"Semi-substrate growing offers producers working in the soil the opportunity to improve their yield without the need to invest in techniques or equipment. By growing in coco substrate, a robust start to the season is guaranteed, resulting in plants that not only produce better but are also more resilient," says Wim Roosen with Dutch Plantin. The coco supplier is sharing knowledge about this type of cultivation at various trade shows in the upcoming months.
Semi-substrate growing is achieved by placing an unwrapped plank of compressed cocopeat directly on or into the soil. "Depending on the grower's preference, it can be laid on the ground or inserted into a profile created with a tractor," demonstrates Wim. "The drippers and irrigation system remain the same."
Infections and soil diseases
He explains how semi-substrate growing stands out as a technique that significantly reduces the susceptibility to and damage caused by infections and soil diseases. "Traditional soil-based cultivation methods often expose plants to various pathogens and pests that can hinder their growth. Nematodes, for example, pose a significant threat to growers. The substrate offers a protective shield to plants, allowing them to thrive from the start of the season without constant threats and providing them with much-improved conditions at a crucial stage of the growing process. By the time pests and diseases reach the roots, the plants have grown strong."
According to Wim, semi-substrate growing ensures rapid and uniform establishment immediately after planting, which is a crucial factor in ensuring the success of any agricultural venture. "The speed and consistency with which plants grow in semi-substrate are impressive. The plants grow faster, the harvest starts earlier, and as the plants remain robust throughout the season, growth is enhanced, and the plants remain healthy for a more extended period, resulting in an extended harvest season." He estimates that growers currently harvesting 6 to 10 kg could possibly even double their yield thanks to the extended growing season and higher production.
At the end of the season, the cocopeat is mixed into the soil. "New grow planks can be added when the new season starts," says Wim. "The coco is fully biodegradable."
Glasshouses, plastic tunnels, outdoor
He sees opportunities for many open-field growers, whether in glasshouses, plastic tunnels, small tunnels, or outdoors. "It can be a step toward soilless growing, with minimal investments required as you only add coco. We also see opportunities for organic cultivation, as it aligns perfectly with the principles of organic farming, and growers report that it feels like growing in soil." He emphasizes that the quality and stability of the coco are essential. "Quality is paramount. That's why we, as producers and suppliers, oversee the entire production process and supply chain ourselves, ensuring complete quality control and reliable delivery."
"This method of growing is a game-changer when it comes to minimizing the impact of soil diseases on crops," Wim concludes. "Our company's goal is to make a positive difference. We've already assisted hydroponic growers worldwide in recognizing the added value of coconut as a raw material for cultivating vegetables, soft fruit, flowers, and plants. Now, we're also demonstrating to soil-based growers the benefits of coco."