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University of Kentucky

US (KY): Fruit and Vegetable 2016 Annual Research Report published

The University of Kentucky has made the Fruit and Vegetable 2016 Annual Research Report (PR-721) available online. One of the studies in the report focuses on soilless cultivation:

"As the use of greenhouses and high tunnels grows throughout Kentucky, partly in thanks to the EQUIP Seasonal High Tunnel Initiative, more and more growers are looking to alternative, high value vegetable crops. Depending on structure type, greenhouse versus high tunnel, and soil quality, some growers are looking into using a container based, soilless system for vegetable production. For soilless production a growing medium, other than soil, is typically used to avoid soillborne disease problems, and to provide maximum aeration and water in a highly controlled environment (Olle et al., 2012)."

"While soilless container production allows growers to produce a higher value crop, the economic, and environmental sustainability is an aspect that needs to be considered. The most common media used for container production include coconut coir, perlite, and rockwool. While all three are naturally derived products, none are native to Kentucky, resulting in higher input costs. Disposal also becomes a problem when working with rockwool and perlite products, because they fail to decompose in a compost pile, and most growers do not have the capability to adequately sanitize them for repeated use."

"For these reasons, there is a need for an alternative, more sustainable, hydroponic container medium for Kentucky growers. The goal of the experiment was to compare Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana L.) to perlite as a medium to produce English cucumbers. Eastern Red Cedar is native to every U.S. state east of the 100th meridian, and grows in USDA hardiness zones 3 to 9 (Dirr, 2009). In parts of the Midwest, as well as in Oklahoma and Texas, there has been an all-out war declared on the species due to its ability to invade prime pasture land (Olszowy and Thompson, 2011). Eastern Red Cedar can be found in almost any fence row, or roadside in Kentucky, and has remained historically marketable in the Commonwealth. Mills that process cedar are typically left with abundant piles of waste product that may be suitable for soilless media production. Cost difference of the media for this experiment were $1.25 per cubic foot for cedar and $3.38 per cubic foot for perlite. For these reasons, Easter Red Cedar was a prime candidate for this trial."

Click here to download the report.

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