Emission-free cultivation using only biological crop protection products and the precise management of cultivation based on plant requirements and not on drain: a lot seems possible in laboratories and test setups. In practice, however, things are often more complex, which is why growers can use some guidance. Outside of the Netherlands in particular, successful substrate cultivation is often impeded by a lack of knowledge.
‘Expansion and guidance’ was the theme of the fifth biennial Substrate Knowledge Day organised by the Dutch Association of Substrate Manufacturers (VPN), RHP (a knowledge centre in the field of substrates and soil improving materials) and Wageningen UR Greenhouse Horticulture on Thursday 24 March 2016 in Bleiwijk.
Pros and cons
Some Dutch crops only use substrate and its use is increasing with others. The expectation is that growers from outside of the Netherlands will also shift more towards substrate use. Although there are pros and cons to substrate cultivation, the better manageability of input and output means that the benefits are starting to outweigh the disadvantages. This also makes knowledge of the correct use and proper processing ever more important.
In many ways the research into and the optimal use of substrate are still in their infancy. Lectures by Jan Ties Malda of Cebeco and Adrie Veeken of Attero, among others, showed that the ideal composition of substrate has yet to be decided upon. Moreover, when it comes to plant development there is still plenty of debate about the most optimal soil life. This was illustrated by the lecture from Jantineke Hofland of Wageningen UR on the role of substrate in plant resistance. A third perspective on the issue of substrate involves users who wish to maximise production and yet are under pressure to be increasingly sustainable from government and society.
Lack of knowledge abroad
While the Netherlands is performing research into the optimal use of substrate, in many other parts of the world successful substrate cultivation is mainly impeded by a lack of knowledge. This was exemplified in the presentation by Chris Blok of Wageningen UR Greenhouse Horticulture about a project in Jordan and Rwanda where growers received guidance with their first use of substrate. The main problem was not primarily a lack of familiarity with the substrate phenomenon – it involved a wider absence of knowledge regarding both cultivation and the crop. Ensuring that substrate makes a good start in these countries therefore requires substantial investments in the transfer of know-how and experience.