GroSci2013: productive discussions between science and industry
The rapidly and globally increasing demand for high quality horticultural products is identified as a chance to increase resource use efficiency. The key technique to increase resource efficiency is the collection and re-use of drainage water known as recirculation. During GroSci2013 over 225 science and industry delegates from 40 countries debated properties and possibilities of growing media and soilless culture.
World Wide Water Use Efficiency was the theme for GroSci2013. The symposium was organized under the auspices of the Commission of Plant Substrates and Soilless Cultivation of ISHS and in cooperation with the International Peat Society. It was hosted by Wageningen UR Greenhouse Horticulture, the world’s leading glasshouse horticultural research institute.
Convener Chris Blok form Wageningen UR is enthusiastic: “It has been a very successful symposium. There were many very productive discussions. Never before has there been so much interest from industry. This is a new, positive development which improves the interaction between science and practice.”
In the opening session Dr. Stanghellini from Wageningen University put down the message that despite higher inputs in energy and nutrients, resource efficiencies reached in greenhouse horticulture (with recirculation of irrigation water) are the highest the planet has ever seen. Simple techniques such as irrigation timing, water storage and drip irrigation decrease the loss of water not used by plants. Increased climate control as with screens and covers increase yields. Yield increase itself directly results in higher water use efficiencies. Compared to conventional soil growing, water use efficiencies could be raised by a factor of 15. Decision makers in countries with expanding horticulture must be informed of the advantages, she said.
Oxygen in root environment
Dr. Jean Caron from Université Laval, Canada, showed how the focus shifts from static to dynamic quality parameters for stability and transport of water, nutrients and oxygen. He stated that not the concentration of oxygen in the watery solution is important, but the speed of oxygen supply in the rooting area is important.
Poor irrigation water
Dr. Nikolaos Katsoulas from University of Thessaly, Greece, showed how poor irrigation water can be used, avoiding quality problems related to the use of irrigation water with high sodium chloride content. This type of study will help growers and regional administrators to choose between options such as water pre-treatment, water storage, alternative sources and drainage and discharge strategies.
Associate Professor Sammar Khalil from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences described the progress in creating resilient systems. Rooting media offer scientists more possibilities than soils to create and control rich and diverse microbial communities. Rich and diverse microbial communities may provide the desired protection against the development of plant diseases caused by bacteria and fungi. New tools to measure microbial species and environmental factors such as pH and the organic matter fractions boost the developments.
Peat and alternatives
Johannes Welsch from Industrieverband Gartenbau gave the latest figures on peat use world-wide and in particular in Germany. He challenged the audience to accept peat as a sustainable growing medium and asked for fair comparisons of the alternatives on both technical and sustainability criteria. Subsequent discussions showed that increasing amounts of alternatives such as composts and coir products are mixed with peat. The resulting mixes of peat and e.g. compost and coir having properties superior to their single constituents.
In 2015 the symposium on Rooting Media will be held in
Vienna, Austria. The symposium on Hydroponics will take place in 2015 at the Gold Coast in Australia.