Nutrient management in Hardy Nursery Stock (NutrHONS) project


This 3-year trial aimed to establish a protocol for collecting and monitoring the nutritional inputs and outputs of container hardy nursery stock growing systems. Several on-nursery hand-held pieces of equipment (measuring chlorophyll and substrate conductivity) have been tested across a range of ornamental species and the readings compared to traditional laboratory techniques.

Three pieces of equipment proved promising, however a benchmark for your nursery must be established to make effective comparisons and accurately track nutrient levels.

Project code:
HNS 193
01 April 2015 - 31 March 2018
AHDB Horticulture
AHDB sector cost:
Project leader:


HNS 193_GS_Final_2018 HNS 193_Report_Annual_2017 HNS 193_Report_Annual_2016 HNS 193_Report_Final_2018 HNS 193_GS_Annual_2016 HNS 193_GS_Annual_2017

About this project


To provide growers with a clear insight into the types of monitoring techniques that can be used on nurseries, how these may compare to laboratory results and to achieve a 'blueprint' for good nursery practice in the understanding of fertilisation and monitoring of nutritional status of crops.


  1. Review the information that is already available surrounding the 'aims' above.
  2. Make recommendations from '1' above on scheme for practically monitoring nursery crops
  3. Test the recommended protocols on example crops at a number of geographically different locations
  4. Select and validate the techniques on specific nursery sites and across a wider number of geographical locations and with a wider range of plant subjects.


Benefits to the industry:

The levy payer

For a considerable period of time hardy nursery stock nurseries have struggled to really make use of and/or benchmark their crop performance, with laboratory or on nursery nutritional indicator tests. Whilst various monitoring schemes have been available, they have not been particularly ‘nursery friendly’ and have often been undertaken remotely from actual staff on nurseries. The aim of this work is to demystify the techniques available and through on-nursery demonstrations of the use of techniques allow nurseries to adopt best practice in the monitoring and development of their crops. This may well involve some ‘quick’ on nursery tests supported by laboratory measurement.  It is expected that the project will enable nurserymen to reduce nutrient input costs as they match applications to crop requirements. 

The consumer

For the consumer this should lead to higher quality standards for produce with enhanced shelf life.

The environment

It is anticipated that there will be a better understanding of fertiliser leaching risks and how to reduce and or eliminate such losses and to better match fertiliser inputs to crop requirements. With the Belgian site already meeting the requirements of the Water Framework Directive the project will bring to the UK nurseryman valuable experience gained over several years on nutrient levels and applications to hardy nursery stock subjects that result in reduced nutrient discharges.