Developing substrates

The issue of intensive research and development of new substrates for Czech horticulture had previously been studied, besides growers in horticultural companies, mainly by the Ornamental Horticulture Research Institute in Průhonice, as well as by leading schools of horticulture and other organisations.

Thanks to all the recent changes in the society and funding options this nowadays depends only on the interest, operational capacities of the growers, or on the actual substrates. On one hand this is a good situation, because results are not based solely on ideal laboratory conditions but also on real-life situations with all the potential flaws of everyday operation. On the other hand this result is not complex but rather partial.

The aim is to achieve positive results in the shortest time possible, without proper testing in different conditions; there is no co-ordination with other institutes, therefore efficiency is not very high and the testing is performed randomly. The found results are usually not officially published and thus made publicly available.

Growers’ approach

Growers are not very keen on venturing into the research of new substrates on their own. This is quite reasonable if they are happy with the existing substrate that fits their particular technology, or they may not be fully informed about other new possibilities by their existing supplier. However, new growing technologies, new plant species and new varieties require entirely new approaches. Not just in terms of technology and equipment, but in terms of the whole growing process. The change relates to growing pots, fertilizers, as well as substrates.

Development of new substrates at AGRO CS
Every year, AGRO CS pays great attention to research and development. We invest a lot in R&D because we don’t just want to copy other people’s work. We are closely co-operating with the Silva Tarouca Institute for Ornamental Horticulture in Průhonice, with the Faculty of Horticulture of Mendel University Brno, as well as with leading growers all over the country. We also run our own testing facility.

However, not all the findings from this research can be used immediately for the horticultural practice and the everyday business. Not because of the unreal character of the solution sought, but often due to growers’ conservative approach and their opposition to any changes. The growers would also have to invest in the new type of substrate, which seems inadequate at first sight, because the profitability arguments are not clear enough.

Substantial changes in recipes
Upon the results of our internal research carried out over the past few years, many substantial changes were made to the range of used materials. The less-structured types of peat, which were extracted by milling and contained a lot of dust particles, were replaced by high quality block peat. Changes were made also to the size fractions during peat sorting. We found the best and most reliable suppliers of the individual components. All the raw materials thus meet the strict RAL or RHP criteria. As a rule, we test the declared quality traits in an accredited laboratory, and meticulously inspect already completed products prior to their shipping. Great changes happened also in the incorporation of fertilizers in the prepared substrates. As a standard, we use full powdered fertilizers which are easily mixed, even in minimum amounts – for sowing substrates this is about 0.5 – 0.7 kg per cubic metre. CRF (controlled release) fertilizers are becoming more and more popular. We use materials based on coconut as well as on other products such as pumice.

A new technological line

The change of used materials catalyzed also necessary investments into new technological equipment for making modern substrates. We recently installed a new mixing line by Slootweg, and a press for the big bales. We also operate Volumeter, a unique instrument for determining the volume of the prepared substrates. It provides the highest accuracy in the field and is a standard equipment of just a few leaders in peat processing.

Conclusion
The professional substrates produced by Czech corporation AGRO CS have become a popular brand of choice for most domestic growers, and now represent an essential base for producing quality plants. The success issues from many years of meticulous work in research and development of new and better recipes. Who remembers what the AGRO CS Profi line was like several years ago is now surprised that there are no differences in quality between them and suppliers from Western Europe. Many people regret that they did not know about it earlier, especially about the fact that our standard delivery time of both loose and packaged products (70 litre bags 3000 or big bales) is only three days!

Ing. Jiří Valtera, AGRO CS
Zahradnictví 9/2014

Testing of AGRO CS substrates on trial plots at Faculty of Horticulture in Lednice:

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