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Volume 3 (2008): Article 6
Peat-based organic growbags as a solution to the mineral wool waste problem
by O. Grunert, M. Perneel and S. Vandaele
Published online: 29.09.2008
The vast amount of solid waste produced each year is one of the greatest problems associated with greenhouse horticulture in some European countries. In particular, the disposal of used growing media arising from the soil-less cultivation of vegetables in mineral wool creates serious difficulties. The non-biodegradability of these mainly inorganic substrates causes environmental concern and has prompted the search for alternative growing media such as cocos derivatives, perlite and resin foam (Fytocell®). Organic substrates in combination with biodegradable material such as plastic, rope and clippings have the advantage that re-use or recycling of the waste is easier, cheaper and more environmentally friendly than for mineral wool. However, the differing physical and chemical characteristics of the alternative substrates may affect yield significantly. Substrates based respectively on peat and peat with cocos derivatives were tested against a mineral wool control for the production of tomato in three consecutive years. Both organic substrates were placed in biodegradable plastic bags. Greenhouse experiments demonstrated that plants grown in the pure peat substrate rooted more easily than plants grown in the peat-cocos substrate or mineral wool, and that they developed less blossom-end rot in both peat substrates than in mineral wool. Due to the buffering capacity of the organic substrates, the electrical conductivity of the draining water appeared to be more stable during cultivation. The total yield of tomato fruits was similar for all substrates, and no differences between substrates could be observed in the quality of the fruits produced. On the other hand, flavour tests demonstrated that plants grown on peat substrate produced more tasty fruits under certain conditions. The results of this study show that organic growbags are promising and competitive alternatives to mineral wool.
Grunert, O., Perneel, M. & Vandaele, S. (2008): Peat-based organic growbags as a solution to the mineral wool waste problem. Mires and Peat 3: Art. 6. (Online: http://www.mires-and-peat.net/pages/volumes/map03/map0306.php)
IMCG and IPS acknowledge the work of the reviewers.