Continental growers slow to adopt alternative fuels

Few Continental growers are seeking alternative fuel sources such as biomass and biogas, despite government incentives to promote them, according to Agency for Renewable Resources adviser Dr Hermann Hansen.

Hansen, who took part in the seminar programme at the IPM Fair in Essen, Germany, told HW: “There are savings in the long term, but the complexity and the start-up costs put many people off.” However, fuel costs had had an impact on at least one exhibitor’s offering. The stand of lone Irish exhibitor Pat Fitzgerald Nurseries consisted entirely of exotic foliage plants. It included several new introductions, one of which won an award. Managing director Pat Fitzgerald explained: “Our customers are looking for plants that will grow in lower temperatures. These require far less heat over winter than conventional bedding plants.” As well as higher energy costs, the strength of the euro against the pound has led to a sharp rise in the price of imported plants (HW, 17 January). This ought to make British exports to the Continent cheaper, but so far few UK growers have benefited. “We’re doing fairly high-value, niche products, so changes in the exchange rate don’t have a huge impact,” said Guernsey Clematis chairman Raymond Evison. According to sundries manufacturer Tyne Moulds & Machinery marketing manager Alan Bradley: “The unit cost of our items is a few cents. Our big expense is haulage.” Organisers say visitor numbers at this year’s show topped 60,000, up more than 2,000 on 2007.

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