Greenhouse Fundamentals

Climate Control for better growth, yield and pack out

Both greenhouses and shade structures reduce crop damage from climate events and predation, but the enclosed space of a commercial greenhouse enables targeted climate controls to improve yield and pack out rates.

In Europe, greenhouses, also called ‘hothouses’, are often made of glass. In Australia, plastic film has been developed for our warmer climate. Most Australian greenhouses use a diffuse light clear or white plastic film, to enable light, but also to enclose the growing space.

When considering a greenhouse, it is important to know the site’s sunlight trajectory and, for roof vented designs, the direction of prevailing winds. These tips will get you thinking about orientation, roof design, height, cover material, internal ceiling screens and climate control options.

GreenLife Structures Multi Span Greenhouse

Orientation

A north-south orientation is recommended so that any shadow from the greenhouse frame moves across the floor during the day. In an east-west orientation the shadow tends to stay in one area of the crop.

The main considerations are light transmission and, for roof vented models, wind direction.

Greenhouse roof design

Commercial Greenhouse roof designs range from the domed or tunnel roof profiles to the opening sawtooth or gullwing venting roofs.

The domed designs allow the greatest amount sunlight to be transmitted on an annual basis and are more cost effective to build.

GreenLife Structures 10m Habitat Greenhouse, commercial greenhouse
GreenLife Structures 10m Sawtooth Greenhouse, commercial greenhouse

The sawtooth or gullwing designs provide effective natural ventilation and hot air release which are the single most important features in a greenhouse design. The growth and health of a crop is directly dependent on plants accessing an environment that promotes transpiration, fresh air and adequate levels of carbon dioxide, and inhibits the development of disease.

This is achieved when the greenhouse air is continually replaced and there is positive air movement through the crop.

GreenLife Structures 10m Habitat Greenhouse, commercial greenhouse

Greenhouse height 

The height of a commercial greenhouse is important for the quality of the greenhouse environment.

Increased height provides increased air volume and promotes a more stable environment, lower maximum temperatures and less variability in both temperature and relative humidity.

Side wall heights of between 2m and 5m are recommended with a roof heights starting at 3.5m and increasing to 8m.

Adequate side wall height is also required to accommodate climate control equipment such as internal screens and fogging systems.

Increased height advantages include:

  • More stable environment due to increased air mass
  • Lower maximum temperatures
  • Less fluctuations in relative humidity
  • Crop is further away from hot air at the top of the greenhouse

Greenhouse covers

Greenhouse covers (extruded greenhouse film or Solarweave reinforced greenhouse film) need to meet some fundamental performance criteria in order to be successful and viable.

  • Provide solar radiation and light transmission levels that optimise crop growth
  • Provide protection from the elements and be robust and durable
  • Reduce heat loss during winter
  • Be UV stabilised and have a satisfactory serviceable life

A north-south orientation is recommended so that any shadow from the greenhouse frame moves across the floor during the day. In an east-west orientation the shadow tends to stay in one area of the crop. The main considerations are light transmission and, for roof vented models, wind direction.

Solarweave in warehouse

Internal retractable screens

climate control internal retractable screens

The incorporation of a retractable screen that acts as both a shading and an energy saving screen is the most valuable addition to any commercial greenhouse.

A retractable shade screen changes the microclimate of the crop by reducing the solar energy absorbed by the crop. At times of high solar radiation and temperature this energy reduction is important. Crop temperatures are lower and the plants are not stressed due to excessive transpiration and high temperature.

The retractable screens are also an efficient winter energy (heat) saving device. The air below the screens can be up to 4deg.C warmer.

Commercial Greenhouse with Retractable Screen
  • Most plants need shade – but if you move the shade plants develop up to 15% faster
  • Diffused shade equals more photosynthesis, more photosynthesis equals more growth by a further 5-10%
  • Plant temperature can be up to 11deg.C cooler in summer
    In winter plants can be up to 4deg.C warmer
  • Plants will be dryer with less disease
  • Winter heating costs can be reduced up to 47%
  • Plant quality improves
  • Reduced water, fertiliser and running costs
  • Increased light during early morning, evening and cloudy periods.
  • Workers comfort is improved

Climate controller computers

The digital climate controller (computer) has multiple functions that can monitor and activate systems within the greenhouse to allow the growing conditions to be optimised. GreenLife Structures partners with a range of providers for its Greenhouse Technologies.

Climate controllers can monitor:

  • Light intensity
  • Air and leaf temperature
  • Relative humidity
  • Wind speed and direction
  • Rain

Climate controllers can operate:

  • Greenhouse roof and wall vents
  • Retractable screens
  • Circulation and exhaust fans
  • Fogging, misting and irrigation systems
  • Heaters