“We see the demand from retail and consumer for sustainably grown product grow. Growers are already putting in a lot of effort, and now there is an awareness that completely sterile substrate has less to offer than an organic substrate with more symbiosis in the soil. Soil life can be added easily to our organic substrates for an optimal growth of the plant”, says Hans Baekelmans of Greenyard Horticulture. Some years ago the company put Greenyard Grow Bags in the market.
Receptive to soil organisms
The Greenyard Grow Bags consist of 100% organic substrate. Hans: “The physical and chemical circumstances are, when compared to Rockwool or cocos, a lot better, and this makes organic substrate much more receptive to soil organisms. The good fungi which are naturally present, and which we can add, work in symbiosis with the plant and stimulate the roots and the plants. Research in cooperation with R&D of Greenyard and various universities/research institutes has shown that enriched substrates make plants more resistant in this way."
With regard to water release, the control is much like other substrates. “It is a matter of fine tuning, and that is the same as with normal substrates. There is a difference in the starting phase. The control strategy is a bit different. We can start very generatively because we do not have to satiate the substrate before use."
So far, the product has been the most applied in the tomato cultivation. The Grow Bags are suited for all fruiting vegetables. "At the moment we are conducting extensive tests at a French research station and some cucumber growers in The Netherlands and France. After very promising test in the spring cultivation, the results of the summer cultivation are under review. In the summer, cultivation has a lot of pressure from for example Pythium. By using enriched organic substrate, that should be reduced, without using extra chemical pesticides. We also discovered that the rooting for the cucumbers is sped up by one or two days. That has to do with the structure of the substrate.”
The Grow Bags were tested two years in a row by Proefcentrum Hoogstraten. The research yielded positive results against crazy roots, according to Hans. “The root environment is a lot less susceptible to Agrobacteria, and which reduces the pressure of crazy roots to almost zero without any extra effort.”
At the moment the group, with their headquarters in Gent, mostly supplies the Grow Bags to growers in Belgium and The Netherlands, and in 2017 a customer came forward from Slovakia. But Hans still sees a lot of potential for growth. “Retail has an interest for sustainable and tasty products. The choice for a substrate plays an important factor herein.”