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Investigating the unknows of the hydroponic leafy crop production

The greenhouse hydroponic leafy cultivation industry is experiencing rapid expansion, leading to unexplored areas of research. At the Delphy Improvement Centre, the team is exploring these uncharted territories, focusing on subjects like LED lighting strategies, day length, alternative substrate solutions, and cultivation densities. This research project is conducted in collaboration with industry partners, including Rijk Zwaan, Hortilux Schréder, Ellepot A/S, Saint-Gobain Cultilene, and Green Automation.

"Our collective aim is to investigate the most effective cultivation methods for achieving optimal crop growth. Currently, we are in the fourth cultivation cycle of our research project, and we have already achieved some interesting outcomes", says Denis Laci with Delphy.

"The high-density leafy crops industry is relatively new, and when combined with the multitude of substrate solutions, hydroponic systems, and different greenhouse equipment available, it's evident that there is still a lot of cultivation knowledge to be developed and clarified. With this project, we aim to bridge that gap and generate knowledge applicable to the current industry circumstances and challenges."

The project setup consists of eight cultivation tables with N.F.T hydroponic systems supplied by Green Automation, which covers an area of 125m². The research compartment is equipped with 220μmol/m2/s LED lighting from Hortilux Schréder divided into two different lighting zones, where the effects of varying light intensities, daylengths, and Far-red applications on the quality, shelf life, and yield of four different lettuce cultivars (two red and two green varieties, supplied from Rijk Zwaan) are investigated.

Additionally, each cultivation table is subdivided into two density categories: "baby leaf" and "teen leaf" cultivated across two different substrates, including peat moss from Ellepot A/S and stonewool media from Saint-Gobain Cultilene.

"So far, in the first cultivation cycles with long days and high solar radiation levels, we have observed results regarding the importance of selecting the right density early in the crop's life through experiments with various densities and transplanting techniques," says Denis. "It became clear that each cultivation media requires unique treatment in terms of E.C - P.H values and water volume for optimal performance. LED lighting is also a crucial factor under investigation. So far, we have been testing the effect of prolonging the day with LED lights with the goal of finding the right balance between growth, shelf life, and energy input. In the upcoming winter months, we will investigate the effect of far-red, expecting notable results, particularly with the different lettuce types and colors we are currently cultivating in the trial."

"We anticipate that this research project will provide substantial value to the industry, as the topics under investigation are critical factors for successful leafy crop cultivation."

For more information:
Denis Laci
[email protected]

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