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Quantifying differences between treated and untreated coir substrate

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Poulter, R. and Bors, A. (2010) Quantifying differences between treated and untreated coir substrate. Project Report. FL08009. Horticulture Australia Limited, Sydney, Australia.

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Organisation URL: http://www.deedi.qld.gov.au/
Publisher URL: http://www.horticulture.com.au/reports/search_final_reports.asp
Organisation URL: http://www.flowersqueensland.asn.au/


The aim of this project was to quantify differences between treated and untreated coir (coconut industrial residues) products and to identify differences in growth, yield and quality of cut flowers grown in different coir products. This has been brought about largely by the concern that some coir products, washed in low quality (saline) water may have detrimental effects on plant productivity and quality. There is concern in the flower production industry and among media suppliers, that lower quality products are favoured due to price alone, which as this project shows is a false economy.
Specifically the project examined:
• Differences in physical and chemical properties of treated and untreated coir along with another commonly used growing media in the flower industy;
• Potential improvements in yield and quality of Gerbera (Gerbera jamesonii);
• Potential differences in vase life of Gerbera as a result of the different growing media; and
• Cost-benefit implications of treated (more expensive) coir substrate products versus untreated (less expensive) coir including any subsequent differences in yield and quality.

By first examining the physical and some chemical properties of different coir substrates and other industry standard media, the researchers have been able to validate the concerns raised about the potential quality issues in coir based growing media. There was a great deal of variation in both the electrical conductivity and sodium contents. Physical properties were also variable as expected since manufacturers are able to target the specific physical preferences of plants through manipulation of the particle size distribution.
A field trial was conducted under protected cropping practices in which three growing media were compared in terms of total productivity and also flower quality parameters such as stem length, flower diameter and vase life. The trial was a completely randomised design with the three growing media comprising treated coir discs, untreated coir discs and a pine bark coir mix. Four cultivars of Gerbera were assessed: Balance®; Carambole®; Dune® and Picobello®, all new products from Florist de Kwakel B.V., Denmark. Initial expansion from tissue culture was conducted at the Highsun Express Facility, Ormiston, Queensland. The trial included 12 replications of each cultivar in each media (a total of 144 plants) to ensure all data collected, and the derived conclusions were statistically rigorous.

The coir supplied with no pre-treatment or buffering produced significantly less flowers than those grown in a pine bark coir mix or the pre-treated coir. Interestingly, the pine bark coir mix produced a greater number of flowers. However, the flowers produced in the pine bark coir mix were generally a shorter length stem. Productivity data, combined with flower quality data and component costs were all analysed through a cost/benefit economic model which showed that the greater revenue from better stem length outweighed the stem numbers, giving a cost benefit ratio of 2.58 for treated coir, 2.49 for untreated coir and 2.52 for pine bark coir mix. While this does not seem a large difference, when considering the number of plants a producer maintains can be upwards of 50,000 the difference in revenue would be, at a minimum $60,000 in this example.
In conclusion, this project has found that there are significant effects on plant health, growth, yield and quality between those grown in treated and untreated coir. The outcome being growers can confidently invest in more expensive treated products with the assurance that benefits will outweigh initial cost. It is false economy to favour untreated coir products based on price alone. Producers should ensure they fully understand the production processes when purchasing growing media. Rather than targeting lower priced materials, it is recommended that quality be the highest priority in making this management decision.

In making recommendations for future research and development it was important to consider conclusions from other researchers as well as those of the current project. It has been suggested that the media has greater longevity, which although not captured in this study could also lead to further cost efficiencies. Assessment of the products over a longer time period, and using a wider range of plant species are the major recommendations for further research to ensure greater understanding as to the importance in choosing the right growing media to meet specific needs.

Item Type:Monograph (Project Report)
Funders:Horticulture Australia Limited, Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation, Flower Association of Queensland Inc, Highsun Express.
Corporate Creators:Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation (DEEDI), Horticulture Australia Limited
Projects:HAL Project FL08009: Quantifying differences between treated and untreated coir substrate.
Business groups:Horticulture and Forestry Science
Additional Information:© Horticulture Australia Limited. This project has been funded by HAL using the (industry) levy and matched funds from the Federal Government.
Keywords:Coir; substrate; growing media; coconut residue; cut flower; growth; yield; quality; flower production; treated coir; untreated coir; vase-life; cost-benefit; gerberas; plant health; salinity; stem length.
Subjects:Plant culture > Flowers and flower culture. Ornamental plants
Plant culture > Hydroponics. Soilless agriculture
Plant culture > Flowers and flower culture. Ornamental plants > Greenhouses and greenhouse culture
Live Archive:29 Aug 2011 03:03
Last Modified:03 Sep 2021 16:43

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