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University of Torino:

Italy: Developed a lab-scale pilot plant to grow baby leaf vegetables

Innovative growing systems and technologies have been developed to enhance raw material production, guarantee safety, diversify the fresh produce available to consumers and prolong shelf-life. Among innovative systems, floating growing system (FGS) is a soilless culture system (SCS) based on a sub-irrigation system that consists of trays floating on a water bed or hydroponic nutrient solution. The sub-irrigation allows to produce clean raw material at harvest with a potentially low microbiological load. The FGS is a current technology that could be exploited more to enhance yield, quality and safety of fresh and fresh-cut baby leaf vegetables (BLV).

Research team led by professor Silvana Nicola at University of Torino has developed a lab-scale pilot plant (LSPP) based on FGS in order to have a representative and reliable experimental system. The experimental pilot system was built to scale with respect to a commercial greenhouse growing system. Sizing was studied to cope with the necessity of both obtaining a reliable amount of data and keeping the scientific precision of each trial.

Silvana Nicola explains: "The LSPP was adjusted and enhanced according to the results and experiences from the trials, and it has been designed for further experimental implementations. A system and methodology were investigated and set to grow baby leaf vegetables. LSPP was developed in two greenhouses differing for structure, suitable for different growing seasons in a continental climate. Environmental conditions and cultural techniques were studied in major and minor species (white mustard, black mustard, garden cress, water cress, rocket salad, perennial wild rocket, corn salad, baby spinach) to determine the best cultivation techniques in a standard SCS for BLV, based on FGS. The LSPP installed provides the basis for expanding the research to other species and agronomic factors".

The full study is available online since November 2015 at:

Source: Silvana Nicola, Giuseppe Pignata, Manuela Casale, Paolo E. Lo Turco, Walter Gaino, 'Overview of a Lab-scale Pilot Plant for studying baby leaf vegetables grown in soilless culture', November 2015, The Horticulture Journal Preview. doi: 10.2503/hortj.MI-R01


Silvana Nicola
Vegetable Crops & Medicinal and Aromatic Plants, VEGMAP, Department of Agricultural, Forest and Food Sciences, DISAFA, University of Torino
10095 Grugliasco (Torino), Italy
Email: [email protected]
Publication date: