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Main research question/goal

In the horticultural sector, the almost exclusive use of peat as a growing substrate is receiving more and more critical attention from society as this is a fossil-based raw material. For open field ornamental cultivation, a carbon source and soil improver with a narrow base is present: they currently use mainly farm manure. Ornamental growers are also now required to change their crop protection: they have to use IPM (integrated pest management), such as by using commercially available micro-organisms. This 4-year BI-O-PTIMAL@WORK project is developing an integrated route to enable ornamental growers to produce high-quality products that are cultivated in a more environmentally-friendly and low-residue way. It is therefore about a transition away from peat and manure, and at the same time making better use of available beneficial micro-organisms. It is important that intensive open collaboration is set up throughout the value chain.


Research approach

This approach requires cooperation, which is a must because soil improvers and peat substitutes must be tailored to the specific floriculture, both in terms of the product itself as well as product information. We interview growers to learn about their experiences with micro-organisms (their "tacit" knowledge) and share this information as feedback to the producers of new substrates. We are committed to a total approach, which covers aspects of substrate quality, soil quality and nutrient efficiency, biocontrol and cultivation adaptation. Finally, we examine whether managment residues and composts can increase the efficiency of commercially available microorganisms by acting as a colonization environment.


During previous projects, these researchers have already demonstrated that compost and management residues can be good peat substitutes for container cultivation and good soil improvers for outdoor open-field applications. The potential of a specific microbiology that enhances plant growth and increases disease resistance has also been explored before. The logical step in this project is therefore to achieve a demonstrable sustainability in floriculture through an optimized microbiology of the cultivation substrate or soil, in which the peat has been replaced by local and sustainable compost and locally available green management residues (e.g. sod from heathlands). We expect this to lead to a lower use of plant protection products and fewer losses of nutrients. By proactively responding to the increasingly stringent sustainability requirements, the project contributes to a high-quality floricultural product that stands strong in the international market. Costs due to disease, ineffective treatments and excessive pesticide or fertilizer use may be reduced, which would generate economic added value. We plan to give explanatory lectures for growers about our optimized cultivation and fertilization methods via the Bio-optimal Telen network, an innovative advice service for peat substitutes, biocontrol products and optimized fertilization recommendations.

Funding provider(s)
Vlaamse Overheid - Agentschap Ondernemen

External partner(s)
KULeuven - Campus Geel
PCS - Proefcentrum voor de Sierteelt
Effective start/end date1/10/1830/09/22

ID: 6382392