Industry Representative: Graham Whitehead, Whiteheads of Boston
AHDB Horticulture Cost: £8,800
A group of UK cut flower growers have for some time been investigating the possibility of developing hydroponic systems for producing cut flowers that are currently grown in the soil eg column stocks. In response to this need, the HDC instigated a review of the current knowledge of hydroponics on cut flowers (PO 018) and arranged a visit to look at solution hydroponic systems for lettuce and herbs.
The outcome of this work was that the growers felt that while substrate hydroponics (especially using Coir) has its place, deep pool solution hydroponics was the main system that needs to be further investigated. Before the 2015 trial it was apparent that there was virtually no knowledge in the use of such systems on cut flowers and that any UK experiments were starting almost from scratch.
At their own expense, J A Collison and Sons built an experimental deep pool system (measuring 4m x 8m) which was used in 2015 to undertake an HDC funded trial, The development of an experimental deep pool hydroponics system to investigate its potential for cut flowers - AHDB Reference PO 020/3090020005.
The 2015 trial demonstrated that a number of cut flower crops perform very well in a deep pool system included statice, chrysanthemums and aster ericoides. Lettuce and a number of edible cruciferae (cauli, cabbage, stocks and calabrese) also grew superbly well. However column stocks, the main topic of the trial proved very difficult to grow in a deep pool system and it was not possible to produce a significant number of marketable stems until September/October when it was then too late in the growing season to see if this was repeatable.The 2016 trial will build upon the results of the 2015 trial and will try to produce a commercial crop by applying the lessons learnt as well as further investigations into shallow pool systems (see section 10 and 11 for further details).
Aims and Objectives:
(i) Project aim(s):
The aim of the project is to build on the results of the 2015 deep pool hydroponics trial and determine if a commercial crop of column stocks can be produced in the existing trial pool.
(ii) Project objective(s):
1. To determine if the results obtained at the end of the 2015 trial can be repeated by the addition of Subdue to the water and adequate levels of oxygenation.
2. To further investigate the use of a shallow pool system and the addition of electrolysed water to determine if the 2015 results can be repeated as well as determining the efficacy of electrolysed water on Fusarium control.
3. To conduct "look see trials" at a local Chinese veg nursery that are developing shallow pool and hydroponics systems.
4. To determine the need for crop supports and if required, to suggest possible solutions.
5. To attempt to develop some baseline costings for the production of stocks in a deep and shallow pool hydroponics system
6. If an Agri-tech bid that is being developed by LRM Horticultural Service and Ozopure is successful, to expand the scope of the proposed AHDB trial and install large scale cooling and oxygenation equipment.
6. To involve Universities and Colleges in either the main trial or additional student projects as appropriate. To this end discussions are underway with Lincoln Unii, Writtle College and Reaseheath College. At the time of writing this application, none of these establishments have made a firm commitment but both they and the Agri-tech bid have the potential to add significant value to the core AHDB funded project.
Benefits to Industry: As in 2015, this project is entirely grower driven and will be managed by a small management group comprised of J A Collison and Sons, Lambs Flowers and Whiteheads of Boston. They will determine the direction of the project and will be responsible for ensuring that HDC levy payers obtain the maximum benefits from the project in year one.
KT activities will include articles in the trade press and HDC News, either a stand alone open day or incorporated with the 2016 CFC open days, informal "grower walk" type events, updates on the CFC blog and a final formal HDC report.
The overall benefits to the industry will be a cost effective assessment of a cut flower deep pool hydroponics system which will provide sound baseline data to determine the future direction of any additional trials work.