Healthy plants start with healthy soils and a foundation of strong growing media. While that may seem obvious, there are always ways to improve plant quality from the bottom up. Check out what some of the growing media industry’s leading suppliers are doing to better address grower needs.
Some Growers Looking For A Tailored Program
According to Benoit Corbeil, Director of Sales at Berger in Saint-Modeste, Quebec, many growers today are looking at turn-key growing media that includes all the fertilizer they will need for their production, especially in the organic market. Other growers want little to no fertilizer in their substrate so they can have complete control over their nutritional program.
“We are also noticing that growers are more open to trying new materials in their growing media,” Corbeil says. “Seeing the huge success that some of our customers have had with wood products has sparked a lot of interest from other growers.”
Corbeil says that Berger is currently working on new fertilizer starter packages to cater to the diversified needs of its customers.
“Not only are we working on new components to add to our growing media, we are also developing new blends of components that allow us to enhance certain physical characteristics and tailor growing medias to specific applications,” he says.
For instance, Berger has engineered a highly porous substrate manufactured exclusively with natural fibers for soilless berry production. This growing media can also be used for crops that are sensitive to excess water and require additional drainage, such as succulents or even orchids.
Looking into the future, Corbeil says Berger recently revamped its research and development department, allowing the company to streamline its research efforts.
“We are more focused on emerging non-floriculture markets such as vegetables, fruits, and urban gardening,” Corbeil says. “Along with our technical services department, we will be launching a new platform to efficiently follow in-house customer trials. This will give growers the opportunity to try out our products in development and offer their input. It will allow us to subsequently tweak our substrates adequately and optimize their physical and chemical properties.”
Grow-Tech Develops Precise Plug Placement
Growers have always looked for media that increases their germination and rooting rates, reduces labor, and supports healthy growth.
“Now, however, we are consistently hearing from growers that they also want a medium that is ‘clean,’ meaning it is made from bio-based ingredients that are grown or harvested in a sustainable manner,” says Tracy Weber, Product Development Manager at Grow-Tech, Inc. “They are growing food in this media and want to be able to read the ingredient list of the product and recognize what it’s made from.”
Weber says that more and more plants such as trees, shrubs, and orchids are being propagated from tissue culture to help growers achieve consistent and high production numbers. This callused material is not always easy to plant or to root in a plug without damaging the callus.
“To address this issue, Grow-Tech developed a product called the ZenPlug, which we launched this year,” Weber says. “Instead of inserting plant stock into a hole, the open plug shape lets growers precisely and rapidly place the plant in the heart of the plug. The ZenPlug’s unique multi-surfaced interior holds roots firmly but gently in place, giving young plants an optimal environment for root growth.”
Need For Better Water Retention
According to John Wynne, Business Development Manager at Evonik, growers are looking to their media (just like companies are looking to their employees) to do more.
“They want their media to hold more water, hold more nutrients, produce healthier and fuller plants, and help the plants thrive during stressful periods,” Wynne says.
Evonik’s Stockosorb 660 has a unique action that absorbs water in growing media, swelling to several times its original size, then releases nutrient-rich water back to the plants when needed. Stockosorb 660 is an acrylamide-free advanced hydrogel that can be mixed into growing media by the grower or their growing media supplier before planting.
“Using Stockosorb 660 provides growers with a cost-effective way to maximize precious water resources, minimize labor inputs, reduce shrink, and improve plant survival rates, as well as reduce fertilizer leaching,” Wynne says.