How you grow and process fresh cut basil will impact the flavor and shelf life of the harvested product.
Basil is one of the most popular culinary herbs. Whether grown as a potted crop or for fresh cut sales, basil is an herb that’s in demand year-round. Growers looking to add edibles to their product mix should consider basil to be a must-have herb in their product offerings.
Incorporating air or oxygen into irrigation water using nanobubbles can improve crop yields and reduce susceptibility to disease pathogens.
What started out as a way of making wastewater treatment systems more efficient with oxygen enrichment has expanded to how nanobubble aeration technology can improve production of agricultural crops. Moleaer Inc. in Torrance, Calif., filed a patent on nanobubble aeration technology in 2016 with the intention of using it as a way to deliver gas in a number of different applications.
If you’re going to use a loose substrate in a hydroponic production system, you may have to change how you handle starter plants and the treatment of recycled water.
Many growers of ornamental plants including annuals and perennials traditionally use a peat-based substrate such as 70 percent peat, 30 percent perlite. The growers, who produce these crops in containers, will often use the same substrates if they expand their crop offerings to include hydroponically-grown edible crops, including lettuces and leafy greens.
Researchers at Michigan State and Iowa State Universities are looking for feedback from hydroponic food growers to help them determine where research is needed to benefit the industry.
If you are doing hydroponic food production or thinking about doing this type of production, your input is needed. Controlled-environment agriculture (CEA) production researchers Roberto Lopez and Kellie Walters at Michigan State University and Chris Currey at Iowa State University have developed a survey to gain a better understanding of current hydroponic food production practices. The researchers will also use the results of the survey to help determine future research projects as well as their extension efforts.
“One thing we like to do as researchers is to see where we can make the biggest impact,” said Kellie Walters, who is a PhD graduate research assistant at Michigan State. “We want to know what matters to growers. What would they like to see done? Some of the information collected from the survey might impact the research I will be doing for my PhD. I have already set up some experiments working with some of the environmental parameters that we ask growers about in the survey.
“One of the things that I am interested in is the environment, including temperature, carbon dioxide, light intensity and quality, how these interactions affect the growth and flavor of different herbs and leafy greens. In the survey we asked about the value of crop flavors. I want to know if growers really care if their crops are more flavorful.”
Determining production protocols
Walters is working with Michigan State horticulture professor Roberto Lopez, who is her major advisor for her PhD degree.
“Kellie did her master’s degree with Chris Currey at Iowa State where she focused on hydroponic herb production,” Lopez said. “Now she is doing her PhD with me and she is going to focus on hydroponic leafy greens production in greenhouses and indoor controlled environments.
“We wanted to survey the industry and determine production protocols for growers. So we are asking questions related to where they grow hydroponically—in a greenhouse, hoop house, indoors or outdoors? What types of systems are they using? What crops are they growing? Even though we are focusing much of our research on leafy greens, we wanted to find out what food crops are being grown currently. We wanted to determine growers’ inputs as well as their cultural and environmental parameters. This includes their water source, temperature set points, and if they provide supplemental or photoperiodic lighting. Also, do they grow young plants for hydroponics or are they basically just finishing the crops?”
Lopez said the survey results will help determine the direction of his, Walter’s and Currey’s research.
“The survey will impact the way Kellie does her research and the direction of her research as well as for Chris,” Lopez said. “The survey will help to determine the major needs of hydroponic growers.”
Determining production challenges, research needs
Currey said the survey offers the opportunity to find out what challenges are occurring with hydroponic growers.
“There are so many more growers out there than I will ever have the chance to personally interact with whether that is with a phone call, through email, or visiting their facilities,” he said. “When I talk to growers and get to know them and learn what they are doing, I learn about their problems. It’s helpful to have all of those perspectives. It’s good to get a view of the landscape and the challenges that exist.
“Even before we did the survey we knew that growers were having certain issues with lighting and temperature, so we have been working on those. Productivity under low light or productivity under cool temperatures and coming up with predicative models for growth. There are certain things we know growers could use. Hopefully we are already focusing our research programs on some of those. The survey will hopefully validate the need for some of the research we have already been doing. The survey will also help us to plan research in the future to make sure that it is relevant and needed.”
Currey said most of the research conducted as a result of the survey results will likely be done using nutrient film technique or deep water raft systems.
“I work primarily with leafy crops, mainly herbs and greens,” he said. “Our facilities are well-suited for leafy crops. It takes a little more of a specialized facility for vine crops like tomatoes and cucumbers because of their dimensions. I also work on the leafy crops because I think they are generally an accessible crop for growers to begin food production. The barrier to entry with leafy greens can be a little lower than with tomatoes with respect to some of the learning curves. Leafy greens also have shorter crop times for ornamental growers who are looking for fast crops. Leafy greens could be a short “gap” crop rather than something like tomatoes which can be a six- to nine-month crop.”
Currey said he is also hoping the survey helps to identify growers’ needs that also compliment his skill set as a researcher.
“I expect there will be comments and questions about powdery mildew management on lettuce or some other pest issues,” he said. “There are other people aside from myself who are better equipped to conduct powdery mildew research. Hopefully the survey results will give ideas to other researchers as well. We want to make the results publically available. The survey might give other researchers ideas about what needs can be addressed with their skill sets.”
Walters said they will be publishing the results of the survey to give the industry access to the information.
“There is no way that we can create the optimal guidelines for growing all of the hydroponic crops growers are producing,” she said. “The survey will help other researchers know what areas growers would like to focus on and to help inform growers of issues other growers are currently facing.”
The Hydroponics Industry Surveyconsists of 24 questions and should take less than 10 minutes to complete. The deadline for participating in the hydroponics survey is Friday, May 12.
For more: Kellie Walters, Michigan State University, Department of Horticulture, East Lansing, MI 48824; email@example.com. Roberto Lopez, Michigan State University, Department of Horticulture, East Lansing, MI 48824; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.hrt.msu.edu/people/dr_roberto_lopez. Chris Currey, Iowa State University, Department of Horticulture, Ames, IA 50011; email@example.com; https://www.hort.iastate.edu/directory/christopher-j-currey.
We have been receiving a lot of questions about Pre-Empt. He are some responses to the common questions:
When is Pre-Empt appropriate?
It is best suited for recirculating hydroponic production of leafy greens. It can be used as a direct substitute for conventional fertilizers in NFT, DWC/Floating Raft, and Flood & Drain. When used properly, it won’t clog 1/4″ emitters which is very rare for an organic fertilizer.
When is Pre-Empt not appropriate?
The cost may be prohibitive for drain-to-waste systems. We do not have any experience with the product being used in aeroponic or aquaponic systems.
Can Pre-Empt be used for tomatoes?
-Growth may be overly vegetative and not as reproductive as standard commercial tomato formulas
-Blossom end rot will likely be an issue on larger varieties like beefsteaks
-Works well with grape and cherry tomatoes but still may have overly vegetative growth
-Calcium may be supplemented with an organic solution grade gypsum
What amendments would you suggest to use with Pre-Empt?
-Organic solution grade gypsum and silica may be used to reduce tip burn or blossom end rot
-Inoculants like TerraBella can help reduce biofilms and improve nutrient availability
How do I inoculate a tank with beneficial microbes?
Fill a 5 gallon bucket with water and add 1 oz molasses. Let water sit for 1 day to remove chlorine (unless using RO or distilled water). Add 2 oz. of TerraBella and let sit for 1 day before adding to reservoir. This is enough to inoculated 300 gallons of nutrient solution.
How often should I change the reservoir?
This is going to vary a lot depending on growing environment, system, water source, and fertilizer rate. In general, using a water source with a very low EC and keeping the fertilizer rate low will help extend the life of the reservoir. Some growers flush their system once every 4-5 months and some growers flush every two weeks. The cost to build a reservoir with Pre-Empt may be up to 100x more expensive than conventional fertilizers so it is very important to reduce the frequency of flushes.
What EC should I maintain?
This will depend on source water EC and crop. The target EC is generally going to be lower than the EC used with conventional fertilizers. Generally leafy greens are grown at an EC ranging from .8 up to 1.6. It is best to start low to avoid the development of biofilms in the system
What pH should I maintain? And how?
I’ve seen growers completely ignore pH while using Pre-Empt. The pH may fluctuate from 4.8 up to 7.5 without noticeable effect on the crop. I’ve also seen growers maintain pH levels with citric acid and sodium bicarbonate.
How consistent is Pre-Empt from batch to batch?
There is variability in the product and it is possible that a batch may perform differently than previous batches. This variability is generally minimal enough that growers do not need to adjust practices.
For the Organic or Hydroponic grower seeking an OMRI-Certified option for fast and effective seed germination, plug and transplant production for leafy greens and culinary herbs, Hort Americas brings you the Riococo Closed Bottom Organic Plug (CBOP). Whether you grow in 1020 trays, grow bags, nutrient film technique (NFT), raft systems, aquaponics or aeroponics systems, with this CBOP you are well on your way to attaining maximum yields!
Dr. Hugh Poole, international agricultural consultant, said coconut coir is initially high in sodium, potassium and chloride salts. “Where the coconut coir originates from can have an impact on the salt levels.” He further states, “If the EC (electrical conductivity) level is below 1.0 milliSiemens (measure of electric conductance) per centimeter (mS/cm), growers should not have to leach the coir. In most cases, the coir producers have already leached the coir for the growers. It should be ready to use. If the salts level is high, then the coir producer has not done its job. A producer should be able to provide growers with the coir’s EC value, its pH value and other information, including percent moisture, as well.”
Rest assured growers, Riococo Closed Bottom Organic Plugs consistently provide all of the above!
Hort Americas is an innovative leader in North America’s controlled environment agriculture industry (CEA) and strives to continually innovate in agriculture via premium technical support, professional salesmanship, unmatched customer service and outstanding products to our customers in the United States, Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean.
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While providing the proper soluble salts and pH levels are important in hydroponic systems, don’t overlook the significance of maintaining the optimum temperature, oxygen concentration and microbe level in the nutrient solution.
Maintaining the proper soluble salts (electrical conductivity) level and pH are critical in hydroponic systems like nutrient film technique and floating rafts. While monitoring these properties are important, growers should not overlook the importance that temperature, oxygen level and microbial activity play in the growth of plants in these production systems.
“It’s not as much about maintaining root health as it is about managing the conditions in the rhizosphere, which is the region around the plant roots,” said Rosa Raudales, assistant professor of horticulture and greenhouse extension specialist at the University of Connecticut. “The area around the roots undergoes a lot of biological and chemical activity. Microorganisms in the rhizosphere feed on the exudate of the roots. Managing the rhizosphere and the conditions in the nutrient solution are critical to maintaining plant health.”
Maintain optimum root temperatures
While providing the proper air temperature in a greenhouse or controlled environment agriculture system is important, maintaining the optimum root temperature can have a bigger impact on the health and production time of a crop.
“If higher temperatures are maintained in the root zone then the plants are going to lose a lot of energy,” Raudales said. “Temperatures above the optimum in the root zone affect the cell membrane integrity of the roots. A disruption of the cell membranes affects the function of the roots resulting in less nutrient uptake, which affects crop cycles and yields.
“If plants are grown at root temperatures lower than the optimum, the plants grow slower because their metabolism is slower. In the worst case scenario, if freezing temperatures occur then ice crystals could form in the cells resulting in cell leakage and cell disruption.”
Cornell University researchers have conducted studies (http://www.cornellcea.com/attachments/Cornell%20CEA%20Lettuce%20Handbook%20.pdf) to identify the specific temperatures that are ideal for hydroponically-grown vegetables.
“Cornell researchers found the temperature of the nutrient solution had a greater effect than the air temperature,” Raudales said. “Lettuce plants exposed to air temperatures ranging between17ºC (62.6ºF) and 31ºC (87.8ºF) had consistent yields as long as the nutrient solution had a consistent temperature of 24ºC (75.2ºF). This research was done in the 1990s, but it still has application today.
“Cornell researchers did a similar study with spinach and they found the optimum root temperature was 22ºC (72ºF). They tested air temperatures ranging from 16ºC to 33ºC (60.8ºF-91.4ºF) and they found as long as the root temperature was 22ºC, the air temperature could be in that range and plants still produced optimum yields. For tomatoes the optimum root temperature is 25ºC (77ºF).”
Raudales said growers who are producing hydroponic leafy greens like lettuce and spinach have the option of installing a water heater to maintain the optimum root temperatures.
“It is easier and less expensive to heat the nutrient solution than to keep the whole greenhouse warm,” she said. “Heating the greenhouse does not make economic sense, when the research indicates that the temperature of the nutrient solution is a more important factor. If a grower is producing lettuce and spinach, which can tolerate lower air temperatures, it makes sense to run the greenhouses cooler and to install a water heater to adjust the nutrient solution temperature.”
Maintain adequate oxygen levels
Raudales said the dissolved oxygen level in a hydroponic solution needs to be maintained so respiration can occur in the roots.
“When oxygen levels are low in the root zone, the roots do not take up the nutrients required for growth,” she said. “Low oxygen levels cause increased ethylene production in the roots. If there are higher ethylene levels in the roots then the roots start to mature and die. The more oxygen present, the better the nutrient uptake and the better the root system.”
Raudales said there is also an inverse relationship between the oxygen level and solution temperature.
“If the root zone temperature is high, then the oxygen level is going to go down,” she said. “This is another reason why the root zone temperature is so important. The optimum oxygen level should be greater or equal to 6 parts per million of dissolved oxygen in the root zone. Plants should be able to handle 6-10 ppm without any problems.”
Raudales said growers who are using nutrient film technique systems typically don’t need to do any type of aeration. The movement caused by the flow of the water is usually enough to keep the oxygen level high enough in the solution.
Raudales said growers who are using floating rafts usually incorporate some type of oxygen-generating system.
“There are different ways of oxygenating the water,” she said. “One is aerating the water where air is being pumped into the water. Air is not pure oxygen, but it contains enough oxygen for what is needed in the hydroponic solution.”
Raudales said another reason for maintaining a high oxygen level in the hydroponic solution is the effect it can have on pathogenic fungal zoospores.
“If there is more oxygen, then zoospores don’t survive as well,” she said. “Zoospores don’t want completely anaerobic conditions, but they do better in conditions where there is less oxygen.
Pathogens of concern include Phytophthora, Pythium, Thielaviopsis basicola and Xanthomonas.
“Growers should try to keep the oxygen level high. If there are warmer temperatures, then there are lower oxygen levels. When there are lower oxygen levels the plants are not as healthy and more zoospores tend to survive. This is one of the reasons why there tends to be more disease issues during the summer than during the winter.”
Raudales said growers who are using floating rafts should be measuring the oxygen level regularly. Meters for measuring dissolved oxygen look like pH meters and are simple to operate.
Maintain beneficial microbes
Raudales said beneficial microbes are present naturally in water. Commercial products with beneficial microbes can also be incorporated into the hydroponic solution.
“Growers who are using the floating rafts tend to treat the nutrient solution like gold,” she said.
“They don’t want to replace it because they have a solution which is very high in beneficial microbes. Growers can inoculate the nutrient solution with a commercial biocontrol product or they can allow the good microbes to build up with time.
“As long as growers maintain the other parameters at optimum levels, including root temperature, pH, nutrients and oxygen levels, there typically isn’t a problem with diseases. This is very comparable to what happens with plants grown in substrates. The microbes build up naturally in the water just like in a substrate. These microbes feed on the exudates of the roots.
They need carbon sources that they wouldn’t get just from the nutrient solution. The system has to be clean, but it doesn’t have to be clean to the point of having to start with a fresh solution every time a new crop is planted.”
For more: Rosa Raudales, University of Connecticut, Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture; (860) 486-6043; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.greenhouse.uconn.edu.
David Kuack is a freelance technical writer in Fort Worth, Texas; email@example.com.
On Nov. 13, 2015, U.S. Food and Drug Administration finalized three rules of the Food Safety Modernization Act. The purpose of FSMA, according to a FDA press release is to prevent foodborne illness “that, for the first time, establish enforceable safety standards for produce farms and makes importers accountable for verifying that imported food meets U.S. safety standards.” FDA said FSMA’s “final rules will help produce farmers and food importers take steps to prevent problems before they occur.”
“The recent multistate outbreak of Salmonella in imported cucumbers that has killed four Americans, hospitalized 157 and sickened hundreds more, is exactly the kind of outbreak these rules can help prevent,” said Michael Taylor, FDA deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine. “The FDA is working with partners across the government and industry to prevent foodborne outbreaks. The rules will help better protect consumers from foodborne illness and strengthen their confidence that modern preventive practices are in place, no matter where in the world the food is produced.”
The three final rules released by FDA in November are the Produce Safety rule, the Foreign Supplier Verification Programs rule and the Accredited Third-Party Certification rule. FDA has finalized five of the seven major rules that implement the core of FSMA. In September 2015, FDA released the Preventive Controls for Human Food rule, which mandates preventive practices in food processing and storage facilities.
Produce Safety rule
The Produce Safety rule is the one rule that should have the biggest impact on outdoor farmers, greenhouse growers and controlled environment agriculture (CEA) growers. FDA used public comments and input collected during farm visits, meetings and listening sessions to develop a rule it says aims at reducing contamination risk while providing flexibility for farmers and growers.
This rule “establishes science-based standards for growing, harvesting, packing and holding produce that are designed to work effectively for food safety across the wide diversity of produce farms.” The rule’s standards include “requirements for water quality, employee health and hygiene, wild and domesticated animals, biological soil amendments of animal origin such as compost and manure, equipment, tools and buildings.” The rule’s standards have been designed to “help minimize the risk of serious illness or death from consumption of contaminated produce.”
One crop that the rule specifically addresses is the production of sprouts, which have been frequently associated with illness outbreaks. FDA reports that between 1996 and 2014, there were 43 outbreaks, 2,405 illnesses, 171 hospitalizations and three deaths associated with sprouts. Among the outbreaks was the first documented case of Listeria monocytogenes associated with sprouts in the United States. This crop is particularly vulnerable to microbial contamination because of the warm, moist conditions in which they are produced.
Exemptions to the Produce Safety rule
The earliest compliance date for the Produce Safety rule for some farms is two year after the effective date of the final rule. There are exemptions to the rule for some producers. These include farms that have an average annual value of produce sold during the previous three-year period of $25,000 or less. Also to be eligible for a qualified exemption, the farm must meet two requirements:
1. The farm must have food sales averaging less than $500,000 per year during the previous three years.
2. The farm’s sales to qualified end-users must exceed sales to all others combined during the previous three years. A qualified end-user is either (a) the consumer of the food or (b) a restaurant or retail food establishment that is located in the same state or the same Indian reservation as the farm or not more than 275 miles away.
Buyers driving food safety regulations
Dr. Elizabeth Bihn, director of the Produce Safety Alliance at Cornell University, said prior to FSMA, buyer demand has been the primary driver for implementation of food safety practices. “Consumers are buyers, but they are not protecting a name brand like Kroger or Wegmans or Wal-Mart,” Bihn said. “These companies are protecting their brands. They are going to have much higher stipulations for food safety then the consumers at farmers markets. There is some consumer demand for increased accountability for food safety, but it’s not as big a driver as the retail buyers’ demand. This includes most large food retailers.”
Bihn said greenhouse vegetable growers and CEA growers may receive added pressure from buyers to follow FSMA whether or not they are exempt from it.
“If a buyer tells a grower, “I’m not buying your produce unless you have a third party audit,” and the grower wants that company’s account, then the grower is going to do the audit,” Bihn said. “Legally a grower may be exempt from the regulation, but a buyer may say it doesn’t matter, the grower will still have to meet the regulation. There are still going to be markets that don’t require growers to meet the regulation if their operations are exempt from it. If you are a greenhouse grower who sells to a market that’s not requiring compliance with FSMA and you are exempt from the regulation, you may not have to do anything related to the regulation. Also, I can see third party audits, like the Harmonized GAPs audit, being updated to align with the rules to make sure that growers who have audits done meet the federal regulations as well.”
Increased interest in food safety
Even before the final rules were released, Bihn said she is receiving increased inquiries from greenhouse growers about food safety. “Greenhouse growers are trying to decide if they are subject to FSMA rules and how the required practices might fit with what they do with their greenhouses,” she said. “They are trying to figure out if they need to be concerned with meeting food safety regulations. They are going to be in the same situation as field farmers and asking the same questions. Are buyers asking the growers to meet the regulations? Greenhouse growers not subject to the regulations could easily get pushed into following the regulations if their buyers tell them in order to do business with them, the growers must follow the regulations.”
Bihn said her job is to help guide produce growers, whether they are field farmers, urban farmers, greenhouse growers or CEA growers, toward implementing food safety practices.
“Initially there may be frustration, hostility and denial,” she said. “All of those things will occur when growers first hear what they have to do. When they finally sit down and start to learn something about food safety and start to ask how can I fix this, then they start to make progress really fast.
“I love farmers who question everything. They don’t understand why doing something is a risk. They tell me I’ve never killed anyone so what’s the problem. That’s the engagement that I need to get them to think about it. They need to get to where they understand all farms can have produce safety risks and admit that they need to learn something about food safety so that they can make adjustments within their operations and put practices in place to reduce the risks.”
Industry job opportunities
Bihn said she has been encouraging Cornell students majoring in horticulture to get a minor in food science. She has also been encouraging students majoring in food science who are interested in produce safety to get a minor in horticultural production.
“There are food science students who have no idea how farms operate,” she said. “Unfortunately this sometimes results in food science professionals offering ideas for problem solving that may not be doable.”
Bihn said that food safety has traditionally been housed with the food science departments and crop production has been housed with the horticulture department.
“It’s time for there to be some cross pollination between these two departments,” she said. “It has been slow to happen. We now have a Masters of Professional Studies degree at Cornell that merges horticulture and food science. There are jobs out there, but they are difficult to fill because there are people who know production or there are people who know food pathogens, but there are very few people who know both.”
Bihn said she has received requests from her horticulture colleagues at Cornell to give guest lectures on food safety and to collaborate on publications about incorporating food safety guidelines into field publications.
“The fruit and vegetable industry as a whole is certainly saying food safety is something that we need to be incorporating,” she said.
Specialty Greens in Lafayette, Calif., is hydroponically
producing gourmet lettuces, herbs, chard, spinach, kale and microgreens. Owner Patty
Phaneuf has been working with Hort Americas to study the effects supplemental
production lighting can have on her lettuce and herb crops. She is using Philips
Green Power LED Production Modules Deep Red/Blue 120cm and T-5 fluorescent
lamps. T-5s produce light that is high in the blue light spectrum (440
Phaneuf said the lettuce grown under the LEDs and
fluorescent lights had accelerated growth and intensified leaf color. Using the
lights enabled her to produce the lettuce within a 30-day crop cycle from seed
Phaneuf was so pleased with the lettuce production
results that she is planning to expand the lighting trials. She is working with
Hort Americas to increase the amount of blue light given off by the LED
Production Modules so that she can eliminate having to use the fluorescent
Specialty Greens, www.specialtygreens.com.
Experiment information provided by Patty Phaneuf at
Specialty Greens. Posted by Maria Luitjohan at Hort Americas,
Visit our corporate website at https://www.hortamericas.com
Barry Adler, owner of RainFresh Harvests, started a greenhouse vegetable business with the goal of being as sustainable and environmentally-friendly as possible.
Barry Adler, owner of RainFresh Harvests in Plain City, Ohio, was exposed to the use of solar power as a renewable energy source for greenhouses when he was a graduate student at Virginia Tech. He continued to be involved with the use of greenhouses during the 22 years he worked at the Scotts Co., including conducting fertilizer research. Because of his familiarity with greenhouse production it made sense for Adler to look at it as a business option when he left Scotts in 2002.
Hort Americas is please to offer the first in a series of innovative educational videos geared toward commercial greenhouse growers and hydroponic vegetable growers in controlled environment agriculture facilities.
The first will be product videos that provide you (the viewer) the necessary facts and information you need to incorporate these tools at your growing facility.
The second will be educational only videos. These videos will focus on horticultural and hydroponic topics. Topics will range from managing the root zone to managing light. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if there are any specific topics you would like to see tackled.
growing substrate materials that have been used for hydroponic crop production
include rockwool, perlite, vermiculite, expanded clay and pea gravel. Phenolic
foam is a relatively new inorganic substrate that offers many desirable
Oasis Horticube Growing Medium is a sterile phenolic foam. Like rockwool,
Horticubes have no cation exchange capacity, no
buffering capacity and no initial fertilizer charge.
Horticubes come in a variety of sizes, including: 1-inch Thin-Cut
(276 cubes/sheet), 1-inch (162 cubes/sheet), 1¼-inch (104 cubes/sheet) and 1½-inch
(50 cubes/sheet). All of the sheets measure 10- by 20-inches and fit into
standard 1020 trays. Each sheet is pre-scored on the bottom and top to allow
for easy separation of the cubes at transplant.
The 1-inch Thin-Cut Horticube was developed primarily for
hydroponic lettuce production. This high density configuration accommodates 276
seeds in a standard 1020 tray. Each cube is pre-punched with a dibble hole that
is uniform in depth and has center to center spacing. This allows for the use
of automated seed sowing equipment. Horticubes work equally well with both nutrient
film technique (NFT) and a raft (float) growing system.
Using the North Carolina State University porometer, the 1-inch
Thin-Cut Horticube has a water-holding capacity of 80 percent and air porosity
of 20 percent. A comparable rockwool product, which has grooves at the bottom
of the sheet, has a water-holding capacity of 60 percent and air porosity of 40
Sowing the seed
Horticubes can be seeded dry and do not need to be watered prior
to sowing the seed. Seed can be sown using a vacuum seeder or manually by
placing the seed in the dibble holes. The specially designed hole is tapered to
ensure the seed sets properly in each cube.
After the seed is sown irrigation can be done manually with a hose
and water breaker (i.e., wide fan nozzle) or automatically by passing the
Horticube sheets through a watering tunnel. The sheets should be thoroughly
A single Horticube sheet holds about 4 liters (1 gallon) of water.
However, it takes more than 4 liters of water to ensure total saturation of the
foam because of water channeling through the dibble holes and grooves on the Horticube
sheet. To ensure thorough saturation about 10 liters (2.6 gallons) should be
applied so that the water pours through the bottom of the sheet. As rule of
thumb, water each sheet for 2 minutes at regular tap water pressure.
If the seedlings are going to be irrigated/fertigated by overhead
irrigation, place the Horticube sheets in solid bottom trays with drain holes. Never
use a solid bottom tray without drain holes. If sub-irrigation is going to be
used, place the Horticube sheets in trays that have solid sides and web bottoms.
Like rockwool, the Horticube sheets can be rewetted. Both of these
media should not be allowed to go completely dry between waterings.
Once the Horticubes are thoroughly saturated, the cubes should
stay moist during the course of germination.
Lettuce seed sown in Horticubes does not have to be topdressed
with vermiculite. The seed also does not require a dark treatment for germination.
The best germination usually occurs when the Horticube temperature is below
70°F. The seed usually germinates in two to three days.
and fertilizing seedlings
Generally lettuce seedlings in Horticubes do not require misting
or watering during germination. However, on bright hot summer days consider a
brief misting (5 seconds once a day) on Day 2 and Day 3. Apply clear tap water
with no fertilizer.
Once the lettuce seed has germinated the mist frequency needs to
be adjusted. A typical misting program consists of starting from Day 4 to Day
7, three times a day for 10 seconds. From Day 7 to finish, mist four times a
day for 10 seconds. If the seedlings are going to be either hand-watered or on
a sub-irrigation system, irrigate only once a day.
Start fertilizing the seedlings on Day 4. All of the different
nutrient formulations developed for lettuce production will work with
Horticubes. Growers should customize their specific formulations depending on
water supply, lettuce cultivars, production system, climate and season. The
nutrient solution pH should range from 5.5 to 6. The recommended electrical
conductivity during propagation is 1.0 mS/cm. The recommended electrical
conductivity during production is 1.2 to 2.2 mS/cm.
Lettuce seedlings should be ready to transplant 10 to 14 days
after sowing depending on seasonal climate conditions. During summer months it
takes about 10 days from sowing to transplant and during winter months it takes
about14 days. The criteria for transplant are development of two true leaves
and root penetration through the bottom of the Horticubes.
At transplant the pre-scored sheets can be easily separated into
individual cubes. The easiest way is to break the individual cubes from the top
down along the scoring.
Lettuce seedlings in Horticubes transplanted into a NFT or raft
system perform equally well. During production the recommended electrical
conductivity of the nutrient solution should be 1.2 to 2.2 mS/cm. With a NFT
system the water flow rate should be 1 to 1.2 liters per minute. Analysis of
the nutrient solution should be done on a regular basis in order to make
Hydroponically-grown lettuce produced in Horticubes can be harvested
with the root system intact. Leaving the root system intact can help to extend
the shelf life of the lettuce.
For more: Smithers-Oasis
North America; (800) 321-8286; www.oasisgrower.com or Hort Americas, LLC at +1 469 532 2383.
Kuack is a freelance technical writer in Fort Worth, Texas, email@example.com.
Dr. Vijay Rapaka is Manager—Grower Research, Smithers-Oasis Co., Kent, Ohio, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Visit our corporate website at https://www.hortamericas.com
Hort Americas recently finished its last round of training on Philips GreenPower Horticultural (Hydroponic) LED Product Portfolio.
This training not only included intense product training, but it also included training on LED applications for:
1.) Hydroponic Production of Greenhouse Vegetable Crops like Tomatoes, Peppers and Cucumbers
2.) Hydroponic Production of Greenhouse Leafy Green and Herb Crops
3.) Greenhouse Ornamentals
4.) Seed Production
5.) Tissue Culture
6.) Growth Chambers and Grow Rooms
7.) Needs of Research Facilities and Universities
8.) Multi-layer Production
9.) Vertical Farming
10.) Urban Agriculture in Controlled Environments
Next step will be UL certification for the complete line of Philips GreenPower LEDs which are currently being trialed and commercially used in a wide variety of growing facilities around the world.
PlantLab along with many other forward thinkers is working with LEDs.
Visit our corporate website at https://www.hortamericas.com
Not alot of time for a post today, but wanted to put a teaser out there that we are looking at an organic fertilizer that should fit well with Hydroponically Grown Greenhouse Greens, Herbs and Veggies.
Hort Americas is proud to share this link from CNNMoney.com. The link takes you to an Article on Urban Agriculture (Farming) and the impact it can have on our future. It includes mentions of innovative companies like: Eco Spirit, TerraSphere Systems, Big Box Farms, Gotham Greens and Cityscape Farms and innovators such as Dickson Depommier.
What a trip! We just returned from an amazing tript to Europe and Florida. The trip includes visits to production facilities (orcids, tomatoes, potting soils), research facilities (hydroponic strawberries) and tradeshows (PMA and Hortifair.) It was busy!
Check out some of the photos:
Advanced Orchid Production
Hydroponic Strawberry Production and Research
Orchid Bark Options
Ontario Greenhouse Growers Association
If you would like to learn more about our trip or any of the photos that you see here please simply let us know. (Anyone can email us a email@example.com.)
Visit our corporate website at https://www.hortamericas.com