New system improves blueberry production

Improving the drainage of container-grown blueberry crops can improve both fruit quality and yield according to the manufacturers of a new hydroponic tool.

The Spacer Hydropot system from Spanish company Hydroponic Systems improves root development, and therefore overall plant growth. It consists of a polypropylene gutter which raises the growing bag off the ground, and a 30×30 cm ‘tray’ which supports the bag. The system ensures air movement and drainage below the roots, while keeping them contained in the growing media.

“It allows blueberry growers to obtain all the advantages of our system: the optimum aeration between the substrate and drains, the prevention of root exit from the substrate and its contact with drainage,” explains Maria Gimenez Lopez from Hydroponic Systems. “Thanks to the easy installation and disinfection and the efficient drainage circulation, the diseases decrease – offering eventually a production that’s both higher in quality and quantity.

“This system evolved from systems having the pot resting directly on the ground to using different supports (such as polystyrene or bricks) up until the current Spacer Hydropot. Bricks or polystyrene do not allow aeration between the substrate and the drains and as a consequence the roots leave the substrate.”

Photo Caption: Diagram showing the support structure, here used in conjunction with a gutter drain.

Photo Credit: Hydroponic Systems

The post New system improves blueberry production appeared first on Hort News on 26 September 2018.

Cooling lettuce roots boosts crop growth

Israeli crop technology company Roots Sustainable Agricultural Technologies Ltd says that trails of its proprietary Root Zone Temperature Optimization (RZTO) system have demonstrated the benefits of optimal root temperature on Romaine lettuce.

Trials conducted in Israel this summers showed a 132 per cent increase in lettuce leaf fresh weight, while the crop’s growing cycle was reduced by almost half, with the crop ready for harvesting in 27 days. The company said that the trial followed successful RZTO cooling proof of concepts on lettuce using Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) technologies and interim results in medicinal cannabis.

Using a hybrid ground source heat exchange version of the RZTO system, lettuce roots were cooled to remain relatively stable around 24 degrees centigrade, despite air temperatures in the greenhouse regularly topping 34 degrees. In comparison, root temperature of control plantings fluctuated between 28 and 34 degrees.

Company CEO Dr Sharon Devir said that the results highlighted the many benefits of root zone cooling; “Cooling the roots of lettuce plants in summer not only significantly increases crop yield but also reduces the growing cycle duration and increase yield uniformity. These benefits together could help farmers plan for increased annual crop production and, therefore, increased income. Our RZTO systems are versatile and can be used to cool the roots of crops in open fields, grow bags, hydroponic and in soil.”

Photo Caption: The trial increased harvested fresh weight of Romaine lettuce.

Photo Credit: pxhere

The post Cooling lettuce roots boosts crop growth appeared first on Hort News on 26 September 2018.

Attitudes to plastic affecting produce sales

According to a new survey of smaller retailers by card payment services company Payment Sense, sales of goods packaged in plastic, and fruit and vegetables in particular, have declined over the last six months.

The move comes as consumers have become increasingly concerned by the environmental effects of plastic waste around the world, which have been highlighted by the BBC’s Blue Planet and forthcoming Drowning in Plastic programmes.

More than half of the 291 retailers surveyed (54 per cent) in July 2018 said that they had seen a fall in sales, with fruit juice and bottled water sales also suffering. Almost half (49 per cent) of the retailers surveyed also said more customers had requested products without packaging over the last six months.

Guy Moreve, chief marketing officer at Payment Sense, said, “Our study shows how changing consumer behaviour is starting to have an impact on the UK’s small retailers… Movements like the UK Plastics Pact are really gaining traction, as businesses and industry work towards a more circular approach to protect the environment.”

Photo Caption: Small retailers say that consumers are shunning fruit and veg wrapped in plastic.

Photo Credit: pxhere

The post Attitudes to plastic affecting produce sales appeared first on Hort News on 26 September 2018.

Heat Exchangers to improve AD plant efficiency

At BioCycle REFOR18 stand 38, HRS Heat Exchangers will be demonstrating the crucial role that heat exchangers can play in improving the overall efficiency of biogas plants: from pre-heating feedstock to concentrating and pasteurising digestate.

HRS Heat Exchangers provides a wide range of dedicated heat exchangers for the anaerobic digestion sector around the world, including feedstock and sludge heaters, multi-tank pasteuriser systems, evaporators, exhaust gas cooling, thermal hydrolysis, the HRS Digestate Concentration Systems (DCS) and the HRS Biogas Dehumidification System (BDS). Due to their high efficiency design which can include heat regeneration, not only do many HRS units need no additional energy input – instead utilising existing previously wasted heat from CHPs and other processes, but they maximise the amount of heat which can be re-used again.

HRS Heat Exchangers’ International Sales & Marketing Director Matt Hale explains:
“Every anaerobic digestion (AD) facility is different, but all of our systems are designed to recapture and utilise energy which would otherwise go to waste. Not only does this increase the efficiency of both our equipment and the AD plant overall, but it is also good for your pocket and good for the environment.”

Experienced HRS staff will be on hand throughout the BioCycle REFOR18 event to explain the full range of HRS products to the anaerobic digestion sector, including:

  • Biogas cooling: cooling and recapturing the heat from exhaust gases, for example using an HRS G Series heat exchanger, can increase the efficiency of combined heat and power (CHP) plants, with the recovered energy being used elsewhere in the plant.
  • Feedstock and sludge heating: maintaining the ideal digester temperature (particularly in the case of thermophilic plants) is essential for full material conversion, while pre-heating the feedstock prior to putting it in the digester can reduce the amount of heat needed in the digester itself. For such applications the HRS DTI Series of heat exchangers is ideal for ensuring a high level of heat transfer while minimising blockages or fouling.
  • Feedstock or digestate pasteurisation: not only are there legislative or quality drivers for pasteurisation, but operators of AD plants are increasingly seeing pasteurisation as a way of demonstrating the quality of their digestate product and increasing its value. HRS DPS (Digestate Pasteurisation Systems) are specifically designed to cope with difficult materials while maximising energy efficiency.
  • Digestate concentration & evaporation: reducing the volume of digestate can not only improve its quality as an organic fertiliser, but it also reduces storage, transport, application and disposal costs. The HRS DCS (Digestate Concentration System) uses a multi-stage evaporation process to concentrate digestate.
    Thermal hydrolysis for enhance biogas production: HRS has developed a process for the continuous thermal hydrolysis of digester sludge. This treatment changes the cell structure of the compounds, breaking down lignin and hemi-cellulose chains to create free sugars which are easier for the bacteria to digest.
  • Biogas Dehumidification System: The HRS BDS Series is an efficient solution to cool and dehumidify biogas for combustion. The system condenses up to 90% of the water contained in the gas, which is continuously separated before the lean biogas is ready for use.

Matt Hale adds:
“If you have an AD plant, then we can supply the best system for any thermal process associated with the feedstock, digestion, biogas or digestate. Not only that, but a heat recovery step can be included as a standard option on most of our systems, reducing energy costs by between 20 and 40% which also reduces the payback period considerably. Most of our equipment is easily integrated into existing plants, or we can design bespoke solutions for more complex applications. In addition our systems include state of the art system monitoring and cleaning systems, to reduce management time and effort.”

Learn more about the full range of AD systems from HRS Heat Exchangers on Stand 38 at BioCycle REFOR18 in October.

The post Heat Exchangers to improve AD plant efficiency appeared first on HRS Heat Exchangers.

Soil holds the secret to mitigating climate change

New research from Michigan State University in the United States suggests that crop yields and the global food supply chain can be preserved, despite the prospects of climate change, by harnessing soil.

The researchers found that carbon dioxide compensated for yield losses caused by climate change, as it acted as a natural fertiliser to help crops grow. However, when soil organic carbon losses were included in the analysis, the increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was not sufficient to prevent yield losses.

“Through agronomic management, which is ‘doing the right thing at the right time for your crops,’ soil quality and health can be improved,” said lead researcher MSU Foundation Professor Bruno Basso. “Up until now, research hasn’t accounted for what soil gives back to the cycle of climate change, and it is arguably the most critical resource to adapt to mitigate its effects. Ultimately, soil is the ‘home’ of the plants. If we aren’t caring for the soil, plants and crops are unsheltered and left to deal with climate change on their own.”

He also explained that farmers can practice better agronomic management to protect soil against the effects of climate change. This should include the use of cover crops, conservation tillage, adding organic carbon to soil or by increasing yields through advanced genetics and agronomy.

Photo Caption: Research says that looking after soils can mitigate the negative effects of climate change on crop growth.

Photo Credit: Pixnio

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Bejo introduces sustainable seed coating

Plant breeders and seed producers Bejo Zaden have introduced a new seed coating which is says is made entirely from natural sustainable materials and which will offer a number of advantages.

As well as providing greater protection to the seed than previous coatings, the new material is said to produce a smoother, rounded seed which aids sowing, and the new colour is said to be easier to see in the field. Because it is natural, the new coating completely decomposes in soil once it has completed its function.

During the seed preparation phase, the new coating dries quicker, reducing the amount of energy used and also improves seed vitality, both as less drying is required and as the new coating has higher moisture permeability.

The new coating is approved for use on organic crops by SKAL, the Dutch organic licensing authority and in due course the new coating will be introduced across the Bejo portfolio, starting with beetroot seed.

Photo Credit: Bejo Zaden

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Lettuce Fusarium wilt confirmed at new sites

Following its confirmation as a new disease in October last year, Lettuce Fusarium wilt caused by Fusarium oxysporumf. sp. lactucae(FOL) has now been confirmed by laboratory analysis at two new sites in Lancashire, while a further outbreak is suspected at a site in Cambridgeshire.

All outbreaks confirmed to date have been caused by FOL race 4, which is also present in the Netherlands, Belgium and Ireland. For protected cropping, Basamid (dazomet) is approved for de-infestation of soil before planting (one application in every third year) and is known to have activity against lettuce FOL, but in open field situations a long period between crops is advised as the disease can survive in the soil for several years.

Plants with suspect leaf symptoms should be cut in half from top to bottom to check for red/brown staining in the root which is a characteristic symptom of Fusarium wilt. Samples can be sent to Dr John Carkson at Warwick University for testing.

Photo Caption: Lettuce growers are warned to be vigilant for signs for Lettuce Fusarium wilt.

Photo Credit: pxhere

The post Lettuce Fusarium wilt confirmed at new sites appeared first on Hort News on 6 September 2018.

Food-to-go outperforms groceries sector

According to the latest sales insights from IGD, the UK’s food-to-go sector is set to grow at twice the rate of overall grocery retail, increasing to £22.8 billion by 2023, up from £17.8 billion this year.

Gavin Rothwell, Head of Food-to-Go at IGD, says: “The food-to-go market remains a strong growth opportunity that continues to provide a great source of inspiration and innovation. We’re forecasting solid growth across each of the five segments, but this will become harder to come by for operators, retailers and suppliers amid an increasingly competitive landscape. But while growth will slow, we’re expecting it to remain strong as more consumers buy food-to-go more often and as more operators target different types of locations and missions.”

He added, “Across food-to-go, collaboration between partners with the same values and mutually beneficial propositions, have been in the ascendance. Crussh and Sainsbury’s, M&S and Wasabi are two high profile collaborations, but there are already many more underway and we expect significant development here. Larger retail stores undergoing remodelling in particular offer some great opportunities for collaborations between retailers and food-to-go partners.”

The sector’s ability to evolve with changing consumer demands in health and wellness and around sustainability is increasingly critical to its success he added: “The best food-to-go operators are highly attuned to the wider mindset of their shoppers. They have responded to shape their wider propositions accordingly. Increasingly this will become expected by food-to-go consumers, and those that don’t keep up will stand out.”

Photo Caption: By continuing to adapt, the food-to-go sector will continue to grow says IGD.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The post Food-to-go outperforms groceries sector appeared first on Hort News on 6 September 2018.

Scottish scientists working to improve raspberry flavour

Plant breeders and scientists from Scotland’s James Hutton Institute at Invergowrie near Dundee are working to develop new varieties of raspberries which have more consistent flavour whatever the weather during the growing season.

However, different consumer perceptions and preferences mean that the task is not always straightforward. Research has shown that men, women and the young and old all have different views on what a raspberry should taste like, and that these differences can affect overall sales of the popular berry.

Project leader Dr Julie Graham told The Scotsman, “If a consumer buys raspberries that they don’t like, some won’t go back and buy the fruit for the rest of the season. Others won’t go back for several weeks. A negative eating experience does have a big impact on purchasing. We also want to understand why the environment has such a big effect on the flavour.

“Typically, the younger you are, the sweeter you want your raspberries. As people get older, they tend to want a balance between sugar and acid. Then there is also a gender divide. Speaking generally, men tend to like a bit of balance and then women like it sweeter. However, that again is affected by age profile. It is really quite interesting what people want in flavour.”

The research facility is now working with New Zealand’s Delytics Ltd in order to provide better guidance and exactly when to harvest the fruit to growers.

Photo Caption: Different consumers have different ideas of what a raspberry should taste like

Photo Credit: Public Domain Pictures

The post Scottish scientists working to improve raspberry flavour appeared first on Hort News on 5 September 2018.

Shortage of CO2 for Dutch greenhouses

Long term efforts to reduce the carbon footprint of Dutch horticulture, together with the recent global shortage of industrial carbon dioxide have created an unexpected problem for Dutch greenhouse growers: a shortage of CO2 for atmosphere enrichment.

In fact, the situation has got so severe that tomato supplier Prominent has written an open letter to the Dutch Minister of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality Carola Schouten. Jacco Besuijen, Prominent’s energy manager cited a recent report suggesting that The Netherlands hopes to save 2.2 million tonnes of greenhouse gas by 2030 and be climate neutral by 2040.

‘Prominent growers are sounding the alarm because they had to contend with major shortages of external CO2 in the past year,” said Besuijen in the letter. ‘For example, our Prominent growers, with a total of 418ha of tomatoes under glass, have been able to apply 5,016 tonnes less of external CO2 in the past six months due to shortages.’

One solution is for the industry to take more waste CO2 from industry. In fact a new pipeline to take CO2 from companies such as Shell Pernis to local greenhouses is currently under construction by OCAP in the PrimA4a development region.

Photo Caption: Tomato supplier Prominent is warning its growers are short of CO2.

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