3 Steps for Growing More Sustainably
Growing sustainably makes good business sense, and it doesn’t require a big investment to improve efficiency and reduce your environmental footprint.

by Michael Kovalycsik, National Sales & Marketing Director, Delta T Solutions

 

Properly spacing crops to make sure they get adequate light can help reduce stretch and the need for PGRs
Properly spacing crops to make sure they get adequate light can help reduce stretch and the need for PGRs.

Research has shown that consumers are interested in (and willing to pay more for) sustainably grown plants. When consumers were surveyed a few years back at the National Poinsettia Cultivar Trial Consumer Open House at Purdue University, some of the reasons they said they’d be willing to pay more for sustainably grown poinsettias were:

  • They were grown with reduced chemical usage

  • They were grown in energy-efficient greenhouses

  • They were grown in environmentally friendly pots

  • They were high quality

The good news for greenhouse growers is that keeping sustainability top of mind often betters your bottom line, and a few simple changes can greatly improve your operation’s efficiency. Here’s a look at just a few simple steps you can take to improve efficiency and reduce your environmental footprint.

 

3 STEPS TOWARD SUSTAINABILITY

1. Make the Most of Natural Light. By properly controlling the light in your greenhouse, you may be able to eliminate PGRs, or at least reduce the amount you’re using. Maximizing the amount of light plants receive can help reduce stretch. A fact sheet titled “Controlling Plant Height without Chemicals,”  prepared by Douglas Cox, University of Massachusetts (UMass) Stockbridge School of Agriculture, suggests the following:

  • Allow enough space between plants so they receive adequate light.

  • Keep greenhouse glass clean.

  • Make sure plastic covering is fresh.

2. Pay Attention to Scheduling. Another way to reduce the use of PGRs is to start plants at the right time. Starting crops too early can lead to the need to control their growth with chemicals. If timing is a problem, the UMass fact sheet on controlling plant height suggests buying cuttings or plugs instead of growing your own to help keep plants on the proper schedule.

3. Consider Compost. Compost is nutrient rich and can be used for growing potted and bedding plants. A fact sheet titled “Organic Growing Media and Fertilizers for Greenhouses,” suggests using about 30% to 40% compost by volume rather than 100% compost, as compost alone can be heavy and hold too much water. While you might still have to supplement with fertilizer, nutrient-rich compost can reduce dependence on it. Some of the indicators of good compost include:

  • The producer can provide details about the composting process.

  • The raw materials in the compost should not be recognizable.

  • The compost does not have an unpleasant odor.

  • The compost should not be more than 20°F above air temperature after delivery.

  • The compost pH should no more than 8.0 (ideally 6.5) before mixing, and ammonium levels should be low.

Stay tuned for the next edition of Hot Topics, which will include more ideas for sustainability, including equipment maintenance and upgrades that can improve efficiency and save money.

Delta T Solutions has designed and manufactured customized heating solutions for greenhouse growers using hydronic (hot water radiant) heat for 30 years. To learn more about cost-effective in-ground bench and perimeter heating systems; high-efficiency boiler systems; and other systems that improve crop health, contact Delta T at 800-552-5058 or emailmkovalycsik@deltatsolutions.com.

 

Delta T Solutions
27711 Diaz Rd, Suite B, Temecula, CA 92590 • 800.552.5058 • 760.682.0428 (fax) • www.deltatsolutions.com