Project news Less peat in substrates for horticulture thanks to compost, wood fiber, biochar and chitin


ILVO and the partners of the European Horti-BlueC project are starting a series of ongoing practice tests for sustainable cultivation substrates. They developed mixtures with biochar and/or chitin and will investigate the effects on growth and health of strawberry and tomato as well as the interaction with fertilization. On the 19th of November the Experimental Research Center at Hoogstraten will host a demo.

The aim of Horti-BlueC is to stimulate the use of new solutions within a circular horticultural industry, through the provision of various ' building blocks ' for sustainable cultivation substrates. These materials were produced within the project on the basis of various techniques and materials. ECN-TNO has produced biochars based on spent cultivation substrates and other materials, while Université de Lille and ILVO have produced chitin based on shrimp peels. ILVO has in the meantime tested these various types of chitin and biochar, both for interaction with the fertigation (fertilization in combination with watering), and for effects on plant growth and health in strawberry. We also looked at the nitrogen exemption from chitin under controlled conditions to estimate how much nitrogen the chitin can provide for the plants.

Agaris has composed a peat-free substrate for tomato and a peat-poor substrate for strawberry, which also included chitin or biochar. More than 10 mixtures were made with one or more sustainable building blocks. At NIAB-EMR, ADAS RSK., University of Portsmouth and Proefcentrum Hoogstraten tests in the greenhouse were performed with these mixtures with biochar and chitin, for both tomato and strawberry, with attention to crop growth, the possibilities of reduction in fertilization, and the effects on plant health. Cato Engineering is now working on the purification of CO2 from smoke gases for reuse in greenhouses.

Jill De Visscher won the BAYER Thesis award for her ILVO-UGent research conducted within the Horti-BlueC project.

On 19th November an event at Hoogstraten for will be held (in Dutch); (see Horti-BlueC event) to get acquainted with the project and the first results (including visit to the greenhouses and visualization of the developed technology). Participation is free, but registration is obligatory.

Project: Horti-BlueC
Term: 2018-2021
Partners: ECN-TNO, Université de Lille, PCH-Proefcentrum Hoogstraten, National Institute of Agricultural Botany, Cato Engineering, ADAS UK Ltd., University of Portsmouth, AGARIS
Funding: Interreg 2 Seas, province of East Flanders, province of Antwerp


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Bart Vandecasteele

Expert in sustainable growing media

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