From The Editor

Blog by Managing Editor Christine Brown-Paul

Global Outlook

For the first time in a decade, Dutch greenhouse acreage has declined by 2.4% to 4870 hectares, compared to about 4990 hectares in 2010 and 2011. According to figures from Statistics Netherland, greenhouse acreage had been steadily growing for over a decade. The number of glasshouse companies has also dropped, from 1205 in 2011, to 1131 last year. In 2000, there were 2511 active horticultural companies in the Netherlands. The data reveals a decline in tomato acreage, slightly down from 2012; however, there has been an increase in the production of vine and cherry tomatoes. Also down is pepper acreage, which has dropped by 50 hectares. While the production of green peppers is constant, and there has been a slight increase in yellow peppers, there is a decline in the production of red peppers. On the positive side of the ledger, there has been a slight increase in strawberry acreage to 290 hectares, which has been attributed to an increase in glass cultivation. The area under glass is now about equal to plastic tunnels. The overall decline in the Dutch horticulture sector can be attributed to the competitiveness of the Spanish industry, an increase in natural gas prices, and government policy to prohibit growers from building new greenhouses that use any fossil fuels by 2015.
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Canvassing the issue

This issue has a strong focus on growing media: a debate on the sustainability of rockwool and cocopeat, a discussion on the accumulation of precipitates in the rooting medium, and a round-up of the International Symposium on Growing Media and Soilless Cultivation held in Barcelona, Spain. The theme that runs across all three articles is the sustainability of the involved processes, resources, products and management practices. See More

Branding Hydroponicsl

For hydroponic growers, certified organic produce is a label too far away. Why? Because, according to the organic philosophy, food not grown in soil cannot be organic, even if no pesticides are used. The notion comes from the religious belief that soil itself is sacred. The organic philosophy draws on aspects of Rudolph Steiner’s 19th Century theory of anthroposophy that postulates the holistic development and interrelationship of soil and plants as a self-nourishing system without other inputs. Almost all organic certification authorities worldwide make it clear that production systems must be soil-based and hydroponics and aquaponics are not permitted. The Biological Farmers Association in Australia and some US States recognise the status of organic systems in the absence of soil.

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Future Industry Developments

As we celebrate our 20th Year Anniversary issue, I can’t help but reflect on how the industry has changed over the past two decades. Greenhouses have got bigger, growing systems have become more sophisticated, the climate more unpredictable and regulations ever more complex. Today, there are aspects of a grower’s job that would have been difficult to imagine back in the early 1990s. For example, could we have ever imagined controlling the climate inside the greenhouse to the zenith degree, or using natural predators to fight insect pests? In this milestone issue, I look back on the industry’s development over the past 20 years, the magazine’s contribution to its growth, and its future in the new digital age. See More

The Greatest Challenge

The pollies have got it all wrong. The greatest moral challenge of our lifetime is not climate change but global food security. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimates the world’s food requirements will double by 2050 due to population increases and higher living standards, at a time of accelerating urbanisation, land and water degradation and rising energy costs. Sharp rises in global food prices in 2008 and 2010 have demonstrated that supply is no longer meeting demand. More recently, food shortages and rising costs have seen the fall of two governments (Tunisia and Egypt), and political instability across many more countries. These types of upheavals already impact on Australia in the form of mass migrations and regional instability.

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Shock Funding Let Down

It’s a shock to learn that R&D funding has been declined for an exciting IPM program that promises to deliver significant economic and environmental benefits to consumers, growers and ecological systems. The IPM program has been investigating the implementation of a strategy to control Western Flower Thrips (WFT) and Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus (TSWV) in greenhouse capsicum crops and is on the cusp of delivering significant outcomes. Since WFT first arrived in Australia in 1993, it and TSWV have caused major economic problems in many vegetable crops around Australia. Capsicum growers particularly are increasingly unable to control this pest due to its resistance spectrum to available insecticides. See More

Natural Disaster Assistance

The summer floods in Queensland make them the nation’s worst natural disaster, causing an estimated $5.6 billion in damages, destroying critical infrastructure, displacing thousands of people from their homes and farms, and disrupting the nation’s food supply. This disaster was followed by flooding rains in Victoria, which continue to inundate homes and farms as a massive volume of water makes its way down the Murray River, Australia’s largest river system, to the Cooyong, a journey that will take many more weeks before reaching the sea. But it took Cyclone Anthony and Cyclone Yasi to make this Australian summer the worst on record for extreme weather events. The early morning hours of 2-3 February 2011 will be remembered as the night many Australians held their breath as the worst storm in living memory decimated homes, farms, crops and livelihoods, flattening greenhouses and growing systems from Bowen to the Atherton Tablelands. There are few Australians who do not know someone who has been affected by the devastating floods and back-to-back cyclones. See More

Working Holiday Makers

In this issue we follow the adventures of a young backpacker on the harvest trail. For working holiday makers (WHMs) it’s a great way to travel around Australia at your own pace and earn some money along the way, but it’s not always easy pickings as our young traveller soon discovered. See More

Idealistic Water Strategy

Australia is the most arid continent on Earth and second only to Antarctica as the driest. Add to that a degraded river system and future climate change scenarios, and Australian irrigators face serious challenges. See More

Hunt for Saboteur

The Queensland State Government has posted a $200,000 reward for information that leads to the conviction of the perpetrator(s) responsible for poisoning millions of seedlings in one of Australia’s most productive food bowls. Up to 7 million tomato, capsicum, melon and eggplant seedlings were poisoned in June 2010 when a herbicide was injected into the irrigation system shared by Bowen’s Supa Seedlings nursery and Donnelly’s farm, a hydroponic greenhouse tomato operation. It is the third time crops in the region have been poisoned.

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