Midwest Vegetable Trial Reports

Date of this Version



lettuce, variety trial, hydroponic, nutrient film technique, fertility, living butterhead


Lettuce (Lactuca sativa L.) is a cool-season crop grown exclusively for fresh consumption. The intensive consumer demand of pre-packaged and living butterheads in the market today has been supported by the shift of soil production methods to soilless hydroponic systems. Hydroponic varietal and fertility recommendations for living butterhead optimization are limited to small-scale growers, however. To increase understanding of butterhead lettuce fertility preference, we examined two different water reservoir fertility concentrations across 12 replicated nutrient film technique (NFT) systems planted with six butterhead lettuce varieties. No differences were found between varieties grown in either recommended or high fertility concentrations, nor was there an interaction of variety performance to fertility. Varietal selection influenced fresh weight and marketability when fertility treatments were combined. The best overall performing varieties included Buttercrunch, followed by Dynamite, Mirlo, and Skyphos. While ‘Teodore’ produced the smallest living butterheads, similar reductions of marketability and projected yield were found in ‘Bibb’ due to increased incidence of tip-burn. This research indicates that small-scale hydroponic growers could optimize living butterhead lettuce fresh weight, marketability, and harvest duration by growing a combination of varieties while obtaining recommended fertility levels in their NFT systems.


This report was internally reviewed by Dr. Neil Anderson, Natalie Hoidal, Marissa Schuh, and Dr. Julie Weisenhorn.