The financial yields from a particular crop are largely dependent on timing and on the quality and quantity of the product. Optimum cultivation control ensures that good quality can be delivered at the right time. Wageningen University & Research applies knowledge of plant physiology to the practice of horticulture and develops crop growth models and plant monitoring processes to enable precise control of cultivation. In addition, Wageningen University & Research develops phenotyping methods in order to more efficiently breed new varieties.
Our crop experts are specialists in greenhouse horticulture and possess broad knowledge of cultivation and research. They provide advice and support to greenhouse horticulture entrepreneurs regarding topics such as optimum use of innovative cultivation control techniques. In this way our experts support both the sustainability and the competitiveness of these businesses.
Thorough knowledge of the physiology of a plant and a product is essential for controlling the growth, development, production, and quality of a crop. The physiological processes being researched include cell division and cell stretching in fruits, flower formation, blossoming, fruit abortion, branching, evaporation, photosynthesis, respiration, assimilate partitioning, root growth, nutrient and water intake, etc.
Our crop physiologists work closely with cultivation experts who are well-versed in the cultivation of a particular crop and who know exactly what the trends are in professional practice. They collaborate on innovative cultivation control techniques in order to improve growers' competitiveness and the sustainability of cultivation. Depending on the research question, they use modern research greenhouses or climate chambers, or they may conduct experiments on location at professional businesses.
The business unit Greenhouse Horticulture has developed reliable growth models for a large number of horticultural crops (vegetables, cut flowers, and pot plants). On the basis of climate and cultivation data, these models offer a continuous estimate of information such as the growth and development of the various parts of a plant, photosynthesis and evaporation, and water and nutrient intake.
We have also developed models which can simulate the three-dimensional arrangement of a crop in space as well as the distribution of light within the crop. Our models are used to predict and plan harvests, to provide information and advice in support of decision-making, and to calculate scenarios which save energy or improve the crop. Some models are also used for phenotypological research or for plant monitoring in combination with sensors or plant registration. There are a number of models which growers can install on their own computers or use via a web service.
In the process of breeding to develop new varieties, large numbers of plants are evaluated in order to select the best specimens. Automatically measuring plant characteristics is fast and objective, and it saves time and money. The business unit Greenhouse Horticulture can make an important contribution to this process by utilising modern greenhouses and climate chambers, physiological knowledge, automated measurements, and the use of models to analyse data.
In order to phenotype a plant properly, the relevant characteristics must be clear, as must the method of determining these characteristics. We use our knowledge of the growth and development of horticultural crops to contribute to the execution of experiments, the establishment of the climate conditions and environments, and the interpretation of the values measured. We have an automated system utilising several colour cameras and a lighting unit to measure plant length, leaf surface, number of flowers, and flower colour. In addition, we can also measure and monitor fluorescence and photosynthesis in the greenhouse or in a climate chamber. We use statistical models and crop growth models to predict the growth and production of a given genotype under various conditions, thereby saving valuable time and greenhouse space.
The business unit Greenhouse Horticulture measures the flavour levels of fruits and vegetables for all chain parties. This is done by means of consumer panels, panels of specialised tasters, and laboratory measurements.
» Go to the Flavour research fruit and vegetables
Providing better quality than your competitors is a way to distinguish your product. The quality of vegetables, fruits, cut flowers, and pot plants is an important aspect of customer satisfaction, helping to determine whether customers make repeat purchases. The business unit Greenhouse Horticulture's expertise can help you continue to improve the quality of your products.
There are many aspects to quality. Wageningen UR Greenhouse Horticulture researches both internal and external quality. For instance, we test the effects of the cultivation method, variety, or agents on the shelf and vase life. As well as cultivation facilities, we have completely climate-controlled flowering and storage facilities. We also carry out taste tests on vegetables and fruit. A new development in this field is the ability to influence the levels of nutrients and other components during cultivation. For instance, we have discovered that by using light treatment, it is possible to double the vitamin C content in tomatoes. Increasing nutrients by adapting the cultivation method can create added value in horticultural products. In this way our expertise can help you to better market your products.
The business unit Greenhouse Horticulture works with entrepreneurs in the organic greenhouse horticulture sector on issues such as sustainable cultivation and business concepts, energy savings, sustainable plant nutrition, soil resistance, disease and pest control, and plant resistance.
Much of the research carried out for the conventional greenhouse horticulture sector is also applicable to the organic greenhouse horticulture sector. The business unit Greenhouse Horticulture is a member of the International Society of Organic Agriculture Research (ISOFAR) and a leading member of the European COST project BioGreenhouse (www.biogreenhouse.org; COST FA1105). As such, it has solid connections to the international knowledge network.