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.

It’s clear that selecting the right growing medium for you depends on a range of factors and considerations. What these articles also demonstrate is the increasing science applied to soilless growing mediums, some of which include organic amendments such as peat and bark for the production of greenhouse crops. What these articles do not include is a discussion on the carbon footprint of growing media and the impact they will have on the coming carbon tax, which is the focus of an article in our next issue.

With rising anxiety about how the world’s growing population is going to feed itself, we also canvas food security issues with an urgent call for action by the Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change (CSACC). While Australia is largely self-sufficient in food production, it punches above its weight as a source for food traded worldwide. According to the CSIRO, which plays a significant role delivering science that assists developing nations with food security, research and technical innovation in agriculture needs to focus on raising productivity through more efficient use of water, land, nutrient and energy resources and reducing the greenhouse emissions intensity of food production. These are challenges not just for Australian agriculture, but global challenges. Meeting the current and future global demand for food will need all relevant technologies to be brought to bear and in this respect, hydroponics has the potential to contribute, according to Deputy Director of CSIRO’s Sustainable Agriculture Flagship, Dr Peter Carberry.

It seems the decline in funding for IPM research and development is not just an Australian problem. Grower levies in the UK vegetable industry are being diverted into marketing, promotion and political lobbying, and pest management turned over to the pesticide companies, which will not provide the answers to the questions that consumers have regarding the safety of their food. Marilyn Steiner and Stephen Goodwin report on the latest gathering of biocontrol experts at the International Organisation for Biological Control (IOBC) workshop held in England, and it’s no surprise that there is still a heavy reliance on pesticide use in many countries, using protocols that mostly undermine and sideline IPM programs which might better deal with an established pest. Honestly folks, future generations are going to look back in horror as they grapple with our legacy. We could be doing a lot better with a bit more support from government agencies.

Steven Carruthers

PH&G January/February 2012 – Issue 122