The production of greenhouse crops involved many different tools, with the most important being the growing media. Growing media is the term used to describe the “mixture of components that provide water, air, nutrients and support to plants.” In simple terms, these are the materials you put into a container to grow a plant.
Growing media is vital because it helps to provide the plant’s physical support, aeration, water and mineral nutrients (by adding fertiliser through the pore spaces in the media). These factors are essential to help the plant grow strong and happy.
A growing media’s water-holding capacity and air porosity are crucial as it allows the plant’s root system to have space to grow and ‘breathe’ – as the roots need water and oxygen to thrive. Drainage is also important as excess moisture can prevent oxygen from getting to the plant roots, creating root rot.
The type of soil you would find in a field tends not to be the most suitable for growing plants in containers (vertical farming) as it will not provide the aeration, drainage and water-holding capacity required.
Some of the most commonly used growing media include:
- Peat – Peat is partially-decomposed plant material accumulated in waterlogged conditions such as moors. The UK Government is currently consulting on measures to end the sale of peat in the UK due to its damaging effect on our environment.
- Stone wool – Stone wool is a lightweight hydroponic substance made from molten rock spun into fibre. It is hazardous to humans when cut, and it is not biodegradable.
- Coir – Coir is a peat-like substance made from the pith found between coconut fibres. It tends to be highly water-retentive, so it can’t be used alone, or the plant will get water-logged.
Using the proper growing media, depending on your chosen agriculture system, to create the optimum growing environment and water management is essential.
In a commercial setting, it’s usually crucial that all the produce is uniform in quality and looks; having a suitable growing media will help ensure this.
Organic-based media (a base of organic materials that may be compost, peat, coconut coir, or other organic materials mixed with inorganic ingredients) promotes better root health.
Although certain species are tolerant to higher or lower pH levels, most native plants thrive best at pH levels between 5.5 and 6.5. The control of nutrient availability is the main effect of pH on plant growth.
The role of Gelponics in growing media
Our Gelponics product has been developed as a carbon and nitrogen-rich hydrogel product line, using algal biostimulants, an eco-friendly super-absorbent polymer, and soil amender biochar.
Gelponics improves a plant’s moisture-holding capacity and stabilises this moisture for a better yield. It also helps to increase the carbon and nitrogen content of the soil.
Gelponics is made from renewable and eco-friendly materials, making it a sustainable alternative to peat, coco coir and stone wool.
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