Informative meeting on coco substrate well attended

Publication date: 20-03-2024

On Thursday, March 14, Van der Knaap Group organised a knowledge meeting on coco substrate at the World Horti Center. About sixty attendees, including growers of fruit vegetables on both coco and stone wool, heard how four experts in the field of (coco) substrates, soil life, research and recycling shared their views on the developments and the future of coco substrate in horticulture.

Research and soil resilience
Chairman of the day, Rob Veenman, opened the meeting by sounding out opinions about growing on coco. Some of the growers present were to be already growing on coco, the other part is still neutral about the subject and came to the meeting to get more information about (the advantages of) growing on coco substrate.

During his presentation, Dirk Zwinkels, manager Research & Development at Van der Knaap Groep, explained what kind of cultivation research the company carries out in innovation centre 'de Kas’. Often in cooperation with growers. One of those studies led several years ago to the development of a sustainable cultivation system (OWS) with which plant-absorbable (nitrate) nitrogen and circular calcium nitrate can be produced. In addition, they have been conducting research into micro life in substrate in cooperation with Eurofins Agro for a number of years.

Frank Hoeberichts (Eurofins Agro) elaborated on this. Micro life in the substrate plays an important role in soil resilience. Eurofins Agro uses two different methods to measure the microbial biomass in substrate. A microbiome analysis makes it possible to map the precise composition of micro life. Using the Soil Life Monitor, (absolute) amounts of micro life can be measured. In this way, they were able to determine that during cultivation in coco substrate, a richer and more varied micro life arises than in an inert substrate such a stone wool.

A sustainable choice
Wim van der Ende, cultivation consultant at Van der Knaap Group, focused on the properties of coco and the method of cultivation. Coco is a natural material where proper buffering and washing of the substrate is important to balance the organic complex of coir. In addition, it is a naturally airy substrate that requires a different irrigation strategy. Coco substrate can also be recycled after use, making it a sustainable choice.

The story of Johan van Paassen of Renewi connected with this. He gave those present an insight into how the company processes various waste streams, including those from horticulture. Coco substrate can also be recycled. As an organic residual stream from fruit vegetable crops, it can be reused as a soil improver after processing by Renewi, giving it a second life. He ended with the new developments the company is working on. 

The growers present were also able to learn something from each other. Led by Rob Veenman, growers who already grow on coco shared their experiences with those who do not (yet). All in all, an instructive afternoon for all present!

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