The spectral properties of selected UV-blocking and UV-transmitting covering materials were characterized by means of a UV–VIS spectroradiometer or a UV–VIS spectrometer to provide researchers and growers with guidelines for selecting suitable materials for use in studying the effects of ambient solar UV radiation on the production of tomatoes and other high-value crops in high tunnels. A survey was made of a wide range of plastic covering materials to identify commercially available products that had the desired characteristics of transmitting high levels of photosynthetically active radiation and of being stable under ambient solar UV radiation. The study was focused on evaluating films that either blocked or transmitted UV wavelengths below 380 nm to determine comparative growth, yield and market quality and to provide a tool for integrated pest management. Based on this survey, two contrasting covering materials of similar thickness (0.152 mm) and durability (4-year polyethylene), one a UV-blocking film and the other a UV-transmitting film, were selected and used to cover two high tunnels at Beltsville, MD. Spectroradiometric measurements were made to determine comparative spectral irradiance in these two high tunnels covered with these materials and under ambient solar UV radiation. Comparative measurements were also made of selected glass and plastic materials that have been used in UV exclusion studies.
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Vol. 81 • No. 5