Quality water for the agricultural and horticultural sectors is becoming a pressing problem throughout the world. At the same time, food production must go up. That calls on market gardeners to use the available water efficiently. Coatings can make a contribution here as well.
In Northwest Europe, market gardeners are not yet feeling a pressing need for efficient water use. However, in southern Europe, the situation is becoming dire and that applies to many regions throughout the world. Yet, the technology designed to convert water as efficiently as possible into food and ornamental products is coming from Northwest Europe.
Greenhouse production is on the increase throughout the world. It provides protection against diseases and extreme climate influences, but it also is a good way of using raw materials and water more efficiently. The production of a kilo of tomatoes in the field takes 60 litres of water. But when you grow these tomatoes in a greenhouse, it only takes one-third of that. And when you reuse the water, this figure is further reduced to 15 litres.
But even that can be significantly improved upon. If everything is done optimally, you should be able to make do with 4 litres, according to the calculations made by Wageningen University & Research.
Contribution made by coatings
The coatings make a significant contribution in this process. Here we are talking about precision growing, whereby everything is aligned with the crop's optimal performance. Administering water and fertilisers at the right time and promoting calm uniform growth.
The key to sparingly using water is evaporation. The crop is continuously evaporating, and here we are talking about large quantities. Evaporation is required for two reasons: First, it is the engine behind the plant's water flow, which delivers the nutrients to the right place. Second, evaporation cools the plant. Without it, the plants would heat up to such an extent that they can no longer function and will incur heat damage.
The New Cultivation Approach
Too much evaporation is not good, however: in that case the roots cannot keep the water intake up to par. Since the advance of the New Cultivation Approach, the thinking relating to evaporation in crops has changed dramatically. Today, the perception is that evaporation can be reduced considerably. This, of course, would save on energy and water. To effect this, it is necessary for the crop to grow uniformly and without stress.
High heat always results in high rates of evaporation and, when the plant is no longer able to keep up, heat stress. In other words, this first results in water wastage followed by crop damage.
Preventing water wastage
Depending on climate conditions and the type of crop, ReduSol, ReduHeat or ReduFuse IR are tried and tested products designed to prevent a crop from overheating and thus limit water consumption.
Diffuse light, which can be achieved through the use of ReduFuse or ReduFuse IR, in general, provides for calmer growth and as such limits excessive evaporation. In particular, the temperature in the plant's head drops and consequently the evaporation as well.
Coatings are not the perfect solution to the global shortage of quality water. But they do make an important contribution to using our precious water resources as effectively as possible.