Plastic vs. Fabric: What's The Better Option?
Fabric is emerging as a favorite material for containers in the hydroponic industry. Should the greenhouse floriculture industry also be exploring this option for containers?
December 12, 2011
Plastic pots have had tremendous staying power in our industry for a number of reasons, including those outlined in our November special report, "The Future Of Plastics." In the report, we also explored a number of emerging biocontainers and whether or not any are a true challenger to plastics. We did not, however, explore non-woven fabric as an alternative container material, and it's to this point that one reader issues a challenge.
"Fabric pots are being used around the world, from greenhouse propagation to the largest outdoor commercial tree growers," says Jim Averna, one of the founders of Root Pouch. "Fabric pots are the preferred container in the hydroponic Industry, as well as the home hobbyist. The horticultural industry is quickly converting over now that the cost comparison in plastic versus fabric is comparable due to the rising petroleum cost."
Averna points out that only two fabric companies - Root Pouch and Smart Pots - served the horticultural market here in the United States just two years ago. Now, Averna says there are 18 fabric companies serving the market.
"When you have 16 fabric companies emerging in two years and you don't have a single new plastic company being formed, what does that say?" Averna asks.
"The fabric pot industry is huge and getting bigger every day. You would be hard pressed to find a grower in the United States that is not already using, testing it or is considering fabric containers. Every reputable agricultural university has tested it against plastic, all with reports of superior growing abilities and bigger plant yields."
The fabric companies emerging are largely serving the growing hydroponic market, but Averna says fabric lends itself to growers of all kinds.
"The fabric prunes the plant," he says. "It will allow the plant to breathe. It allows oxygen to come into the root structure. The number one benefit is that it allows air and moisture to flow through it."
Have you tested fabric as a container in your greenhouse? Perhaps you're already using fabric as a container material. If you have firsthand experience, share your story in the comments section below.