Coir-free growing media has the potential to work just as well as coir for crops of strawberries, as long as irrigation and nutrition are both optimised.
As part of a research project to develop responsibly sourced growing-media blends as alternatives to peat, a model is being built to help predict the performance of any given blend of growing media in horticulture. Extensive trialling is then undertaken to validate the predictions.
This will help to ensure that growers can have confidence in the growing media's commercial performance in order to facilitate the rapid uptake of new blends.
While strawberry growers have already replaced peat with coir to a large extent, there is still concern about the industry's reliance on a single raw material, so coir-reduced and coir-free blends are being tested as part of the research.
Trials show no significant difference in total yield or percentage class 1 fruit for bare-root strawberry plants in the coir-reduced or coir-free product blends.
There was a slight reduction in yield in the trial blends compared to the coir control sample. However, the research team at ADAS, which is running the trials, believes that with optimised irrigation and nutrition there is the potential for coir-free products to work just as well as coir.
The strawberry trials are taking place using the Malling Centenary variety, planted into troughs in nine commercially available growing media treatments - one nursery coir control, four coir-reduced products and four coir-free products.
A series of events about project CP 138 is planned for 2017. For further details, visit horticulture.ahdb.org.uk/events.
For details on all AHDB Horticulture activity, see horticulture.ahdb.org.uk