Major salad and vegetable producer G’s Fresh has revealed trials into a new lettuce propogation method during a visit to its Barway site near Ely in Cambridgeshire by members of the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution (RABI).
The company operates a propagation unit at Second Willow farm and has traditionally used a typical peat block system with seeds being germinated in individual peat blocks before being packed and subdivided in trays by machines for transfer to the greenhouses.
According to the Eastern Daily Press, this season, the farm is trialling an alternative system to improve efficiency. The traditional operation grows up to 170 plants per tray, while a new “plant tape” system can sustain 900 plants per tray, using much less peat and reducing labour costs. The young lettuces are grown on paper strips which are eventually fed through the planting machinery – making it possible to plant up to a million lettuces in a day.
Charles Shropshire said: “We are always looking at our efficiency and sustainability. Because we are using massive amounts of peat in the blocks, we are being asked questions about what we are doing to reduce our peat usage.
“These trays hold five times the amount of plants in the same area, so the amount of peat is greatly reduced. It makes it faster, with less labour. We have been using plant tape in Spain for two years, and we are trialling it on 5pc here this year. If it is successful, we will want to grow many more, and I think all the little gem in the group will be from plant tape in the coming years.”