Soft fruits are increasingly grown in tunnels

Soft fruits such as strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries are increasingly grown in tunnels. The advantages of tunnel growing include a longer growing season and an earlier harvest which is of a higher quality and timed precisely by the grower.

Containerised growing has many advantages over growing in soil where the roots are susceptible to diseases and weeds. Most importantly soilless growing allows growth management by controlling irrigation and fertigation which also saves the use of water and nutrients. Options in soilless growing are growing in pots, Grow Sacks or Grow Boards.

A tunnel, where cultivation is soilless, maybe erected almost anywhere for example closer to the consumer or near a clean water source. Soilless growing also allows for the plants to be lifted on table top systems to allow a more ergonomic working position.

Grower has full control over irrigation and nutrient levels

To achieve optimal growth, the plant needs enough nutrients. Balanced growth is achieved by controlling the EC level and the nitrogen potassium ratio in different stages of plant growth. Soilless growing in tunnels allows the observation of the moisture level of the substrate with various techniques and machinery. The same applies to controlling the nutrient levels.

Best growing media for soft fruits

The characteristics of the substrate dictates which kind of irrigation and fertigation techniques are used. As the substrates are compiled from different raw materials, we can design the substrate to fulfil the needs of the growing environment and techniques.

4 substrate requirements for soft fruits

1. Enough water

The substrate needs to hold enough water and allow it to distribute evenly from top to bottom enabling the roots to use the whole volume of the substrate

2. Permeable and loose

The growing media must have high air capacity i.e. be permeable and loose enough for root growth.

3. Structural Stability

High structural stability is required for the substrate to last through the whole cultivation period.

4. Drainage

Drainage is needed to allow overwatering or flushing when needed

4 reasons why the optimal substrate for soft fruits has Sphagnum peat

1.  Prevents sudden drought

Sphagnum peat gives the substrate the ability to hold water, thus preventing sudden drought.

2. Holds nutrients

The high cation exchange capacity of peat means the substrate can hold nutrients.

3. Good pH buffer

The naturally high pH and EC levels of coco sometimes make pure coco a troublesome substrate for irrigation and fertigation. Limed peat is a good pH buffer and allows the irrigation also with acidic water.

4. One tank for the stock solution

The fertigation is easy when growing in a peat based substrate. Only one tank is needed for the stock solution because limed peat based substrates have enough calcium and magnesium for plant growth so there is no need to add calcium nitrate into the fertigation plan.