New techniques could see big decrease in water use

Revolutionary irrigation techniques that reduce water consumption "20 or 30 times" could be just a few years away from commercial application, according to participants in a Horticulture LINK project.

Presenting their findings at the HTA water workshop held at EastGro last week, participants unveiled the progress that has already been made as well as some of the latest thinking on nursery irrigation, water treatment and recycling.

Lancaster University professor of plant science Bill Davies presented findings from the LINK project on enhancing the quality of hardy nursery stock and sustainability of the industry through novel water-saving techniques.

He said: "I don't think it is unreasonable to think we could achieve 20 or 30 times more efficiency with all of these technologies. I don't think it's that far away and the payback is surprisingly quick."

Davies demonstrated the use of rhizobacteria in limiting the effect of drought stress on growth.

The technology is immediately applicable but there are issues with developing patents, which need to be resolved before it is likely to be commercially available.

The four-year LINK project, jointly funded by Defra and the Horticultural Development Company with contributions from a number of industry players including five nurseries, comes to an end next month with an open day at Hillier Nurseries on 24 September.

Other highlights of the research include the use of simple gantry irrigation techniques, deficit irrigation to manage growth speed, pH regulation to manipulate growth and thermal-imaging cameras used to identify drought stress.

Hillier Nurseries hosted part of the project - using gantry irrigation and pin-jet bays it has experienced excellent results and is confident about the technology.

Hillier container production manager Dave Hooker has overseen the project on site and presented the findings to the workshop. He said: "I think it is a major step away from what the industry has been doing for years, by using a circular sprinkler system irrigating a square bed.

"The work done for the project has shown the payback time is less than people thought. It is not going to change overnight but there will be people thinking gantries are now viable options, and that's what I want to do in the future."

As well as providing an even coverage, the gantry can be used in conjunction with advanced scheduling techniques, including evaporation sensors piloted by East Malling Research (EMR).

EMR research scientist Olga Grant said: "Good scheduling not only reduces water use, it can also result in improved plant quality and uniformity. And scheduling can also be used to control plant growth, reducing the need for pruning."

HTA business development manager Tim Briercliffe said: "I think this is very exciting research, which could have a real impact."


Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Sign up now
Already registered?
Sign in

Read These Next

Trees and Shrubs - Planting benefits

Trees and Shrubs - Planting benefits

The message that health, the environment and business all benefit from trees is finally getting through, but are nurseries seeing an upturn? Sally Drury reports.

Arbutus

Arbutus

These evergreen trees and shrubs have decorative bark and can flower and fruit simultaneously, says Miranda Kimberley.

Four Oaks Trade Show 2018 - Product Solutions

Four Oaks Trade Show 2018 - Product Solutions

The latest products have all been designed to make growing more productive and to help sell more plants, says Sally Drury.


Opinion... Democracy is a hindrance to good place making

Opinion... Democracy is a hindrance to good place making

A farmer close by the small village of Green Hammerton in North Yorkshire is promoting his farm as a site for 3,000 new homes. It is slap-bang in the middle of the countryside at the mid-point between York and Harrogate.

Opinion... How to increase UK plant supply

Opinion... How to increase UK plant supply

Why don't UK growers produce more of the plants that the UK market demands?

Opinion... Co-operation is industry's best card

Opinion... Co-operation is industry's best card

What a great trade this is when one of us needs help. "The Container Revolution" co-operative exhibit at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show is a good example.


Follow us on:
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
  • Google +
Horticulture Jobs
More Horticulture Jobs

Horticulture Week Top 60 Ornamentals nurseries

See our exclusive RANKING of ornamentals nurseries by annual turnover plus the FULL REPORT AND ANALYSIS

Tim Edwards

Boningales Nursery chairman Tim Edwards on the business of ornamentals production
 

Read Tim Edwards

Pest & Disease Tracker bulletin 

The latest pest and disease alerts, how to treat them, plus EAMU updates, sent direct to your inbox.

Sign up here

Are you a landscape supplier?

Horticulture Week Landscape Project Leads

If so, you should be receiving our new service for Horticulture Week subscribers delivering landscape project leads from live, approved, planning applications across the UK.

Peter Seabrook

Inspiration and insight from travels around the horticultural world
 

Read more Peter Seabrook articles