What are the benefits of switching to coir?

Part article taken from the Horticulture Week, written by Gavin McEwan

In the Netherlands, several strawberry growers are switching to pot-grown strawberries on tabletops, for which UK-based Botanicoir now supplies pre-formed coir discs of customisable dimensions, compressed flat andwith an optional pre-drilled hole for wetting.

Small and light, the discs are easy and quick to put in the pots. They expand easily on wetting to create a growing medium of optimum porosity. One early adopter, Ton Groot of Hoogwoud near Alkmaar, says he can have all 12,500 pots filled within a day of taking delivery.

"Before the discs, the warehouse was full of loose cocopeat and the whole team was wheeling, filling and inserting. Now we just put in a disk as we walk past,” says Groot. Once the plant is established "you can clearly see it's got an even spread of roots", he adds. "The substrate is coarser with a more consistent quality compared to what we've used before.”

Nearby grower Hans Bakker was among the first Dutch growers to switch to the discs. "I've had the strawberries in the same coir for two seasons now and we're going to buy new discs again next year because they've been so successful,” he says. "Even though I'm quite generous with the water, the coir maintains its integrity and doesn't become mushy. Any superfluous water is drained very quickly."

Botanicoir managing director Kalum Balasuriya says: "We're pleased with the success the Botanicoir discs are having in the Netherlands. In the UK we can supply discs with customised dimension and volumes and we offer a range of mixes, both washed­ only and washed and buffered.”


For glasshouse growers, Botanicoir is also adding a new substrate growbag to its range, Dry XD, which offers freer drainage for crops such as tomatoes that prefer a drier growing environment with a high air fill porosity.

Flavourfresh production manager Andy Roe has been trialling the new substrate and has found that the tomato plants are visibly more generative, leading to a better­ yielding, higher-quality and more flavoursome product.

"We started the 5,000sq m trial in December, which is a real test because that is notoriously a difficult time for establishment and growth due to short daylight hours, but the tomatoes are thriving,” he says.

The Dry XD substrate is being tested at the Merseyside grower against Botanicoir's Breeze and Dry bags. These take a little more management than the Dry XD, which is very forgiving if the plants are overwatered, Roe has found.

"Some coco fibres can sit too wet overnight for tomatoes, but the free-draining properties of Dry XD allow the coir to remain drier overnight;' he explains. 'I've overwatered before and the coir has corrected itself in 12 hours.”

A substrate that is too wet will yield tomatoes with poorer flavour, reduced shelf life, quality issues and a ower yield, he points out. "When testing the fruit, we look at sugar levels, kilograms per square metre, cracking of the skin and whether the soil moisture is balanced, because fluctuations in soil moisture can increase the chances of blossom end rot.”  In these, he says, "initial results are extremely promising".

As with many of Botanicoir's products, Dry XD comes in a dehydrated block in a polythene growbag, making it light and easy to transport. When wetted, the block expands from 20mm to 80mm deep in hours.


21 April 2017

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