Plant Empowerment is synonymous with Next Generation Growing, where stress is no longer a factor. The use of climate screens can prevent plant stress to a significant degree. This in turn results in greater efficiency. Reason enough for Svensson to support a book and platform on this topic.
Plant Empowerment – also known as Growing by Plant Empowerment (GPE) – is all about maintaining balance. The right conditions in a greenhouse ensure that the plants do not experience any limitations, i.e. stress. By continuously monitoring plant balances and making changes accordingly, plants can remain stress-free and deal efficiently with light, water, nutrients and CO2. The book ‘Plant Empowerment – the basic principles’ by Peter Geelen, Jan Voogt and Peter van Weel, who also contributed to the first manual on NGG, explores this concept in detail. The book is of considerable value for all types of covered crop cultivation and is written in understandable language, with numerous illustrations and practical examples. “A must-read for growers and crop consultants worldwide,” says Ton Habraken, Greenhouse Climate Consultant at Svensson.
“Thanks to the high quality of the diffuse light, the plant can absorb more light. This results in much greater photosynthesis efficiency and, ultimately, a larger yield.”
Plant and greenhouse balances
Plant Empowerment is based on the notion that a plant is both a living physiological organism and an object subject to physical laws. Plant growth and health are influenced by six balances: three plant balances (water, energy and assimilates) and three greenhouse balances (moisture, energy and CO2). GPE revolves around monitoring these balances and making changes accordingly. Climate screens play an increasingly greater role in this. “They allow you, for example, to have a major influence on the energy and moisture balances in the greenhouse. If you know the absolute moisture content in the cultivation space, as well as above the screen and outside, you know where it is possible to eliminate moisture, as well as the measures you can take to maintain control of moisture in the greenhouse,” illustrates Ton Habraken.
Climate screen as climate tool
Whereas a climate screen was previously considered a means for reducing energy bills, it is now being used more and more as a tool for improving plant growth. “A climate screen gives you direct influence on the three plant balances: assimilate, energy and water. Preventing radiation for example, is an extremely important part of the plant’s energy balance. Good screens also ensure a more homogenous climate in the greenhouse by eliminating wind influences. Experience proves this. Whereas it was still customary in sweet pepper cultivation ten years ago to use one screen for 1,800 hours a year, today’s screens are used for 3,000 to 3,500 hours a year and part of a multi-screen system, such as an energy screen combined with a shading screen. And this approach does not affect production negatively, on the contrary!”
Harmony climate screens are also becoming more commonplace in flower production, continues Habraken. “The high-grade light diffusion from our Harmony screens lets you directly influence the assimilate balance. Thanks to the high quality of the diffuse light, the plant can absorb more light. This results in much greater photosynthesis efficiency and, ultimately, a larger yield. Not only is this the case with all cut flower crops, but also potted plants, when the switch is made from an aluminium screen (Solaro or Tempa) to a Harmony screen. This makes it possible to allow 10% to as much as 20% more light to enter, without this resulting in damage or slower growth. In fact, it only results in faster and easier cultivation with better quality and higher production yields. When it comes to diffuse light and the assimilate balance, once you have established all the details, you can manage your crops more effectively. And that pays off!”
Beneficial in foil tunnels
There are also numerous climate and other benefits to be derived in foil tunnels if the focus is on the plant balances, continues Ton. “It is often argued that foil greenhouses are intended for warmer climates and there is enough light as it is. But it is also possible that too much light is penetrating without the grower being aware of this. Not enough measurements are taken, so growers simply do not have enough information. A large number of foil tunnels experience moisture problems at night. PE foil, which is most often used to cover foil tunnels, is invisible to long-wave heat emission. So, these plants are subject to a great deal of heat emission and, as a result, cool off considerably, resulting in the risk of condensation forming in the head of the plant. This problem can be resolved by installing a climate screen, while (vertical) fans ensure an active climate. In other words, the GPE concept is just as relevant for growers with foil greenhouses.”
“There is a lack of cultivation knowledge worldwide. Dutch growers and crop consultants will soon be in short supply, though the same problem is also found in Spain. Plant Empowerment gives us a new theoretical basis for all covered crops. And that is extremely important for investors and large horticultural companies alike. At the same time, the possibilities for monitoring and (remote) management of greenhouses are growing. Sensors are becoming more common - and less expensive. Plant models are under development, which offers new opportunities. All the same, growers will always have to be on hand to monitor various aspects,” concludes Ton.
Growing by Plant Empowerment is supported by Hoogendoorn, LetsGrow.com, HortiLux, Koppert Biological Systems, Cultilene and Svensson. These partners have established a joint venture that aims to actively share knowledge about Plant Empowerment. The reason is that Plant Empowerment focuses on plant balance and plant resilience, thereby forming the basis for improving the sustainability of protected crops worldwide. This in turn should lead to better production and quality, a more efficient use of water, energy and fertilisers, not to mention better plant health, resulting in a further reduction in the use of chemical pesticides. The partners, suppliers of products and services, aim to create an integral approach to Plant Empowerment.
Want more info or to order an English copy of the book? Visit www.plantempowerment.com. An online learning environment is not yet available, but currently under development.