Industry representatives: Mr Stephen Carter, Fleurie Nursery Ltd
Mr James Bean, Crystal Heart Salads
AHDB Horticulture project cost: £725,000
This project will provide a mechanism for the UK Horticulture industry to ease the transition from a dependence on peat to the acceptance and uptake of a broad range of proprietary responsibly sourced growing media. The project will provide a science based quantitative tool for growing media formulation which will increase the confidence of commercial growers in and promote the transition to responsibly sourced growing media. This project advocates a move away from iterative stand alone ‘look-see’ trials towards an innovative predictive ‘unifying multivariate model’ which will target desirable blends at least financial cost. To validate the model, large-scale on site grower demonstration and R&D trials will be utilised for data gathering; importantly the experimental work and the application of the model will be used to promote the benefits to the industry of developing, cost effective and optimal performing raw material combinations. The project will enable an exciting and structured flow of knowledge between the strategic and applied research communities and the industry. Whilst the project is 5 years in duration, the lasting legacy of the work will be a process of progressive innovative refinement of responsibly sourced growing media blends, over a 20 year timeframe and beyond.
Aims and objectives:
- To construct a model that will produce the desired mixes at least cost.
- To evaluate responsibly sourced growing media blends as alternatives to peat in commercial crop production systems.
- By on site demonstration and effective communication of the scientific evidence base increase grower confidence to facilitate the uptake of responsibly sourced growing media for commercial horticulture.
- Determine the specific needs of each horticultural sector in terms of growing media requirements and match these against suitable raw materials and blends using appropriate methodology
- Identify and address, where practicable, any issues which may impact now and in the short to medium-term, on the suitability of the media in terms of availability, consistency, price, practical use on nurseries / farms and direct impact on production.
- Examine the impact of the medium used throughout the whole supply chain (both retail and amenity) including, but not limited to shelf-life and establishment after planting.
- Formulate a programme of work via engagement with growers, growing media manufacturers (GMM) and retailers to demonstrate the attributes of the media and to determine how they are best managed commercially.
- Communicate any outcomes and conclusions to industry in a clear and concise way throughout the project via nursery / farm demonstrations, technical events, suitable publications, electronic media and other events as appropriate.