Greenhouse Management



Instructor: Stacy Adams, University of Nebraska- Lincoln


Prerequisite: STOCKSCH 108 – Intro Botany (NOTE: students who do not have the prerequisite but have had a basic biology class may request permission to add this class from the instructor)

Stacy Adams is an Associate Professor of Practice in the Department of Agronomy and Horticulture at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He teaches courses in plant science, greenhouse management, hydroponics, floral design and floral enterprise management. His extension focus includes controlled environment agriculture, season extension growing structures, hydroponic food production, and agricultural youth education. Professor Adams has previous experience as a commercial greenhouse grower/manager and served 24 years as a research and teaching greenhouse manager at the University of Nebraska. For more information, see: 

Course Introduction 

Greenhouses and other protective growing structures are valuable tools for those desiring to grow plants when the outdoor environmental conditions prevent such. High value crops can be grown efficiently with perfection using controlled environment structures. Horticulture businesses and plant nurseries, farmers, entrepreneurs, public and community gardens, educators, scientists and industry researchers use protective plant growing structures. These can be simply built or have significant investment for operational systems specific to suit need. Individuals responsible for the production of plants within protected and controlled environments need to understand structures, aspects of design, environmental management, and efficiency in operation to meet productivity needs. It is important to integrate business decision making into the choices in greenhouse design, operation, equipment selection, and plant culture, in addition to, the understanding of return on investment for plants produced and activities being completed. 


Learning Objectives 

Upon completion of this course, the student will be able to, 

  • Identify greenhouse structures and covering materials 
  • Evaluate site for greenhouse construction (or existing) for intended use 
  • Develop a greenhouse proposal for a new plant production structure or improvements for that existing 
  • Determine heat load, equipment selection, and recommend conservation approaches to environmental management 
  • Compare passive and active cooling systems for structural type and crops produced 
  • Justify the use of supplemental lighting in crop production and recommend type for intended purpose 
  • Interpret formulated fertilizer labels and calculate stock solutions for proportioning  
  • Suggest media and containers for plants being grown 
  • Identify key insect and disease problems and recommend corrective action 
  • Evaluate crop and production scheme for return on investment 
  • Suggest post-harvest handling, distribution and marketing approaches for intended product 
  • Demonstrate young plant cultivation through use of specialized tools, supplies, equipment and manipulation of the environment and technique. 


Content is grouped into weekly modules that include Learning Guide, Presentation, and AssignmentLearning guides provide information on assigned reading, the learning objectives, a snapshot of key information, and additional resources for the topic covered. Presentations are recorded lectures on focus topic and supported by that found in the learning guide. Assignments involve interpreting, evaluating and making supportable decisions related to the focus topic. Lab activities are included in many of the modules and noted as Activity. Activities may include, but not limited to, simple construction of a cold frame, mixing potting medium, seeding, asexual propagation, exploring a local greenhouse, heating/cooling calculations, or creating an irrigation system. Grades are weighted as follows, 

Involvement 50%  

  • Written Responses- Students prepare a 150-300 word written response to questions regarding new subject matter  
  • Situation Problems- assignments are given to interpret and suggest resolutions to a problem/decision appropriate to the content being explored. 
  • Calculations- select assignments include formulas that must be resolved to determine equipment sizing, fertilizer or chemical rates, return on investment and income potential.   

Exams 30% 

Two exams given approximately weeks 5 and 10 with questions given to explore understanding of new material. Exams are available for one week through the Blackboard module, once started, there will be a given time period to complete the exam.  

Final Project 20% 

A project is specific to the student area of interest for deeper exploration into a greenhouse structure, development plan, cropping plan and marketing scheme that potentially can be used on their own farm, business venture, public outreach, or in education. The project assignment illustrates student understanding and application of knowledge from this course. 

Course Schedule 


1 Importance and application of protected environments for plant production

a. Written response assignment- structural design options to meet need

b. Lab assignment- local greenhouse visit and complete site analysis report. Due week 2.

2 Greenhouse glazing materials, applications, characteristics and energy conservation/loss

a. Written response assignment- interpret greenhouse design and construction materials.

b. Lab assignment- Provide recommendations for maximizing light and energy efficiency using figures and tables. Due week 3.

3 Heating calculation for production scheme, supplemental heat equipment and air circulation

a. Written assignment- describe the decision-making process for choosing heating and blending air for optimizing growing environment.

b. Lab assignment- calculate heating requirement for greenhouse, select furnace size and support decisions made. Due week 4.

4 Ventilation, cooling, and controls

a. Written assignment- greenhouse cooling considerations and sustainable or innovative approaches.

b. Lab assignment- calculate active cooling need for a greenhouse and select appropriate cooling equipment. Due week 5.

5 Light quality (PAR), intensity (FC) and photo-regulatory methods and equipment

a. Progress Exam 1- due week 6.

b. Lab assignment- LED lighting and determining DLI to maximize crop productivity. Due week 6.

6 Water source, filtration, fertigation & effluent management

a. Situation assignment- water use and irrigation system design to meet plant needs

b. Lab assignment- interpret water analysis pre and post use. Due week 7.

7 Growing medium materials, formulation and sustainable options

a. Written response- potting medium selection for intended purpose and growth response

b. Lab assignment- calculate quantity medium required to fill containers. Indirect seeding activity. Due week 8.

8 Nutrient assessment & fertility management

a. Situation assignment- determine appropriate nutrient scheme for crop

b. Lab assignment- interpret fertilizer label and calculate stock solution for meeting targeted ppm. Asexual plant cuttings. Due week 9.

9 Integrated Crop Management (ICM), pest/disease diagnosis, biological and chemical controls

a. Situation assignment- scouting greenhouse crops, action plan, chemical label interpretation

b. Lab assignment- create a biological pest management scheme. Due week 10.

10 Low technology structures-cold frame and high tunnel applications, construction consideration and retrofitting. Urban Agriculture

a. Progress Exam 2- Due week 11.

b. Greenhouse Project Assignment- Due week 13.

11 Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), Public Gardening/Programming, Education Greenhouses

a. Situation assignment- Marketing/Funding Mechanisms Due week 12.

12 Commercial growing structures and retail marketing approaches

a. Lab activity- cost assessment and price setting. Due week 13.

13 Final project presentations.

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