PONICS & GREENHOUSES The Commercial Growers’ Magazine
A BLOOMING INDUSTRY? Aussie flower sector BRANCHING OUT
FRESH IS BEST
Micro herb grower expands operations
Japanese hydroponic farm in Victoria
MAGNESIUM: DEFICIENCY & TOXICITY
Western Sydney University’s new greenhouse
Diagnosing nutritional disorders
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eason’s Greetings to all PH&G readers! It’s hard to believe isn’t it that yet another year has flown by? As the year draws to a close it’s time again to reflect on the achievements – and challenges – of the past.
Whether for individuals, businesses or industries as a whole, the same holds true – this is a time to take stock and review progress; to see how insights gleaned from lessons learned can help chart a more successful future. Ahead of Australian Flower Week 2017 (www.australianflowersweek.com.au), in this issue we highlight the state of the cut-flower industry in Australia. Over the past decade, the flower industry has undergone many changes and this continues to accelerate. Industry experts agree that for those growers,
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wholesalers and retailers concerned about protecting their flower businesses, staying on top of these industry trends is vital. According to peak industry body, the Australian Flower Council, an essential future-proofing strategy for growers is to be prepared. Be proactive now and research and implement more up-to-date and cost-effective measures that do not detract from the quality of crops. The Council is one industry body that is helping growers better prepare for
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the future. The Council advocates that by selecting specialities, working cooperatively to grow and sell flowers, and banding together to establish and keep standards for all growers in a community, the cut-flower industry as a
Editorial Information Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses welcomes freelance contributions and letters with a hydroponic, greenhouse o r I P M f o c u s . Photographic material should be good quality colour prints or transparencies, clearly named and captioned. Copy is also accepted by email or disk in Word format. Hi-resolution digital images are accepted – .tif, .jpg, .eps or .pdf format. No responsibility is accepted for loss or damage to unsolicited material. © Copyright Casper Publications Pty Ltd 2016. All material in Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses is copyright. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the Publisher.
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whole can survive. In addition to these measures, creating a solid internet presence to educate and market cut flowers to appropriate niches is key to surviving in an increasingly digital world. Despite the challenges of competitive floral imports, strong online retailing and subdued local consumer spending, the growers, wholesalers and retailers who are prepared to diversify and adapt to changing market needs are the ones who will succeed. Perhaps Darwin puts this best: …the species that survives is the one that is able to adapt to and to adjust best to the changing environment in which it finds itself. Have a safe, relaxing and happy holiday. Enjoy this issue! Christine Brown-Paul Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . December . 2016. 3
A Magazine for
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& GREENHOUSES ISSUE 174 :: DECEMBER 2016 :: THE COMMERCIAL GROWERSâ€™ MAGAZINE
Features A blooming industry? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26
TRADE DIRECTORY Autogrow Systems ............... 67 BlueLab Guardian ................. 13 Croudace Greenhouses .......... 65 Ecogrow................................7 Exfoliators.......................... 43 Extrusion Technologies Int .....63 GOTAFE .............................. 25 GreenLife Structures ...............4 Legro ..................................23
Against many challenges, how healthy is the Australian cut-flower sector? Branching out . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36 Victorian micro herb grower B&B Basil expands into edible
Fresh is best
flowers with operations in India. Fresh is best . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40 In Melbourne, Japanese company Kaiteki Fresh grows hydroponic vegetables in a high-tech environment. Learning curve . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 58 Western Sydney Universityâ€™s new world-class greenhouse facility is set to advance the Australian
A blooming industry
Powerplants ...................... IFC
Prestige LED ........................57
Streamlining strawberry production 48
OCP ................................... 35 Transplant Systems ................. 33 Vostermans ........................... 31
VB Greenhouse Projects and Priva complete new greenhouse project for strawberry production in China. Magnesium: deficiency & toxicity . . . 54 Recognising deficiencies or excesses of
Disclaimer The information contained in this magazine
Streamlining strawberry production
mineral elements is key to diagnosing nutritional disorders.
whether in editorial matter or in feature articles or in advertisements is not published on
the basis that the Publisher accepts or assumes liability or responsibility to any reader of the magazine for any loss or damage resulting from the correctness of such information.
From the Editor . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 News & Products . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6 Reader Inquiries . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22
Cover: Australian cut-flower growers who embrace changing market needs fare best.
Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . December . 2016. 5
New Tool Takes THe HeaT oFF vegeTaBles An Australian University trio’s vegetable heat stress warning system has won the 2016 Paddock to Plate GovHack award. The award was the agriculture component of GovHack, an annual open data competition held in Australia and New Zealand, which pushes entrants to come up with new, interesting and innovative ways to benefit the community through
information technology in just 46 hours. The three-man team consisted of the University of Southern Queensland (USQ)’s Dr Keith Pembleton and Associate Professor Adam Sparks, plus University of Queensland undergrad Gordon Grundy. The team came up with the idea of pulling together streams of government data to produce a warning system to alert farmers about possible damaging heat events
The USQ team developed a tool to alert growers to the impacts of heat stress events.
6 . Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . December . 2016
on vegetables. The prototype is now being developed into a tool, which Queensland growers can use. The researchers dubbed their project ‘John Conner’ after the protagonist in The Terminator movies, with the idea of it being able to terminate one of the key challenges vegetable growers face. John Conner integrates Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) and Queensland Government data to predict and measure localised heat-stress events. It then passes data on to vegetable growers as quickly as possible via email or text-message warnings to enable them to take preventive actions like irrigation or early harvest to minimise crop losses. The hack uses hourly weather data from the BoM to test and validate weather downscaling methodologies, and combines this with daily weather data from the Queensland Government’s SILO database. It also incorporates data from the ABS’s National Regional Profile to report on whole-of-industry impacts
of the adverse weather event. “What we produced we thought was kind of cool but we didn’t expect to go this far,” Keith Pembelton, senior research fellow, ag systems modelling at the Agriculture Systems Modelling Research Group, USQ said. For Dr Pembleton, who grew up on a dairy farm, getting the work recognised on a national stage was one of the biggest rewards. He said with farmers generally being timepoor, it was up to researchers to develop useful products which utilise those data sets into a practical tool. “There is plenty of data out there and farms have become very datarich environments but it’s not much use if you don’t know how to use it,” Dr Pembleton said. According to Dr Pembleton, Australia is generally on the right track in terms of its approach to agriculture technology. “One of the biggest challenges is bring ag tech to market,” he said. “With all these developments you’ve got to ask, what’s the payload to these technologies?” One of the flow-on benefits for the team from winning the national award has been the interest from third parties in developing the program further. While the idea was provided as a proof of concept, future development will include in-field sensors and farm trials.
ProTeCTiNg agaiNsT varroa miTe wiTH geNeTiC Bee researCH Beekeepers are a step closer to protecting themselves from the devastating Varroa mite, with a new test likely to allow imports of honey bee semen from resistant breeding stock without putting the industry at risk from another pest – Africanised
bees. Africanised bees are hybrids of European honeybees and A. m. capensis from Africa that are highly aggressive, unsuitable for beekeeping, and extremely invasive. The development of a genetic test to differentiate Africanised bees from non-Africanised bees could allow imports of honeybee semen from countries that have desirable stock, but also have Africanised bees. The research has been carried out by Dr Nadine Chapman and Prof Ben Oldroyd from the University of Sydney as part of the Honey Bee and Pollination Program, a partnership between the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC), Horticulture Innovation Australia and the Australian Government. Chair of the Program’s Advisory Panel, Michael Hornitzky, said honeybee breeders in Australia have a keen interest in importing strains of honeybees bred for resistance to diseases, as well as other types of genetically improved stock. “Australia is currently home to the only significant population of Varroafree European honey bees in the world but we cannot be complacent as our bees have little resistance to this mite,” Dr Hornitzky said.
“While we’ve been able to import queen bees from countries without Africanised bees, this will allow semen to be tested and brought in from other countries without the risk of importing Africanised bees as well as Varroa, which is not transmitted through semen.” Dr Hornitzky said the research is of even greater importance in the
Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . December . 2016. 7
wake of a species of Varroa mite being found on Asian Honey Bees in Townsville, North Queensland. “Thankfully, the species was not the kind of mite that could readily transfer to the European honey bees that beekeepers have in hives, and the bees and mites have all been destroyed,” he said. “The opportunity to import more strains of bees that have been bred for resistance to the Varroa mite would offer a safeguard for the future of not only our industry, but also the broader agriculture sector that relies so heavily on a healthy honeybee population.” Dr Hornitzky said the Africanised honeybee test offers exciting possibilities in regards to the draft policy review for the importation of honeybee semen currently being considered by policymakers. To download a copy of the project summary, ‘A genetic test for Africanised honeybees’, or to find out more about the Honey Bee and Pollination Program, visit www.rirdc.gov.au/ honeybee-pollination.
seleCT THe rigHT CliP For your CroP Royal Brinkman has designed a full range of grafting clips for all horticultural crops. The growing conditions of seedlings depend strongly on the light conditions and temperature. In northern countries with winter planting the seedlings
are normally softer and longer and in the southern countries with a warmer (Mediterranean) climate, with high light intensities and higher temperature the seedlings are shorter and harder. Under these different growing conditions different grafting clips are required. On request the grafting clips can be delivered in different colours (transparent, red, green, yellow and blue), which can make it easier to distinguish clip size, varieties or lots grafted at the same time. Pinch rings and Simex clips are used to fasten plants in pots, small vegetable plants and small trees to a stake or other support. Plant pinch rings are made of a very flexible polypropylene to ensure quick installation and easy locking. Because the finger contact surfaces are extra wide, a better grip is achieved avoiding damage to the fingers and the plant.With a unique design, the open clipper 23mm Bato Clip weighs less than the traditional clipper, but still ensures excellent stem guidance in the production of tomatoes. The open clipper 23 mm does not restrict the growth of the plant and helps reduce crop disease. More information at: www.royalbrinkman.com.au
aeroBugs Takes oFF In Queensland, Aerobugs is a business run by former strawberry grower Nathan Roy who has invented a system to air drop predatory bugs into his field to attack chemically resistant twospotted mites, which can decimate strawberry crops. “For 25 years, I grew strawberries with my family, and two years ago we decided we couldn’t expand any further with our farm, so we decided to hop out of strawberries,” Mr Roy said.
8 . Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . December . 2016
“My brother has gone into turf and I’ve gone into spreading beneficial insects by drone. Mr Roy sources the predatory mites from the Bugs for Bugs insectary at Donnybrook, north of Brisbane before setting up his drone, mixing the insects, and pouring them into a homemade spreader system. The drone then takes off and disperses the predatory bugs across the fields. “We can get across a nice square block in about seven to 12 minutes, depending on what we’re releasing. The closer we have to spread the bugs, the longer it takes,” Mr Roy said. “The logistics of getting these bugs out, particularly in large areas can be quite difficult,” said Paul Jones from Bugs for Bugs. “Usually a grower would employ workers to put them out by hand, and it can be quite challenging instructing people how to do it,” he said. Mr Roy said the cost of using the drone was comparative to other methods. “We’ve been using the drone for the last two years, and in the last 12 months it’s really been taken off commercially — the results have been excellent,” he said. “Good predator establishment in the fields has been a positive outcome from this year’s trials. “We might be a little bit dearer, but instead of sporadic spotting over the strawberry field, we’re covering every square metre of the field, so we’re getting a much more even spread,” he said. Mr Roy said he has plans to grow the business in the near future. “I’m hoping to have a lot of crafts established all over Australia, so I can have people trained up to fly the drones for the farms, or I’ll just fly in
Nathan Roy from Aerobugs to do them myself,” he said. “I’m also in contact with places in America and Europe by phone, email and Skype, trying to organise times to fly over and do international or local farm demonstrations. “America has a huge strawberry industry and they still spread predatory bugs [using] people.” The drones cost around $27,000 for a full set-up including batteries, chargers and licensing, however, Mr Roy said the rewards were worth the cost. “Coming from a farming background, I understand what it’s
like to be under those stresses, so I’ve made something that I can go out and help farmers trying to streamline their businesses,” he said.
roBoTiCs CeNTre seT To revoluTioNise aussie FarmiNg Australia’s first horticultural robotics learning and development hub has officially opened, signifying the industry’s determination to adopt on-farm technologies, ramp up export capacity and develop future leaders in non-traditional
areas of horticulture. Located at the University of Sydney, the Horticulture Innovation Centre for Robotics and Intelligent Systems (HICRIS), will initially host a $10 million commitment to projects in robotics and autonomous technology that aim to increase farm efficiencies. Horticulture Innovation Australia (Hort Innovation) chief executive, John Lloyd, said the new centre will help the horticulture industry minimise labour costs and prepare for the future. “Never before have we seen this level of innovation in the horticulture industry. Through working with the University of Sydney, we have been able to develop technology that can detect foreign matter, robots that can map tree-crop architecture, and groundbreaking autonomous weed identification and eradication capabilities,” he said. “Through the Horticulture Innovation Centre for Robotics and Intelligent Systems, this research will be further expanded to investigate capabilities such as automated crop forecasting, to predict the best time to harvest, and
Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . December . 2016. 9
Anne Ruston Assistant Minister for Agriculture with John Lloyd CEO Horticulture Innovation Australia at the HICRIS launch. ground penetrating radar sensors to measure things like soil water content. “Importantly, through our latest work, which is funded through vegetable industry levies and funds from the Australian Government, we are looking at identifying commercial partnerships with the aim of making these new technologies accessible to growers. The development of horticulture technology standards and policies to meet regulations will also be a focus. “This centre will give current and emerging generations of growers and agri-scientists the resources they need to develop their ideas for the benefit of the industry, and all Australians.” Mr Lloyd said Horticulture Innovation Australia is delighted to be working with the University of Sydney to achieve results for Australian growers. University of Sydney’s Professor, Salah Sukkarieh, Director of Research and Innovation at the Australian Centre for Field Robotics, thanked Hort Innovation for its continuing support of robotic research, saying the HICRIS would further put Australia’s – and the
University’s – reputation for developing world-leading technologies, on the world map. “The Horticulture Innovation Centre for Robotics and Autonomous Systems will be positioned within the University’s internationally recognised Australian Centre for Field Robotics, with access to the nation’s leading roboticists and researchers,” he said. More information at: horticulture.com.au/research-levy/hicris
leD grow ligHTs For Tree ProDuCTioN LED grow lights are typically associated with the growing of leafy greens and other vegetables but their application is also becoming more common in the growing of trees. For instance, LEDs can be used during the seedling phase of
10 . Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . December . 2016
tree growing in order to achieve faster seedling development and overall faster production cycle. This can be done in either completely controlled environments or in greenhouses. A study has been conducted on the effects of four different continuous spectrum LED light qualities on the growth characteristics of two types of pine trees (Pinus sylvestris L. and Abies borisii-regis Mattf). Four light spectra were used as treatment: G2 (high in red and far-red) AP67 (high in blue and far-red) AP67-ARCH (high in green) NS2 (high in blue including a small percentage in the UV area) These are spectra of the LED grow lights company Valoya, from Finland. Fluorescent light was used as control in this experiment. The findings demonstrate various benefits of using LED such as greater root development, increase in dry weight and an overall more compact build of the plants. These outcomes were spectrum and tree species dependent so for instance the G2 spectrum stimulated needle formation in one of the species (Pinus sylvestris L.), while AP67 resulted in greater root development in the other (Abies borisii-regis Mattf). Overall, LED lights delivered better results than fluorescent light in all categories. The researchers conclude that the use of continuous spectra may be beneficial in large-scale seedling production for reforestation. To read the entire research, click here
iNNovaTioN ruNs iN THe Family Elon Musk’s brother, Kimbal Musk is proving he is as entrepreneurial as his famous sibling. Inside the old Pfizer building in Brooklyn New York, Kimbal, with
Vertical farms are being created inside shipping containers in the old Pfizer building in Brooklyn, New York.
business partner Tobias Peggs has launched a new urban farming incubator program called Square Roots. Kimbal said that the initiative will give young food-tech entrepreneurs spaces to develop and accelerate their vertical farming startups. The duo is creating vertical farms inside 10 steel, 320-square-foot shipping containers — all of which will be housed in the old Pfizer building. The containers will house rows of organic greens and herbs – which could include Bibb lettuce and basil – and each mini-farm will be managed by a young millennial entrepreneur who’s interested in vertical farming. “These are people who are likely just starting their entrepreneurial journey,” said Tobias. “They will get hands-on experience running a vertical farming business with us — but we’re here to help them become future leaders in food, wherever that journey leads.” The partners are seeking 10
agricultural entrepreneurs to kickstart the program, each of who will be given a designated shipping container farm for one year. They will get 24-7 access to their container, and will be allowed to sell anything they choose to grow in it. The entrepreneurs will also have the opportunity to learn from the company’s established networks of mentors. Kimbal Musk says Square Roots seeks to offer solutions to some of big agriculture’s main sustainability issues. “Young people who can articulate issues with the industrial food system contact me all the time. They are frustrated by their perceived inability to do anything about it,” he said. “It’s relatively easy to set up a tech company, join an accelerator, and progress down a pathway towards success. It’s more complex to do that with food.” Once Square Roots launches, it will also hold parties, host guest
speakers and establish a farmer’s market in the Brooklyn space. Tobias adds that the technology in Square Roots’ shipping containers goes beyond agriculture. “Each one has its own sound system, so the entrepreneurs can grow veggies to their favourite tunes,” he said. “Kale, brought to you by Kanye is a very real possibility.”
TargeTiNg FooDs To THe CHiNese CoNsumer In New Zealand, a new research program will look at the factors – attitudes, behaviours and lifestyles – that motivate Chinese consumers to buy foods that improve their health and wellness, allowing NZ companies to create new products that appeal to the market. Funded through the High Value Nutrition (HVN) National Science Challenge, the new ‘Consumer Insights’ research will support the development of products with scientifically validated health and
Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . December . 2016. 11
market, and findings from the research will be shared with the food and beverage industry through regular workshops. High Value Nutrition is one of 11 National Science Challenges. HVN plans to invest up to $84 million over ten years to establish New Zealand as an international leader in developing validated foods for health and to help grow NZ foods exports above 2015 levels by $1 billion per year by 2025.
aussie CoNsumers waNT To kNow wHere THeir ProDuCe is From wellness benefits tailored for the Chinese market. The research will support the development of products in key health areas targeted by HVN – metabolic health, gastrointestinal health, immune health, and infant nutrition. The research will look at four aspects of consumer behaviour – what health and wellness means for Chinese consumers, the role of social media and other factors in influencing buying behaviour, how to convert intentions into actions when it comes to developing new consumption habits, and the profile of the future Asian consumer of New Zealand’s health and wellness products. Using this knowledge, New Zealand food and beverage companies will be able to deliver products with increased consumer appeal and effectively market these to the Asian market with a greater likelihood of success. “Asia, and particularly China, has the potential to be a huge market for New Zealand’s future food and beverage products,” says Dr Roger Harker, the leader of the research. “By building a better understanding of the kinds of
products that appeal to the consumer, as well as how they make their purchasing decisions, we can support the development of products in this space that will be viewed as more acceptable in these markets. “The role of social media and online purchasing of food is becoming part of everyday life for younger Chinese consumers. Successful companies are trusted and experts at listening and communicating with consumers via these networks – we need to constantly improve our ability to gather consumer insights from this online community.” This project builds on an initial project funded by HVN to better understand how existing products are being marketed to Asian consumers by New Zealand food and beverage companies. A key finding from this study was the limited availability, particularly to smaller companies, to in-depth consumer research to support their product development and marketing goals. The new project will work closely with companies already marketing, or developing, products for the Asian
12 . Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . December . 2016
Australian consumers and brands will now benefit from a new strategic partnership between Result Group and IDlocate. Bringing together the printing expertise of Result and IDlocate’s consumer facing authentication platform, customers will now be provided with the technology to deliver best practice traceability and anticounterfeiting, putting the solution right in the consumer’s hands. “It’s an exciting partnership. Consumers are demanding traceability as to the source of supply... this strategic partnership allows us to continue delivering best practice solutions for our clients with an off the shelf solution. Of utmost importance is ease of use and consumer engagement; these
are ticked off better than any other solution we have seen,” said Result Group GM Michael Dossor Result Group has been in the
market since 2009 and holds an established and position as a partner, which employs innovative equipment in the Product Identification and Automation fields, helping Australian businesses achieve better efficiency and less risk in their manufacturing and distribution processes. Michael Harrop, Result’s Business Unit Manager, said: “Our partnership with IDlocate enables us to deliver to our customers a complete turnkey solution from Coding & Marking equipment and control software, to print a unique QR code on every product that will read and engage with any consumer on any handheld platform. While there are a few other options in the market, we haven’t seen anything that works so well from both the manufacturer and the consumer standpoint. We’re super excited to share this exclusive opportunity with our customers “ IDlocate was founded in 2015 by two consumer behaviour specialists, who understood that the existing platforms were IT led, and they were not delivering what the consumer was demanding or what brands could deliver. It was great to have all the technology and tests, but when they aren’t communicated to the consumer in an easy to access platform, the consumers lose interest and don’t engage with brands. The solution is built on an enhanced version of a proven platform that has been delivering unique coding solutions for the last 15 plus years, and addresses all the issues and risk in printing a unique identifier in a manufacturing environment. More importantly, it allows a consumer to engage with the brand owner’s message without the need for a specific reader or to download a special app. Everything 14 . Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . December . 2016
is web deployed meaning it does not matter what smartphone or reader is used, or what social media application or code reader a consumer is using. “Research has shown that consumers are now demanding to know where their products are sourced from, so it makes sense to display this to them in a way that provides for easy to access content. This is addressed by a brand owner being able to build custom content relevant to their products and existing systems, and share this with consumers at the touch of a button,” said Mr Harrop. More information at: www.resultgroup.com.au or www.idlocateglobal.com
Coles Deal seT To BoosT aussie veggie ProDuCers Farmers in three Australian states are set to grow “millions of extra vegetables” to meet increased demand under a new supply agreement between the country’s second largest grocer, Coles and US-based agrifood business Simplot. Coles has committed to sourcing an additional six million kilograms a year of previously imported produce to the benefit of producers in Tasmania, New South Wales and Queensland. Simplot said the new contract “strengthens a 20-year relationship
with Coles” and follows a five-year contract signed by Coles in 2014 to source 100% Australian-grown vegetables from Simplot for Coles’ brand frozen vegetable and potato products. Terry O’Brien, Simplot’s MD, said the extra volume for the new contract would be sourced from Simplot for the Coles and Birds Eye brands. “The new contract will benefit more than 240 growers in Tasmania, New South Wales and Queensland by providing long-term security for these growers and their communities.” According to Simplot, the extra demand represents a 25 per cent increase in the volume of Australian-grown frozen vegetables supplied to Coles. The new contract brings the volume that Coles sources from Simplot to 56 kgs of Australian-grown frozen vegetables and potato each year, Simplot said. Coles MD John Durkan said the Simplot contract was “an important extension of its Australian-first sourcing policy”. Durkan said: “We know our customers want to buy Australiangrown food so we’re pleased to be extending our 20-year partnership with Simplot. We started on the Australian-grown journey with Simplot in 2006 when we entered into our first contract for Australiangrown frozen vegetables and potatoes. Then in 2014 we converted all our Coles brand frozen range to Australian-grown vegetables.” Simplot produces 30 Coles brand frozen vegetable and potato products, as well as a broad range of Coles brand products in chilled and frozen fish, chilled and ambient sauces, chilled pasta, meals and Australian-grown beetroot. In
addition, Simplot supplies Coles with more than 200 of its own branded products including Birds Eye, Edgell, Leggo’s and John West. Simplot employs 2,800 Australians and said it has continued to invest in its six regional manufacturing sites at Ulverstone, Devonport, Echuca, Pakenham, Kelso and Bathurst over the past 20 years.
BeNeFiTs oF reTraCTaBle rooF sTruCTure In the new two-minute video, Cravo helps growers and investors better understand why they are so passionate about combining nature protection and climate optimisation to create better (and more consistent) production and financial results, even when the weather is inconsistent. Cravo develops retractable roof production systems that combine
climate optimisation and nature protection to create growing environments for berry, cherry and vegetable production. More information at: www.cravo.com
DuTCH agreemeNTs a wiN For aussie HorTiCulTure Some of Australasia’s leading horticultural organisations have signed an historic Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) with leading Dutch research institutions and
agribusinesses in Sydney in an effort to increase collaboration among some of the world’s leading horticultural producers. The ceremony was attended by Their Majesties King WillemAlexander and Queen Máxima of the Netherlands at Cockatoo Island, off the coast of Sydney. Horticulture Innovation Australia joined the University of Tasmania and Lincoln University in the signing of the MoU with the world-leading agricultural institution, the Wageningen University of the Netherlands. It marked the new partnership developed through the creation of the Masterclass in Horticultural Business. Peak vegetable industry body AUSVEG also signed a separate MoU with prominent Dutch seed company Rijk Zwaan at the ceremony, which will see the Australian vegetable industry working more closely with one of the world’s leading producers of vegetable seed. Horticulture Innovation Australia Chief Executive John Lloyd said the day was a significant step forward for Australian horticulture as it opened up future avenues for collaboration which will ultimately benefit the nation’s growers. “Today’s signing of two historic Memoranda of Understanding with key Netherlands stakeholders is the result of a lot of hard work and effort by industry, and key educational institutions,” he said. “Increasingly, Australian
Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . December . 2016. 15
horticulture is attracting the eye of major industry players around the world, which is in no small part due to our reputation for delivering quality, clean produce, and our drive to continuously develop and innovate.” AUSVEG Chief Executive Officer Simon Bolles said AUSVEG’s MoU with Rijk Zwaan is a really positive development for the Australian vegetable industry, with the agreement formalising a stronger relationship between the two countries and companies. “Australia and the Netherlands have a strong relationship when it comes to horticultural production and information transfer, with local vegetable growers having benefited from world leaders in greenhouse technology,” Mr Bolles said. The Masterclass in Horticultural Business is the first project of its kind in Australia. It combines the expertise of what is currently ranked the number one university in agriculture and forestry in the world, the Wageningen Academy of the Wageningen University in the Netherlands, with New Zealand’s specialist land-based Lincoln
University, as well as the leading Australian horticulture university, the University of Tasmania. Best described as a mini-MBA, the masterclass is available to growers and people working in the supply chain looking to take their business to the next level. Under this investment, up to 30 selected industry leaders each year will be exposed to a nine-month program of learning that focuses on global trends in agriculture and horticulture, international business, innovation, value chains and governance and risk. The first enrolments open in late 2016 and begin in early 2017. This program is being delivered with coinvestment from Horticulture Innovation Australia. More information at: www.horticulture.com.au and www.ausveg.com.au
HealTH BeNeFiT laBelliNg To assisT CoNsumers iN eaTiNg reCommeNDeD vegeTaBle iNTake Most Australians do not meet World Health Organisation standards for
University of Sydney PhD candidate Reetica Rekhy.
vegetable consumption and now research indicates a lack of understanding about the nutritional benefits of the humble vegetable, with health benefit labelling potentially providing the answer. The findings were published recently in Nutrition & Dietetics, by lead author University of Sydney PhD candidate Reetica Rekhy under supervision from Professor Robyn McConchie, a co-author of the paper. Ms Rekhy, from the School of Life and Environmental Sciences, said although almost one in two Australians eat the recommended two serves of fruit daily, her survey of 1000 adults found only six per cent of adults consumed the recommended serves of vegetables. “Just knowing you should eat your vegies has not proven sufficient; consumption even in developed countries falls short of the daily intake recommended by the World Health Organisation,” she said. “It’s possible that with labelling the health benefits of specific vegetables on retail packs, point of sale advertising and other marketing collateral, this could change.” Although it was generally known that it was important to eat vegetables for health reasons, Ms Rekhy said survey respondents did not have a good understanding about specific nutritional benefits of most vegetables.
ProPoseD CHaNge To HorTiCulTure CoDe The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has released its report into competition and fair trading in the country’s horticulture and viticulture industries. According to abc.net.au, the report revealed late and non16 . Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . December . 2016
BioseCuriTy agreemeNT For NZ FresH vegeTaBle iNDusTry
ACCC agriculture commissioner Mick Keogh. payments by wholesalers, a culture of fear around raising complaints because of retribution, uncertainty about contracts and ineffective codes of conduct, are all significant issues impacting the two sectors. ACCC agriculture commissioner, Mick Keogh, is recommending the removal of the old Horticulture Code of Conduct and imposing new penalties if a party breaches the code. A report earlier this year found the code needed a major overhaul, with 13 recommendations made. Mr Keogh said the fresh produce markets would have to change the way they treat growers. “What is often raised with us is that there aren’t many complaints, therefore the system must be working well. “Yet when you talk to growers, you get the comment ‘well if we raise a complaint, you’re out of the system.’ “I think the culture of the whole structure of the fresh produce markets, is one that needs seriously looking at.” The ACCC plans to explore the use of an app that will allow for complaints to be filed anonymously and in a secure way.
Vegetables New Zealand Incorporated recently signed an agreement with government (GIA) to better protect the fresh vegetable growers it represents in managing biosecurity procedures. Vegetables NZ Inc is the governing body representing 900 commercial growers who produce more than 50 crops, with a farm gate value of over $390 million per annum, to supply the increasing demands of sophisticated customers both in New Zealand and in our export markets. Vegetables NZ Inc. joins 12 other primary sector industry groups that have joined with the government in the GIA partnership. “It is paramount that the continued supply of fresh, high-quality, healthy vegetables for our domestic and export consumers are not put at risk by a biosecurity pest or virus incursion,” said Andre de Bruin, Chairman of Vegetables NZ Inc. “The best way to protect New Zealand’s horticulture industry is through world-class border security, preparation for possible incursions,
and a rapid response program when unwanted pests or diseases do arrive, to contain, control, and eradicate these threats quickly and effectively.” GIA Secretariat Manager, Steve Rich, agreed, saying he was pleased that the fresh vegetable sector has recognised the benefits of joining with other industry groups and government to jointly manage biosecurity readiness and response to deliver better outcomes. “With 12 industry groups having now signed a partnership agreement with MPI, the partnership numbers have more than doubled in size since this time last year. GIA is moving from strength to strength and beginning to demonstrate the pansector benefits offered by the partnership. “Vegetables NZ Inc joining GIA will really strengthen the partnership and illustrates how it is prepared to take responsibility for managing biosecurity risks within their sector. On behalf of the Deed Governance Group, we commend this industry group on taking this bold step and welcome them to the GIA partnership,” said Mr Rich.
Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . December . 2016. 17
aussie FruiT PriCes Close To 20 Per CeNT iNCrease iN THree moNTHs According to the latest Consumer Price Index figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, fruit prices went up 19.5 per cent in the September quarter, while vegetables went up 5.9 per cent. The increases marked the largest price rises during that period. “The rise in fruit and vegetable prices is due to adverse weather conditions, including floods, in major growing areas, impacting supply,” an ABS statement said.
Ziggys Fresh owner, Ken Irvine, challenged the figures. “I’d love to know what’s in the basket they’re basing that off,” he said. Mr Irvine said that, while weather events had an impact on prices, customers generally catered their basket to suit. And prices that rose rarely stayed high for long, he said. “Nine times out of 10 there’s an alternative,” Mr Irvine said. However, Mr Irvine warned that potato lovers might be disappointed, with heavy rains significantly
18 . Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . December . 2016
impacting on supply. The vegetable is retailing at an average of $5 a kilo, compared to the usual maximum of $2.99. “With the floods, the two biggest potato growers lost 100 per cent of their crops,” Mr Irvine said. The ABS fruit price figures were based on the price of a fixed basket of goods across a variety of outlets, then analysed by ABS staff, ABS CPI director, Andrew Tomadini said. CPI rose 1.3 per cent through the year to the September quarter. Source: canberratimes.com.au
and energy to the business and will be an integral part of our future growth and we are happy to have him on board”. More information at: www.thefreshconnection.com.
BeekeePers move From mass HoNey ProDuCTioN To PolliNaTioN
New exeCuTive For FresH CoNNeCTioN The Fresh Connection, a globally recognised fresh produce exporter, has expanded its team in Australia with the appointment of experienced produce executive, Michael Silm. Michael has a long history in fruit export out of Australia. In the mid1990, he founded stonefruit specialist company, PANDA RANCH, which was sold to Freshmax in 2007. Since then, Michael has had international trade positions with Montague’s and until recently, The Premier Fruits Group, where he was responsible for starting up the international business unit, which grew substantially over the time of his tenure. Michael will join The Fresh Connection’s Sydney based operations with continued focus on Australian & New Zealand exports. “I am excited to be joining such a dynamic team, led by Hank Miller and Will Mehrten,” Mr Silm said. “I have watched their company grow into a true leader in the industry and I look forward to helping them with their growth from Australia and New Zealand”. Mr Mehrten said: “The addition of Michael will be a great complement to our current team. Michael brings a tremendous amount of experience
Commercial beekeepers are looking to move from mass honey production to pollination. In part this comes down to the expansion of horticultural industries that rely on bees, reports abc.net.au. Technical specialist with the NSW Department of Primary Industries, Doug Somerville, said demand from almond and blueberry farmers was behind the change. “The bee industry in Australia is changing rather quickly at the
professional end,” he said. “It was traditionally focused on bulk honey production ... but now at the big end it’s swinging across to paid pollination, because the almond industry is growing exponentially in south west New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. “Now, the biggest movement of bees in the country is in the eastern states with literally 150,000 plus beehives being moved down into the almond growing areas and that’s not likely to stop in the near future. “So we’ll see a shift in beekeepers moving their business model from purely honey production to doing pollination as well as honey production. “But that honey production may well suffer as result, if it’s economically viable to swing further on to the pollination area.”
Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . December . 2016. 19
New oPPorTuNiTies For HoogeNDoorN Hoogendoorn Growth Management, a leading horticultural automation company, continues to grow internationally, its success owing in large part through its practice of knowledge exchange through international partnerships. The acquisition of Bellt Consultancy B.V. by parent company Batenburg Techniek N.V., allows for further expansion of knowledge within the automation division where Hoogendoorn operates. Besides horticulture, this opens up new opportunities in process automation and food production through acquisition. On 31 October 2016 parent company Batenburg Techniek N.V. acquired Bellt Consultancy B.V. located in Zeist, the Netherlands. This company designs and manages efficient control systems for machines and production lines for clients such as Nestlé, Best Food (Unilever), Monsanto and DSM Fertilizers. The acquisition supports the ambition to further develop activities within the growing Automation Division. This acquisition broadens the range of services in the fields of food and beverage, infrastructure, oil and gas, pharmaceutical and (petro)
chemical industry, both in The Netherlands and abroad. “Hoogendoorn, one of the leading companies of the Hillenraad 100, sees new opportunities in the acquisition of Bellt through mutual knowledge and experience in the food production and process industries,” said a company spokesperson. More information at: www.hoogendoorn.nl
CHiNese auTomaTeD greeNHouse grows DiversiTy oF CHrysaNTHemums year-rouND Chrysanthemums are traditional Chinese flowers, and the Chinese have adored them for thousands of years. The flower symbolises strong life and is often presented as a gift. It is therefore no surprise that the demand for high quality and more varieties of chrysanthemums are increasing. Beilangzhong Flower Center – located in the Shunyi district of Beijing, China – has specialised in seedling and flower cultivation since 1998. To meet the growing demand for high quality, the company grows chrysanthemums in an environmental friendly way in their advanced glass greenhouse. All equipment communicates with
20 . Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . December . 2016
each other with the use of intelligent automation. This provides Beilangzhong Flower Center with efficiency in labour, production, irrigation – and energy use and cost savings. The company grows chrysanthemums all year round, and contributes to the community. The positive effects of their transformation from a traditional to an advanced automated greenhouse are captured in the above video. Beilangzhong Flower Center is an affiliated enterprise of Beilangzhong Trade and Industry Group, growing chrysanthemums on a surface of 3 ha and is expanding to meet the growing demand of the Chinese market. In four rounds per year, 880,000 plants are produced per round and harvested by seven employees. In this automated glass greenhouse, the chrysanthemums are mainly being produced for the local market. However, some of the flowers are exported to Russia. Since the Chinese chrysanthemum market is performing very well, Beilangzhong is expanding in order to meet the growing needs of the Chinese market. This video was produced by Hoogendoorn Growth Management. More information at: www.hoogendoorn.nl
New ParTNersHiP To suPPorT CliNiCal researCH iN CaNNaBiNoiD THeraPy US company, Swarm Technologies LLC, dba SmartBee Controllers® (SmartBee Controllers) and The Realm of Caring Foundation have announced a strategic partnership to support research, education, and treatment of epilepsy and other brain related disorders through innovative cannabinoid therapies. “Through our SmartBee CaresTM initiative, which was established to support organisations that use nature’s plants and herbs for health and medicinal purposes, we are proud to partner with The Realm of Caring Foundation to help support families in need gain access to cannabinoid medicine and therapies, and learn best practices for treating their children and loved ones,” said Skye Hanke, co-founder and Business Development Officer of SmartBee Controllers. “Every time a SmartBee Controller® product is purchased, a portion of the sales will go towards The Realm of Caring Foundation’s collaboration in clinical research
being done at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine to help validate the benefits of cannabinoid therapy.” The Realm of Caring Foundation’s mission is to educate the general public and policymakers to the benefits of cannabinoid supplements and performing advocacy for those using cannabinoid therapies. “One of our organisation’s key roles in the cannabis community is to raise the bar in terms of quality expectations. We think the SmartBee Controller® system provides the tools that allow
growers to take the quality of their gardens to the next level; and we are excited about the future of this new partnership,” said Heather Jackson, CEO of The Realm of Caring Foundation. SmartBee Controllers® was created by tech-savvy growers to serve the needs of growers, with the goals of making growing less complicated and to minimise the chance of crop loss. SmartBee’s proven wireless solution integrates all grow-room systems into one software application that allows for monitoring and controlling the garden from anywhere with an internet connection. The system’s robust data analytic capabilities allow both the hobbyist and commercial grower to achieve greater and more consistent yields. The SmartBee solution delivers the peace of mind that comes from having 24/7 remote access to your garden. b For more information on SmartBee Controllers® visit www.smartbeecontrollers.com or call (866) 373-0847. For more information on Realm of Caring Foundation visit www.theroc.us
Smart Bee is not directly involved in growing cannabis
Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . December . 2016. 21
Thanks for your letters
I have a few suggestions to help us better identify your problems, and hence give the most appropriate answers: • Some of your letters are very long. This is not a problem, but they will have to be edited down before publishing. • Please keep your actual questions short, and limit yourself to one, or at most two, questions. • Please comment as to whether you are a hobbyist or a commercial grower, and what crop you are growing. • Please describe at least the basics of your system, especially whether you recirculate or not. This is vital information, but often overlooked. Other useful information, if known, would be: media type, container size and depth, channel size, length and slope, solution volume per plant. • For irrigation and nutrient questions, please describe your typical irrigation pattern over a day, plus how and when your solutions are made up. If you have had any analysis done, such as your raw water, please attach a copy. • Include any extra information you wish. Address your inquiry to: PH&G PO Box 225, Narrabeen, NSW 2101 AUSTRALIA Int: +612 9905 9030 Email: email@example.com
QuesTioN How do i visually assess nutrient deficiency symptoms? I am a hobby hydroponic tomato grower. My plants are producing well, but recently I noticed what appears to be a nutrient deficiency. The youngest leaves are turning yellow between the veins. Can you suggest what it is?
aNswer Photos of plant nutrient deficiencies (and toxicities) are readily available in books and on the internet. Even with these, however, interpretation of plant symptoms is difficult, even for experienced experts. There are several reasons for this: the photographed deficient plants have usually been fed a balanced nutrient solution with just the one nutrient missing – in the real world there will also be other nutrients in the root zone solution higher or lower than standard and influencing the symptoms; there are significant differences in symptoms between different species, or even different varieties within a species; the growing conditions can influence the symptoms, and many symptoms look similar for different nutrients. Consequently, commercial growers who suspect a specific nutrient deficiency would send a tissue sample to a reputable lab for tissue nutrient analysis.
iron deficiency The symptom you describe is most likely to be iron deficiency. Most other nutrient deficiencies are more difficult to pick visually, but iron is a classic recognisable case. The thin green veins with yellow interveinal tissue in 22 . Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . December . 2016
the youngest leaves are the giveaway. However, there also needs to be a recognisable reason why this has occurred. Apart from the obvious one of leaving the iron chelate out of a fertiliser batch, the most common reason is prolonged high pH in the root zone solution. If you know or suspect that this has happened then you can be confident that iron deficiency is the problem. Accurately identifying other nutrient disorders is usually not so easy.
Fixed and mobile nutrients The priority demand by a plant for nutrients is to supply the plant’s growing point and young leaves. How a nutrient can move within a plant can help identify the symptoms. The property of some nutrients is that once they lock into the plant structure, that is where they stay. They are known as ‘fixed’ nutrients. Consequently, if a shortage of that nutrient arises, it cannot be satisfied by taking it from the older parts of the plant. This means that the nutrient deficiency symptoms will show up in the youngest parts of the plant, that is, the growing point and/or youngest leaves. Nutrients, which are fixed are: Calcium Ca, Iron Fe, Boron B, and Manganese Mn. Other nutrients are known as ‘mobile’ and can move from where they have located in the plant structure. Consequently, if a shortage of that nutrient arises, it can be satisfied by taking it from the older parts of the plant to the point of greatest demand. This means that the nutrient deficiency symptoms will show up in the older parts of the plant, usually the older leaves.
Nutrients, which are mobile are: Nitrogen N, Phosphorus P, Potassium K, Magnesium Mg, and Chlorine Cl. There are other nutrients some nutritionists refer to as ‘variably mobile’, namely: Sulphur S, Copper Cu, Zinc Zn, and Molybdenum Mo. These may show up over the whole plant (S and Mo) or are different for different species (Cu and Zn).
identification sequence The mobility of nutrients and specific deficiency characteristics allow you to go through a sequence, which may identify possible nutrients as deficient, helped by comparative photos. Do not expect this process to give a guaranteed result. The term chlorosis is used here, meaning a yellowing of plant tissue. Follow through each of the stated steps as you answer each question: A. Are symptoms at the growing point/ youngest leaves? Yes – go to B (fixed); No – go to J (mobile). B. Is growing point distorted or dying? Yes – go to C. No – go to E. C. Are young leaves light green at base, growing point dead? Yes = Boron deficiency; No – go to D. D. Are young leaves hooked at first? Yes = Calcium deficiency. (Other classic symptoms are blossom end rot in vine vegetables and tip burn in lettuce) E. Are young leaves chlorotic between veins? Yes – go to F. No – go to H. F. Is there a sharp division between chlorosis and veins? Yes = Iron deficiency. No – go to G. (note – if middle leaves have interveinal chlorosis, plants stunted = Zinc deficiency.)
image courtesy: bigpictureagriculture.blogspot.com
24 . Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . December . 2016
G. No sharp division between veins and chlorosis, spotty? Yes = Manganese deficiency. H. Leaves light green all over? Yes = Sulphur deficiency. No – go to I. I. Is there chlorosis of young leaves, then tips wither and die? Yes = Copper deficiency. J. (Symptoms on older leaves). Is the whole plant dark or light green? Yes – go to K. No – go to N. K. Are old leaves dark green with red/purple patches? Yes = Phosphorus deficiency. L. Are old leaves light green or yellow with no spots? Yes = Nitrogen deficiency. No – go to M. M. Are old leaves light green with spots and sometimes rolled? Yes = Molybdenum deficiency. N. Is there localised chlorosis with red or dead spots? Yes = Magnesium deficiency. No - go to O. O. Are old leaf edges burnt and no interveinal chlorosis? Yes = Potassium deficiency. No – go to P. P. Are there spots with sharp edges and no interveinal chlorosis? Yes = Chlorine deficiency.
interpretation There are many different versions of this sequence, reflecting the variability in real plant symptoms for different species. For more detail refer to photos and detailed symptom descriptions. Most importantly, always be aware that your interpretation may be wrong. So, don’t rush in and take some drastic corrective action on your whole crop. (I have seen this done, leading to total crop loss.) For any significant change, test it on just a few plants first. Often, the simplest action would be to renew the nutrient in your system with a new start-up solution. b RD
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A blooming industry? In the face of competitive floral imports, strong online retailing and subdued local consumer spending how healthy is the Australian cut-flower sector? By Christine Brown-Paul
in australia, current figures show that there are just under 900 flower farms and foliage growers, supplying almost 2000 florists and retailers. The number of retailers roughly break down, state by state, as: 740 in Nsw; 526 in victoria; 340 in Queensland; 188 in western australia; 120 in south australia; 60 in Tasmania; 22 in aCT and; four in the Northern Territory. Naturally, these figures fluctuate and are subject to change such as florists and other flower retailers opening, closing, and changing hands each year. According to the NSW Department of Primary Industries (NSW DPI) the value of the cut flower industry in New South Wales is estimated to be up to 28 . Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . December . 2016
A$202.7 million per annum at farm gate, climbing to A$800 million at retail level. The traditional flower industry is based mainly in the Sydney region, which extends from the Central Coast just north of Sydney, down to the South Coast, and west to the Blue Mountains, where the climate allows year-round production of a wide range of flowers. The estimate for local production is $187.7 million per annum at farm gate. Traditional flower growers are also located elsewhere in the state, including the North and South Coasts, Southern Tablelands, and several centres further inland. Wildflower growers have established along the coastal strip from the North Coast right down to the Far South Coast, and the Southern
Left and above - Sydney Flower Market at Flemington, Sydney is Australia’s largest market for fresh cut flowers.
Tablelands, as well as further inland, for example, the Central West region of NSW. Many wildflower growers produce exclusively for the export market, while others sell on both the domestic and export markets. Most of the flowers produced are sold on the domestic market, mostly through the Sydney Flower Market at Flemington, Sydney. There are major flower exporters located in and around Sydney who target key markets in Japan, SouthEast Asia, Europe and North America. The total value of flower exports from Australia reached a value of over A$55 million in 2002, and 95 per cent of this consisted of Australian native and South African species. Over the past five years, the floriculture production industry has struggled with adverse
trading conditions, facing stagnant demand from Australian consumers, rising import penetration and dwindling export earnings. Cut flowers are considered discretionary items, and traditional flower arrangements may be readily substituted with other products such as chocolates, gift vouchers and charity donations. The industry has a highly fragmented structure and a low degree of ownership concentration. The majority of flower growing establishments are family run farms, and the four largest firms together account for about onequarter of annual industry revenue. According to a recent IBISWorld market research report, the majority of floriculture producers have no paid employees (58.4 per cent) and typically, comprise only working proprietors and partners. A substantial share of enterprises earn less than $50,000 in annual revenue (35.7 per cent), which underlines the very small scale operations of some industry participants. “Flower growing is high-risk, labour-intensive, resource-intensive, capital-intensive and subject to global market forces,” said a DPI spokesperson. Queensland hydroponic rose grower Peter McKenna agrees, saying that contrary to the case in Europe where people use roses for household décor, in Australia, they are bought mostly as gifts. Low demand and high production cost means there is little profit for local growers and florists. “Nobody’s making any money, the shopkeeper’s not making any money, the grower certainly is not making any money,” he said “The wholesaler gets maybe 12 or 15 per cent… and the punter’s whingeing because they’re not getting what they want… it’s hard work.” Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . December . 2016. 29
Flower reTailiNg aND wHolesaliNg The flower retailing industry in Australia includes stores that retail cut flowers or display foliage. Businesses purchase flowers from growers and sell these directly to consumers, either as arrangements, or without developing or changing the product further. The industry excludes online-only flower retailers. Latest statistics show that the flower retailing industry sells only half of all cut flowers retailed in Australia. The other half is sold by other retailers, such as supermarkets, online-only stores, greengrocers and convenience stores. The IBISWorld’s report – ‘Flower Retailing Market Research Report’ July 2016 – provides the latest industry statistics and industry trends, outlining which products and customers are driving revenue growth and profitability. The industry report also identifies the leading companies and offers strategic industry analysis of the key factors influencing the market. According to the report, it is estimated that specialised flower retailers generate just under half the total retail value of cut flowers, both arranged and unarranged, totalling $692.2 million in 2016-17. “Industry revenue is expected to decline by an annualised 1.3 per cent over the five years through 2016-17. Sales were negatively affected at the beginning of the period, as instability in financial markets and a slowdown in the Australian economy led to weak consumer sentiment and subdued spending,” said the authors of the IBISWorld report. IBISWorld says the flower retailing industry has minimal barriers to entry. New operators can enter with relative ease due to low initial capital and establishment costs. Individual proprietorships and partnerships dominate the industry, which is highly diverse and fragmented. “Entry commonly occurs when people have been employed in florist stores, before establishing a business of their own. The skill level associated with operating a florist is low, and production and sales processes are straightforward,” said the IBISWorld authors. “However, the skill requirements for floristry professionals are rising, with an increasing number of 30 . Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . December . 2016
technical courses becoming available. These develop arranging skills, knowledge of seasons for different varieties, techniques for sourcing and storing flowers, and business management.” Operators in the flower wholesaling industry in Australia are defined as those who sell flowers and other flowering plants wholesale. Wholesalers source these products from domestic and international growers and sell them to registered businesses such as florists, flower shops, gift stores, department stores and supermarkets. The industry does not grow flowers or plants, nor does it distribute Christmas trees, plant seeds or plant bulbs.
oNliNe ComPeTiTioN According to another market research report from IBISWorld – ‘Online Flower Shops in Australia 2016’– strong online competition is causing industry exits and revenue declines in the Australian flower sector. The report makes the point that, as online flower shops can be accessed anywhere, the geographic spread of the industry is not linked to operators’ location, but rather, the location of consumers purchasing flowers online. “The distribution of online flower sales between states largely follows the distribution of the population. States that are overrepresented tend to have higher discretionary incomes on average and lower age profiles. As flowers are non-essential items, consumers with greater discretionary income will purchase flowers online to a greater extent than those with lesser incomes,” an IBISWorld spokesperson said. “Victoria is overrepresented, as its age profile has not increased as much as the other larger states, but discretionary income remains relatively high.”
imPaCTs oF imPorTeD Flowers In 2012, statistics show that more than 120 million flowers were imported, nearly 80 million of them roses. This represents a tenfold increase since 2008 and it is expected to be even higher now. Other significant imports are orchids, chrysanthemums, carnations and fresh foliage. The supply and use of cut flower and foliage products within the country involves a diverse network of activity. Floral products are supplied by multiple industry sectors, including local and interstate farming operations and international markets. Patterns of supply also vary depending upon factors such as season, local production limitations and demand at different times of the year, Given this complexity, there is not always a straightforward answer to the questions: ‘Where are all the flowers from?’ A recent article in the Australian Flower Industry magazine summed up the situation: In recent years, growers and others in the industry have been commenting on an apparent change in the quantities of imported flowers entering the Australian market. In general, most of the reports would appear to relate to steady increases in imports, which has raised discussion about the potential impact of these changes on the Australian production industry. “People don’t realise how many flowers are imported,” said Shane Holborn, head of the Flower Association of Queensland. “Huge numbers of roses are brought in from African countries like Kenya, or from Colombia and Ecuador in South America.” President of Flowers Victoria, Owen Brinson, said that a fair trade certification scheme for imported cut flowers would prove difficult to manage as often, bouquets contain a mix of flowers, both local and imported. “We need industry awareness first before consumer awareness,” he said. “Traders should know where they’re importing from and what issues may relate to that country – it might compel them to source from elsewhere.” In response to industry demand, the Flower Association of Queensland in (FAQI) has initiated a project to gather and compare published data on flower imports and domestic production. Information is being Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . December . 2016. 31
The comeback in popularity of more traditional blooms such as these dahlias is good news for local growers.
32 . Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . December . 2016
gathered from reliable sources such as the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) to identify interesting trends and to develop recommendations to overcome potential barriers to future industry expansion. “Local should be the flowers of choice,” said Genevieve McCaskill of Flowers Victoria who supports local growers and country-of-origin labelling. “Consumers need to ask questions when they purchase, and so do florists when buying at the wholesalers.” As urbanisation increases, the number of small, family-based growers who once grew on rural flower farms is declining. Despite factors like this, however, future for locally grown flowers remains rosy. The comeback in popularity of more traditional blooms such as hydrangeas, dahlias, snapdragons and sunflowers is good news for local growers, as these varieties do not travel well and therefore are not required to compete against imports. Seasoned growers in the know are also looking to supply early season Nicky Mann from blooms or unusual Roses 2 Go says varieties that can growers who grow fetch higher prices. for changing market All factors needs will succeed. considered and against all odds, the cut-flower market remains buoyant for now. Author of Surviving and striving in the Australian hydroponic flower industry, Nicky Mann from Roses 2 Go Pty Ltd is an Australian Nuffield Scholar 2014 and respected industry expert who says that like every industry, the flower industry within Australia is changing. “It is a global economy and everything is traded worldwide, especially flowers. With threats come opportunity to sell our knowledge, our flowers, our systems, or become part of the system of global trade,” Nicky said. “Growers who grow for changing market needs will succeed.” b More info contact Nicky Mann at: http://roses2go.com.au/ Chris May at: http://mayfarmflowers.com.au/ Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . December . 2016. 33
Chris May from Mayfarm Flowers says customers are looking for a “lifestyle experience” that online flower retailing cannot deliver.
Case sTuDy: mayFarm Flowers Chris May, Managing Director of Mayfarm Flowers grows a diverse range of flowers at his farm in Freemans Reach NSW. Some of the blooms grown include grows ranunculus, roses, poppies, lisianthus, kale, lavender, dahlias, buddleia, achillea, gardenia, veronica, smoke bush and some wattle and gum foliages. The flowers are all grown using IPM. “Growing up in the Blue Mountains, from an early age I discovered the bounty of nature, the bush was my wonderland. After a day in the bush I would go home with a wildflower bouquet for my mum, she loved plants and in particular fragrant flowers. Mum showed me the joy that nature can bring,” Chris said. “My journey as a flower man began by selling flowers from the back of a truck on the side of the road. With time I was then able to establish my presence in key farmers markets around Sydney.” 34 . Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . December . 2016
Today, some of the farmers markets Chris sells his produce at include the EQ Village Market at Fox Studios, Bondi Farmers Market, Ramsgate Organic Foodies Markets, Eveleigh Farmers Markets and Manly Fresh Produce Markets. “Headquarters is at Mayfarm Flowers Warehouse at the Entertainment Quarter in Moore Park,” Chris said. According to Chris, most of his customers are not only buying flowers but are also looking for a “lifestyle experience.” “Although online flower retailing is strong, many people prefer to buy their flowers at markets so they can smell and feel them – something you can’t do online,” he said. “Although there is a fair bit of uncertainty in the industry, I grow and sell flowers because it’s something I have a passion about. My main purpose is to share a wonderful and affordable variety of flowers of superior quality to fill customers lives with beauty.”
Flowers – New aPP lauNCHeD For THe CuT Flowers aND Foliage iNDusTry
industry news and views and also contains a wealth of information on production, world research, business management, marketing advice and upcoming events and practical information, on everything from flower farming through to floral design.
Flowers, a new electronic publication app for the cut flower and foliage industry, is now available for download from the Apple and Google Play stores. Flowers can be downloaded for free by searching for ‘Flower Association’ in the Apple and Google Play Store and gives users access to Australian Flower Industry magazine in an electronic format. In addition to the bimonthly publication, the app will be expanded over time with a series of special editions, focusing on specific issues to help the industry. Careers in Flowers and Foliage, a guide to the study and employment opportunities available in the various sectors of the flower industry, made its debut as a print and web-based publication and is now available for free in the Flowers app as the first of many special edition publications being developed for release through the app. Flowers expands on the Australian Flower Industry magazine’s reputation as an important source of
Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . December . 2016. 35
Branching out From micro-herbs to edible flowers, Victorian grower B&B Basil is extending its business to keep pace with consumer demand, as well as looking at setting up operations in China and assisting with herb production in a farm in Hyderabad, India. By Christine Brown-Paul
36 . Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . December . 2016
All in the family. George Bobin with wife Jan, daughter Susie Young and her son Blake. Photo courtesy Bendigo Advertiser.
in 2011, father and daughter team george Bobin and susie young launched B&B Basil after noticing a lack of locally grown herb products at the melbourne fruit and vegetable market. george and susie decided it was time to begin something new and started growing large hydroponic basil in pots. Their products were an instant hit at the markets and the demand for their high quality herbs has grown from there. Experimenting with the seeding and growing process saw the increase in flavour quality and shelf life. One of many innovations included growing larger amounts of seeds from the single pot, thus allowing the product to have a greater shelf life and provide the consumer with a larger amount of product. By 2004, George and Susie decided it was time to move to a larger facility and hire some extra hands to help meet the growing demand. With the move to Rowena Street in East Bendigo they built two small greenhouses with a seeding and potting area. With more space, they noticed a greater market for micro herbs, expanding to grow a greater variety of micro herbs from start to finish on the single site. The need for specialist equipment was met with the building of a larger seeding and potting shed and new staff to take on the increased workload. By this stage the products were being purchased not only at the Melbourne fruit and vegetable markets but also all around the state and branching out across Australia. With a love for food, the business always had great connections with the local chefs who use the products grown in their backyard, the range continued to grow with Bendigo’s most renowned chefs making requests for herbs unavailable anywhere else in Australia. As the
requests continued, the pressure for more space was felt again. Building the largest greenhouse yet, along with an office, staff room and facilities, the staff continued to grow and soon B&B Basil employed up to 30 people. Some of the newest innovations beginning to be adopted include, environmentally friendly methods of agriculture, solar power, alternative ways to heat the greenhouses and a lightweight synthetic soil that is perfect for export.
miCro HerBs Micro herbs have long been the main area of focus for B&B Basil and continue to grow in demand both nationally and internationally. B&B Basil continues to refine and modernise their processes to ensure their product arrives fresh and tasty regardless of its destination. B&B Basil’s herbs supply the commercial restaurant market. They are attractive herbs used solely for garnishing. Recently, Mr Bobin travelled to China to explore the potential of starting a herb farm in the country’s southern Guangzhou region. “I noticed that over there, like in Australia and other parts of the world, the ‘fresh eating’ movement was in full swing,” he said. “Basically, I’ve put my feelers out for some suitable farmland in China. If one farm goes well, then I might consider starting a few more. There are 25 million people on the Guangzhou region, which is basically the population of Australia,” he said. According to Mr Bobin, the challenges he faces in flying herbs to his existing import destinations – Hong Kong, Bali, Bangkok, Dubai and Singapore – would be greatly reduced by having a farm based in China. “My theory is that you produce in an area for the area, Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . December . 2016. 37
mainly because the fragility of the product,” he said. “Micro herbs are ‘living’ when they are transported and are never more than 10 to 14 days old so they lose freshness quickly.
eDiBle Flowers B&B Basil is also now growing edible flowers for the gourmet restaurant market. “We grow violas, pansies, snapdragons, cornflowers, marigolds and nasturtiums,” Mr Bobin said. “We also used to grow zucchini flowers but didn’t have much success with them as they couldn’t be grown year round and did poorly.” These days, the company delivers close to 2,000 units of edible flowers weekly to various local and interstate markets. “We grow them in semi-hydroponic conditions and use stage watering as required with a mix of nutrients,” Mr Bobin said. “The market for edible flowers though has somewhat slowed down recently, as there is a lot of competition.”
iNDiaN iNNovaTioN In 2014, Mr Bobin was invited to a farm in
Some of the newest innovations include environmentally friendly methods of agriculture, solar power, alternative ways to heat the greenhouses and a lightweight synthetic soil.
38 . Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . December . 2016
Hyderabad, India to show how to grow microgreens and edible flowers. “I spent around 14 to 15 weeks over there helping them set up four half-acre polyhouses so they could start growing microgreens,” he said. “Some of the crops included lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, cucumber, ginger, which were grown in hydroponics using a coir bed,” Mr Bobin said. “Because of the hot climate in India, pests have been a big problem. Basically, there are two seasons with no break in the hatching cycles so you’ve got lots of leaf miners attacking the plants, for example. “The operations are still at the trial stage so I guess you could say it is still on a bit of a learning curve,” he said. On a personal note, Mr Bobin has had a setback following a recent nasty motorcycle accident in Hobart, Tasmania. “I broke my back and had so many other injuries that you’d need more than 10 fingers to count them on,” he said. “Fortunately, I am able to rely on my wife Jan and daughter Susie to help me out and run the business while I am on the mend.” b For more information http://bandbbasil.com.au
Micro herbs have lo been the main area focus for B&B Basil continue to grow in demand both nation and internationally. The herbs are ‘livin when they are transported and are never more tha to 14 days old as the lose freshness quic
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oraNge, HerB aND eDiBle Flower salaD edible flowers add life to this tempting dish of herbs, succulent salty kalamata olives and refreshing citrus. serve alongside octopus, chorizo sausage and oregano dish for a pretty and unusual lunch.
iNgreDieNTs: • 2 oranges, segments only a handful each of mint, oregano and parsley leaves • 16–20 kalamata olives • 5 spring onions, sliced a handful of edible flowers, try nasturtiums or pansies • 2 tbsp olive oil ½ lemon, juiced • 1 tsp sesame seeds, toasted sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
meTHoD: Combine the orange segments, herbs, olives and spring onions in a bowl. arrange on a plate, then scatter the flowers over. Drizzle with the olive oil and lemon juice, add the sesame seeds and season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. TiP: mixed selections of edible flowers can now be bought online. alternatively, grow your own. avoid eating flowers that have been sprayed with pesticides – including those bought from the florist – and never harvest anything growing by the roadside. Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . December . 2016. 39
Fresh is best iN souTH easT melBourNe, kaiTeki FresHâ€™s sTaTe-oF-THe-arT HyDroPoNiC Farm ProDuCTioN sysTem Has BeeN DeveloPeD CommerCially iN JaPaN By miTsuBisHi PlasTiCs agri Dream.
40 . Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . December . 2016
Seedlings are grown to harvest size using Nutrient Film Technology, a Napper Land hydroponic system.
Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . December . 2016. 41
Kaiteki Fresh’s current product range includes salad kale, rocket and spinach, sold under the ecoLEAF™ brand name.
in a town called Bunyip in gippsland, victoria – 85kms south east of melbourne – a new Japanese company is producing leafy green vegetables at its 0.5 ha state-ofthe-art glasshouse facility and hydroponic farm. Kaiteki Fresh takes its name from the Japanese word for “comfort” or “ease” and this concept is embedded in the company’s approach to achieving quality of life through sustainable technologies. Founded in 2014, Kaiteki Fresh Australia Pty Ltd grows 100 per cent pesticide-free leafy vegetables using commercially proven methods developed by the group company in Japan. Kaiteki Fresh’s production system has been developed commercially in Japan by Mitsubishi Plastics Agri Dream and has been further refined for large scale production in Australia. . “Back in 2012, we engaged with the Victorian Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources (DEDJTR) to test our [Napper Land] hydroponic production system under Australian conditions,” said Kaiteki Fresh Director Katsumi Maruyama. “We also tested many different varieties of leafy vegetables and herbs in order to customise and optimise the system.” 42 . Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . December . 2016
Further research and development trials examined nutrition and water use and assessed post-harvest packaging and shelf-life trials. Following successful results, the Kaiteki Fresh facility was officially opened in July 2015 by the Victorian Minister for Agriculture, the Hon. Jaala Pulford.
greeNHouse ProDuCTioN Kaiteki Fresh’s current product range includes salad kale, rocket and spinach, sold under the ecoLEAF™ brand name. Year round, seed is germinated and raised for seven to 10 days in a closed seedling chamber (Nae Terrace) with controlled temperature, humidity, carbon dioxide, light and irrigation. Following this, seedlings are then grown to harvest size using Nutrient Film Technology, a Napper Land hydroponic system. The growth cycle of plants grown using this system is rapid. “Our ecoLEAF™ plants are typically harvested every 10-21 days, depending on the season. This technology enables us to produce an average of 20-22 harvests per annum, and guarantees reliable year-round supply,” Mr Maruyama said. “Our advanced greenhouse creates the perfect
Kaiteki Fresh is producing leafy green vegetables at its 0.5 ha state-of-the-art glasshouse facility in Bunyip, Victoria.
growing environment for the vegetables. The ultrahygienic, pest-free environment in which ecoLEAF™ vegetables are grown completely eliminates the need for pesticides or any type of chemical spray. “The sanitary conditions under which our produce is cultivated and packaged also does away with the industry standard requirement for chemical washing prior to packaging,” he said.
“Kaiteki Fresh’s production system is environmentally friendly, using approximately 90 per cent less water than traditional field farming and significantly less than other hydroponic production methods. All of our produce is grown respecting the highest standards of food safety and environmental sustainability. “The super-fresh ‘living’ nature of ecoLEAF™ leaves can be attributed to the proprietary root-plug system,
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Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . December . 2016. 43
Kaiteki Fresh is focused on developing its production system with semi-automated equipment and a greenhouse expansion.
which is still attached to the vegetables when purchased. The unique packaging of the product allows these living leaves to breathe. The combination of the attached root system and absence of pesticides and chemical washes, means ecoLEAF™ vegetables stay fresher for longer,” Mr Maruyama said. “ecoLEAF™ vegetables have been popular with all types of consumers, young and old due to the delicious, tender, non-bitter nature of the leaves. Gourmet and health-conscious consumers are particularly loving the produce.” Currently, Kaiteki Fresh’s ecoLEAF™ produce is distributed in Melbourne and Sydney, and exported to Hong Kong and Singapore. Mr Maruyama said. “In Australia, we distribute through Melbourne (Epping) and Sydney Markets for delivery to premium independent retailers. Our export markets supply major supermarkets in both Hong Kong and Singapore.”
so Have THere BeeN aNy CHalleNges For THe ComPaNy? “Occasionally, unstable electricity supply in our region results in extra work. Otherwise, our production system
Kale – ecoLEAF™ plants are typically harvested every 10-21 days, depending on the season.
44 . Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . December . 2016
is predominantly stress-free and easily managed by our greenhouse staff,” export markets supply major supermarkets in both Hong Kong and Singapore,” Mr Maruyama said. “Having said that, Kaiteki Fresh is actively engaged in R&D and focused on developing our production system with semi-automated equipment and a greenhouse expansion that is customised to the Australian working environment. “Our product lines have been audited multiple times by government agencies and independent accredited parties to qualify our ‘pesticide-free’ claim, and every single inquiry has concluded that pesticides are ‘not detectable’ in our produce – of course, because we don’t use them,” he said.
PlaNNiNg is uNDerway To iNCrease ProDuCTioN iN THe Near FuTure. “Kaiteki Fresh will be seeking potential production partners as part of our business expansion plan,” Mr Maruyama said. b
Kaiteki Fresh director Mr Katsumi Maruyama.
To find out more checkout the website at: http://kaitekifresh.com
Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . December . 2016. 45
WATER IS LIFE!
48 . Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . December . 2016
Streamlining strawberry production vB greenhouse Projects and Priva have completed Chinaâ€™s largest smart greenhouse for the Haisheng group.
Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . December . 2016. 49
Scattered truss structure. The 50,000 square metre structure is Chinaâ€™s largest smart greenhouse.
Meiny Prins (Priva CEO) and Edward Verbakel (Managing Director of VB Group) at the opening ceremony of Haishengâ€™s Tongchuan project.
50 . Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . December . 2016
The Tongchuan Haisheng – modern smart glass greenhouse –strawberry Cultivation Project is located in yaozhou in the People’s republic of China. Here, vB greenhouse Projects and Priva have recently successfully completed a new project for Haisheng group in collaboration with PB Techniek. realised in a record time of seven months, the project is China’s largest smart greenhouse and a state-of-the-art greenhouse for strawberry production. On 28 September 2016, Meiny Prins (Priva CEO), John van der Wilk (VP Business Solutions of Priva), Edward Verbakel (Managing Director of VB Group) and Robert Marks (Sales Manager Export of VB Group) attended the opening ceremony of Haisheng’s Tongchuan project. Priva develops and supplies products and services for the energy-efficient, low-carbon control of indoor environments while VB Greenhouse Projects – a member of VB Group – is a leading international greenhouse builder. Both companies are located in The Netherlands. Haisheng Co. Ltd. is one of the largest fruit juice producers in the world, specialising in fruit concentrates. The Haisheng Group has set up a diversified market network with products being mainly exported to the US, Canada, Germany, France, Australia, Russia and Japan. Spanning five hectares of greenhouses for the cultivation of strawberries, the new facility makes it possible to fully provide the plants with ‘heat, light, water, air and fertiliser’, in an optimal environment.
It allows through 97 per cent of sunlight, which is 12 per cent more than glass greenhouses with a traditional structure. Every one per cent of extra light increases production to the same degree. The greenhouse project unifies advanced technological procedures, a temperature control system, an accurate water and fertiliser circulation system and 3D volume cultivation. The project shipped in strawberry species from Japan and South Korea, initiating a complete production chain operation and introducing a strawberry cultivation facility that is green, intensive and modern. VB Greenhouse Projects was responsible for the total delivery: the greenhouse- and climate installations, climate control (Priva computer), irrigation, logistics, product upgrading, cold storage rooms, dock shelters etc.
iNsiDe THe greeNHouse The greenhouse delivered by VB Greenhouse Projects is an eight-metre trellis with a 6m height enabled with a special transport system running under the gutter. All materials came from The Netherlands, except the glass. The growing gutter is 10 cm lower than usual; this meant an adjustment to local standards was required with the result that other elements (e.g. height of transport trolleys) had to be adjusted. The project uses the most advanced Dutch PB irrigation system with plants’ nutritional intake
The greenhouse project features a temperature control system, an accurate water and fertiliser circulation system and 3D volume cultivation.
Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . December . 2016. 51
Privaâ€™s plant internet control system combines environmental control, logistics and labour in a smart management technology. 52 . Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . December . 2016
consistency kept at above 95 per cent. At the same time, 60 per cent of fertiliser and 90 per cent of water is saved. The waste irrigation water and fertiliser are sterilised with UV and a decomposition treatment. Following this, the waste product is recycled. The greenhouse is equipped with two gas boilers, which can provide heat and CO2 to four compartments of 1.25 hectare each. Regardless of the outside climate, the temperature inside the greenhouse is controlled by Priva Connext to create an optimal environment for strawberry production. With sensors in the greenhouse, the temperature can be lowered at any time and humidity information is relayed to the system. This allows for an accurate adjustment of temperature and humidity. As a result, the temperature variation in the greenhouse is never more than one per cent-led, so there is no actual waste or pollution. The greenhouse uses a base solvent 3D structure for cultivation, saving 75 per cent of the soil and preventing diseases from spreading over the ground while guaranteeing an optimal water and fertiliser supply. It also results in the plants being stronger and more resilient against diseases. The greenhouse uses very little pesticide.Â
With sensors in the greenhouse, the temperature can be lowered at any time and humidity information is relayed to the system.
Priva PlaNT iNTerNeT CoNTrol sysTem The greenhouse makes use of advanced internet control system and installations by Priva. It combines environmental control, logistics and labour in a smart management technology. Haisheng is the first customer in China to use Priva FS Performance for labour management. FS Performance allows management to collect real time data about employees, performance, work efficiency, completed tasks, productivity, production and yield. Tongchuan is the second project in which Haisheng Group has chosen to work with Priva. Currently, Priva has arranged strategic cooperation with all research organisations, service suppliers and both foreign and domestic universities that possess the advanced technology. The cooperation includes technical guidance, machinery research and development, industry planning, seedling supply, exchange of experts and others. Tongchuan Haisheng Qianmuâ€™s high standard dwarf apple trees facility, cherry orchards and the 50,000 square metres of the new modern greenhouse all employ many people from the local neighbourhood.Â The greenhouse project is currently operational and strawberries have already been harvested. b
The greenhouse is an eight-metre trellis with a 6m height enabled with a special transport system running under the gutter.
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Magnesium deficient Frangula alnus (alder buckthorn), a tall deciduous shrub in the family Rhamnaceae. (Image by Karduelis)
MAGNESIUM: DEFICIENCY & TOXICITY DeFiCieNCies or exCesses oF miNeral elemeNTs sHow iN a NumBer oF ways: iN Colour, DeNsiTy, siZe aND sHaPe oF leaves; iN THe THiCkNess aND Colour oF sTems aND THe leNgTH oF iNTerNoDes; iN THe Colour, FiBrousNess aND THiCkNess oF rooTs; iN THe aBuNDaNCe aND TimiNg oF Flowers; aND iN THe siZe, Colour, HarDNess aND Flavour oF FruiT. reCogNisiNg THose ParTiCular eFFeCTs is THe key To DiagNosiNg NuTriTioNal DisorDers. By sTeveN CarruTHers
54 . Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . December . 2016
Magnesium (chemical symbol Mg) is a macronutrient involved in several different plant processes, including photosynthesis. Along with calcium and sulphur, magnesium is one of the three secondary nutrients required by plants for normal, healthy growth –macronutrients are divided into primary and secondary nutrients, which is a reference to the quantity and not the importance of a nutrient. A lack of a secondary nutrient is just as detrimental to plant growth as a deficiency of any one of the three primary nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium) or a deficiency of micronutrients (iron, manganese, boron, zinc, copper and molybdenum). In some plants, the tissue concentration of magnesium is comparable to that of phosphorus, a primary nutrient. Discovered by Joseph Black in 1755, and named after the Greek region of Magnesia, magnesium is the eighth most abundant element in the Earth’s crust and the fourth most common element in the Earth (after iron, oxygen and silicon), making up 13 per cent of the planet’s mass and a large fraction of the planet’s mantle. It is the third most abundant element dissolved in seawater, after sodium and chlorine.
FuNCTioNs oF magNesium Plants need magnesium for photosynthesis, which is a set of chemical reactions used to convert light into chemical energy for nutritional purposes. It is the key element found in chlorophyll molecules, which are essential to the photosynthesis process. Chlorophyll is the pigment that gives plants their green colour and carries out the process of photosynthesis. Magnesium also aids in the activation of many plant enzymes needed for growth and contributes to protein synthesis. It also stimulates the uptake of phosphorus. Magnesium is a necessary activator for many critical enzymes, including ribulosbiphosphate carboxylase (RuBisCO) and phosphoenolpyruvate carboxylase (PEPC), both essential enzymes in carbon fixation. Thus, low amounts of magnesium lead to a decrease in photosynthetic and enzymatic activity within the plants.
magNesium DeFiCieNCy Without sufficient amounts of magnesium, plants begin to degrade the chlorophyll in the old leaves. This causes the main symptom of magnesium deficiency, chlorosis, or yellowing between leaf veins, which stay green, giving the leaves a marbled appearance.
Due to magnesium’s mobile nature, the plant will first break down chlorophyll in older leaves and transport the Mg to younger leaves, which have greater photosynthetic needs. Therefore, the first sign of magnesium deficiency is chlorosis of old leaves, which progresses to the young leaves as the deficiency continues. In its advanced form, magnesium deficiency may superficially resemble potassium deficiency. In the case of magnesium deficiency the symptoms generally start with mottled chlorotic areas developing in the interveinal tissue. The interveinal laminae tissue tends to expand proportionately more than the other leaf tissues, producing a raised puckered surface, with the top of the puckers progressively going from chlorotic to necrotic tissue. In plants such as tomatoes and beans the leaves eventually turn brown and die. Only a few flowers and fruit form. Magnesium deficiency can easily occur in both soil and hydroponically grown tomato plants. The deficiency primarily occurs when there is an imbalance among the other major elements, especially potassium, calcium and NH4, because magnesium is the least competitive cation among these three. Interveinal chlorosis on the older leaves can also be an indication of some type of plant stress due either to low or high moisture or temperature conditions. A severe magnesium deficiency can result in blossom end rot (BER) in the fruit. Some tomato cultivars are sensitive to magnesium and will easily show deficiency symptoms on their mature leaves, even though Mg may be at a sufficient concentration in the rooting medium. Plants deficient in magnesium produce smaller, woodier fruits. Magnesium deficiency symptom can be confused with nitrogen and iron deficiency. In the case of nitrogen deficiency, the whole leaf turns uniformly yellow and the veins do not remain green. Iron deficient plants also show intercostal chlorosis, but in contrast to Mg it starts on the young leaves. Magnesium deficiency can also be confused with zinc or chlorine deficiencies, viruses, or natural ageing since all have similar symptoms. Deficiency can be overcome with dolomite (a mixed magnesium-calcium carbonate), magnesite (magnesium oxide) or Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate). The fastest solution to a deficiency is a foliar spray of kelp or other seaweed extract. With regard to foliar feeding, in his Reader Inquiries column (PH&G May/June 1999 – Issue 46), Rick Donnan writes: Most plants have evolved to feed through their root system, and root feeding is relatively easy to provide and Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . December . 2016. 55
manage. While leaves can absorb nutrients applied as foliar spray, this is not very effective. Coverage needs to be very good because many nutrients won’t relocate throughout the plant. On rare special occasions, foliar feeding can be used to alleviate problems. However, it is typically used as a last resort, and the need to use it is usually an indicator of other major problems, especially root problems. To provide major nutrients, such as magnesium and sulphur, purely through foliar feeding would need an endless spraying program. It would not be as effective as root feeding and could quite likely lead to nutritional problems. Also, the extra workload involved would soon become completely overwhelming.
Magnesium deficiency on strawberry leaves showing marginal scorch.
magNesium ToxiCiTy Magnesium toxicity is rare in greenhouse and nursery crops. High levels of magnesium can compete with plant uptake of calcium or potassium and can cause their deficiencies in plant tissue.
wHere To FiND magNesium Magnesium can be found in the dolomitic limestone used in most soilless growing potting media, but it is usually not in sufficient supply to meet the needs of plants. Dolomite is an anhydrous carbonate mineral composed of calcium magnesium carbonate (CaMg [CO3] 2). Water can be a source of an appreciable level of magnesium; therefore, have it tested before choosing a
Magnesium deficiency symptoms on the lower leaves of geranium. (Image Premier Tech Horticulture)
Symptoms of magnesium deficiency on capsicum.
Symptoms of magnesium deficiency on cucumber. 56 . Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . December . 2016
Magnesium deficiency in tomato - leaves mottled with yellow between the veins. (Michigan State University)
fertiliser mix. If your water does not provide at least 25 ppm magnesium, then it will need to be provided by fertiliser. Check the labels of the fertilisers you currently use, to see if they supply magnesium. If they do not, supplement with Epsom salts, chemically known as magnesium sulfate heptahydrate (MgSO4.7H2O). Another option is to use a calciummagnesium containing fertiliser, but unlike Epsom salts, calcium-magnesium fertilisers are potentially basic and will cause the growing medium’s pH to rise over time. b References: AngliaFarmer, New guide to potato nutrition (http://www.angliafarmer.co.uk/new-guide-to-potatonutrition/). Retrieved 17 Nov 2016. Canberra Organic Growers Society Inc. (http://www.cogs.asn.au/organic-gardening/techniques-andtips/identifying-nutrient-deficiencies/). Retrieved 17 Nov 2016. Donnan, R. (1999). Reader Inquiries: Magnesium as a Foliar Spray, Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses, May/June 1999, Issue 46. Haifa-Group (http://www.haifa group.com/knowledge_center /crop_guides/tomato/plant_nutrition/ nutrient_deficiency_symptoms/). Retrieved 17 Nov 2016. Merhaut, D.J. (2006). “Magnesium”. In Barker A.V.; Pilbeam D.J. Handbook of plant nutrition. Boca Raton: CRC Press. p. 154. ISBN 9780824759049. Premier Tech Horticulture (http://www.pthorticulture.com/en/training-center /role-of-magnesium-in-plant-culture/). (Retrieved 17 Nov 2016) Wikipedia: Magnesium deficiency (plants) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magnesium_deficiency_(plants). Retrieved 17 Nov 2016. Yara Crop Nutrition (http://www.yara.us/agriculture/crops/tomato/cropnutrition/deficiencies/mg/10468-magnesiumdeficiency—-tomato/). Retrieved 17 Nov 2016.
Magnesium deficiency in pepper leaf.
Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . December . 2016. 57
Learning Curve At the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment, Western Sydney University in NSW, construction is nearing completion on the new world-class Greenhouse Research Education and Training Facility. Photography by Sam Ross - Additional photos courtesy Martech Plumbing
The new world-class greenhouse facility will equip the Australian horticulture industry with the technology to meet the increasing constraints in water and energy supplies. Courtesy Martech Plumbing.
Peter Barber (L) Maintenance Manager at Croudace Greenhouses International and site construction manager for greenhouse talks to WSUâ€™s Dr Zhonghua Chen.
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A new world-class greenhouse facility currently under development at the Hawkesbury Campus of Western Sydney University (WSU) is set to equip the Australian horticulture industry with the technology required to meet the increasing constraints in water and energy supplies. Construction of the greenhouse – which is part of a $7 million joint initiative between WSU and Horticulture Innovation Australia Limited (Hort Innovation) – is nearing completion. The new Greenhouse Research Education and Training Facility (RETF) has a bold vision to help Australian growers tap into the latest research and practices within greenhouse crop production to make their operations more efficient, and meet the increased demand for fresh food that can be delivered quickly to markets. A Hort Innovation spokesperson said the greenhouse offers significant benefits for the industry. “This state-of-the-art greenhouse facility will help industry maximise its returns through the delivery of new, groundbreaking insights into reducing energy and water costs,” he said. The facility will have a strong education and training focus, working in partnership with industry partners to provide a student experience, which produces careerready graduates through involvement in engaged learning, projects and research in their studies. The spokesperson said there would also be benefits for those already working in the industry through a research program targeted at major greenhouse crop species production. “This greenhouse and its associated training program
will provide learning opportunities for horticultural professionals at all stages of their careers,” he said. “It will also provide significant resources for the next generation of growers, showcasing that horticulture is an innovative and exciting industry to join.” Crops grown will be those typically produced using protected cropping in Australia such as tomato, cucumber, strawberry, capsicum, eggplant, lettuces and other vegetables. In the long term, there are also possibilities for high value crops such as herbal and medicinal plants that are beneficial to the Australian horticulture industry and growers.
DesigN The nearest known equivalent greenhouse research facility is located in The Netherlands at the Wageningen University Greenhouse Horticulture Research Institute (WUR). To ensure a state-of-the-art Facility design, Western Sydney University has partnered with experts from WUR, Dr JC (Sjaak) Bekker and Dr Silke Hemming, for consultation and advice as to the most appropriate design and construction for the University Greenhouse Research Education and Training facility. “This partnership with WUR creates an opportunity for WSU to position itself as a national leader in greenhouse horticulture research and education. This partnership will include staff and student exchanges, joint supervision of postgraduate research students, and assistance from WUR to develop training and education resource material,” said a WSU spokesperson. “Based on a design from WUR, the WSU Greenhouse will Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . December . 2016. 61
provide high levels of control over humidity, temperature, light and CO2 to deliver higher productivity while lowering energy and water inputs. “This facility – the first of its kind and scale in Australia – will allow researchers to test multiple conditions affecting the growth of plants in protected crop environments. The results of this research will be increased crop yields and lower costs to both the producers and the environment.” Peter Barber, Maintenance Manager at Croudace Greenhouses International – the company appointed for construction of the WSU greenhouse – said that the overall dimensions of the greenhouse facility are 48 m long and 36 m wide (1723m2), which includes eight bays at 108m2 and one larger compartment at 432 m2. “The eight research bays have air conditioning systems where the larger bay has a wet wall system usually known as a pad fan system. The facility has a Priva growing control system and there are 12km of control cables and approximately 7km of power cables,” Mr Barber said. “Rain water is harvested from two buildings to a total storage capacity of 270Kl. There is also town water supply
A special feature of the greenhouse will be the provision for interchangeable greenhouse covering materials, allowing manipulation of plant growth and energy balance. Courtesy Martech Plumbing.
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as a backup but this would be blended slowly as not to shock plants.”
researCH goals WSU’s Dr Zhonghua Chen and Prof David Tissue have been working in collaboration on the new greenhouse project. Professor Tissue is an international expert on the effects of climate change on ecosystems. His current research on plant response to changes in global climate primarily considers the interactive effect of elevated CO2 and associated environmental factors (e.g. temperature, nutrients and water) on leaf level physiology and its implications for plant growth. Dr Zhonghua Chen is a lecturer and an ARC DECRA Fellow with expertise in plant physiology and molecular biology. Dr Chen worked as a University Research Associate at the Tasmanian Institute of Agricultural Research (TIAR) and a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Glasgow before joining the (then named) University of Western Sydney in 2011.
wHaT kiND oF researCH Programs are PlaNNeD For THe FaCiliTy? “In the next five to ten years, there will be a range of high quality research programs running in this modern greenhouse facility,” Dr Chen said. “These will involve a number of areas including: identifying optimal CO2 and temperature conditions for crop growth; identifying fertigation strategies for high yield and optimal recycling outcomes; conducting varietal trials for the protected cropping industry; improving crop quality and human health benefits; pollination and plant protection for protected cropping industry and; utilising crop simulation modelling and developing cost-benefit analyses.” Current and future collaborations between WSU and WUR include: WUR provides design and plan the greenhouse build as well as training of WSU staff members WSU and WUR to set up a joint PhD program to strengthen the research collaboration WUR and WSU to offer a short-term Master class in
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Research programs will identify optimal CO2 and temperature conditions for crop growth.
Changing our world one step at a time.
Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . December . 2016. 63
The new greenhouse will have a strong education and training focus, working in partnership with industry partners to produce careerready graduates.
64 . Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . December . 2016
The facility, the first of its kind and scale in Australia, will allow researchers to test multiple conditions affecting the growth of plants in protected crop environments.Â
The WSU Greenhouse will provide high levels of control over humidity, temperature, light and CO2 to deliver higher productivity while lowering energy and water inputs.
66 . Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . December . 2016
protected cropping. Modules include growing, managing, and business aspects of greenhouse horticulture. WSU and WUR to develop joint undergraduate and Masters courses and MoU: Bachelor Sustainable Agriculture and Food Security at WSU and Bachelor of Plant Science at WUR; Masters of Science – Peri urban Horticulture at WSU and Masters of Plant Science – Greenhouse Horticulture at WUR. The Greenhouse Research Education and Training Facility Industry Consultation Committee (ICC) provides strategic direction to the research and education programs, as well as providing input into the design phase of the Facility. The ICC consists of eight to 12 members, including representatives from the two main stakeholder organisations (WSU and Hort Innovation), influential leaders from tertiary education, vocation and training, government, business, communications and/or community sectors; who are committed to contributing to the Facility’s objectives. The ICC is Chaired by Mr Graeme Smith from Protected Cropping Australia. The Greenhouse RETF is expected to be an icon for periurban agriculture research, education and training at the University. The proposal brings together the leading plant and environmental science of Western Sydney University with the greenhouse horticultural expertise of Wageningen University Research. Dr Chen added: “This greenhouse facility is likely to have a very positive impact towards a sustainable food future for Australia.” b More info at: https://www.westernsydney.edu.au/research /centralised_research_facilities/greenhouse_facility
From left: Dr Zhonghua Chen, Peter Barber and WSU’s David Thompson. Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses . December . 2016. 67
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