Soil, water, and fertilisation have always been important topics in the horticulture sector. These topics are of current concern, and the business unit Greenhouse Horticulture is actively working on them together with growers and suppliers. Some of the aspects we are working on are emissions, more accurate nutrient supply, improvements to soil resistance, and the development of new hydroculture systems.
The knowledge gained in this area contributes to more efficient use of scarce resources like water and fertiliser. This results in reduced costs and less environmental impact. In this way we are contributing to the sustainability of greenhouse horticulture.
Access to sufficient high-quality water is crucial for the horticulture sector. Greenhouse horticulture businesses generally use between 4,000 and 12,000 cubic metres of water per hectare per year, depending on the crop and cultivation method. High-quality irrigation water contains no salts, diseases, or impurities.
Rain water is really the only suitable source of irrigation water, but it can be supplemented with desalinated and/or disinfected water during dry periods.
The public also have increasingly higher expectations for the quality of the water used by greenhouse horticulture businesses. The concern is that crop protection agents and nutrients contained in drainage water could be emitted into surface water and groundwater. These emissions must be reduced to nearly zero in the foreseeable future. Ultimately, greenhouse horticulture businesses will need to be completely self-sufficient in terms of water use.
The business unit Greenhouse Horticulture works with its partners and in close collaboration with growers, organisations, and governmental bodies like water boards to develop manageable technological solutions for more efficient water use and reduced emissions which are feasible for use in cultivation.
Soil, potting compost, substrate, or even just a nutrient solution can be used as an environment for the roots. The root environment fulfils a number of functions in plant cultivation, such as providing a stable base and supplying water, oxygen, and nutrients to the roots.
The root environment also supports soil-based organisms which can have both negative and positive effects on plant growth. In addition, the root environment can influence the humidity and temperature in the greenhouse itself. In other words, there are a great many physical, chemical, hydrological, and biological characteristics and processes in the root environment which support and influence each other, making this a highly complex production factor.
The key is to utilise this production factor so as to optimise production in both the long term and the short term while also ensuring that legal and social requirements are met.
The right concentration and proportion of nutrients are essential to optimum plant growth and development. Product quality is also inextricably connected to plant nutrition. In addition, nutrients greatly affect a plant's resistance to diseases and pests.
Increasing scarcity of certain nutrients and high standards for environmental emissions mean that it is important that plant nutrition be efficient and geared to the needs of the crop. A plant's nutritional needs depend on many factors, such as variety, cultivation phase, cultivation medium, climate, and season. Moreover, it is sometimes possible to use nutrients to control quality or plant resistance.
Therefore it is essential to be able to effectively measure and regulate pH, EC, and individual nutrient levels. The substrate or soil type influences the availability of nutrients, which is why it is important to use the appropriate sampling and analysis methods. Sensors and models can be used to better adapt nutrition to crop needs. It is becoming increasingly possible to measure and regulate individual nutrient levels.