezes, it forms a cocoon next to the plastic covering and doesn't put a lot of pressure on the greenhouse. Removing it may cause more damage.



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Upcoming Events

Western S. Tier Produce Meeting

Event Offers DEC Credits

January 28, 2020
Jamestown, NY

A jam-packed schedule of educational topics for regional growers, this meeting features dynamic sessions and peer-to-peer learning opportunities. Topics will be relevant for vegetable, berry, field crops, and greenhouse/flower, and organic growers. Focus areas in 2020 include disease management and enhancing local markets. Pesticide credits available in many NY and PA categories, CEUs requested.

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2020 Upper Genesee Valley Produce Growers Meeting

February 14, 2020
Freedom, NY

A bit of something for everyone! This meeting will feature experts from Cornell Cooperative Extension discussing food safety in auction lots and quality control, how to successfully lengthen the growing season, making the most of a small grain rotational crop, and common disease and pest info. Summer squash, cabbage and pepper production tips will be presented by Mark Zittel, an experienced produce and greenhouse grower for 20+ years. Participants will have the opportunity to join group discussion in breakout sessions of their choosing. And don't forget to stop by the Demo Table to see weeds and soil health exhibits. FREE but registration is requested by February 12.

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Precision Agriculture Series - Erie

February 19, 2020
March 4, 2020
March 25, 2020
: Erie County
East Aurora, NY

Join Cornell Cooperative Extension to learn what precision agriculture entails, the economics of using precision ag, and the preferred methodology and benefits. This free, 3-day event series is being organized by CCE Erie County with assistance from Dr. Ali Nafchi, Precision Ag Specialist of the CCE Cornell Vegetable Program and CCE NWNY Dairy, Livestock, and Field Crops team. Topics for each day will be determined by the audience interests and questions.

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Announcements

2019 Cornell Vegetable Program Year in Review

We closed out the decade with many accomplishments in 2019! We look forward to helping the New York vegetable industry in the new decade!

This year, our Specialists gave presentations at 104 events, sharing our knowledge with 3,936 people.

We continue to conduct on-farm research to help answer the questions of our growers. The Cornell Vegetable Program managed 38 research grants and projects in 2019. We extend our gratitude to the 107 farms and organizations that offered us land, labor, supplies, and generous financial contributions to support our trials!

We cannot forget to thank the 14 Cooperative Extension Associations that partnered with us this year too.

Our 2019 Year in Review brochure highlights our research and educational projects:
  • Design and Fabrication of an Affordable Laser Scarecrow
  • High Tunnel Research Increases Profits for New York Growers
  • Improved White Mold Management Guidelines for Snap, Lima, and Dry Beans
  • New Potato, Dry Bean, and Vegetable Storage Specialist Joins the Team
  • First Cornell Vegetable Program On-Farm Cabbage Herbicide Trial Explore Novel Approaches to Weed Control
  • Record-Low Insecticide Use in Muck Onion Production in 2019
  • Improving Produce Storage Quality through Forced Air Cooling
  • Mapping the Way to Better Disease Management


FSMA Regulations for (Very) Small Food Processors

FSMA Regulations for Small and Very Food Processors
Friday, January 31, 2020
8:30 AM - 4:30 PM
Cornell Agri-Tech, G34 Food Research Lab, 665 W North St, Geneva, NY 14456


Did you know that the new federal regulations for small food processors under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) are in effect as of September 2018? Do you know what is required of you or your facility as a New York State food manufacturer?

During this one-day introductory course, the experts at Cornell's Food Venture Center will explain the new food safety exemption requirements for Small Businesses. Get the information and tools you need to make your operation comply with the FDA rules for selling safe products to the public.

Registration space is limited to 24 attendees in Geneva. The cost to register is $25/person. Deadline to register is Friday, January 17, 2020. Register now!


GAPs Trainings in the Region

Attend a Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) training to learn:
  • How to Identify Food Safety Risks on Your Farm
  • Strategies to Mitigate the Risks
  • How to Satisfy Food Safety Requirements for Farm to School
  • How to Create a Food Safety Plan for Your Farm
Seneca County: A two-day GAPs training at Vince's Park, Corner of Routes 318 and 5&20, Seneca Falls.
Monday, February 10, 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Tuesday, February 11, 9:00 AM - 2:00 PM
Register online by February 1. Call Judy Wright at 315-539-9251 x109 with questions.

Wayne County: GAPs training at CCE Wayne County, 1581 NY-88, Newark, NY 14513.
Thursday, March 19
Register online by March 12. Call Craig Kahlke at 585-735-5448 with questions.


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