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Achieving environmentally sustainable growing media for soilless plant cultivation systems – a review

Barrett, G. E., Alexander, P. D., Robinson, J. S. and Bragg, N. C. (2016) Achieving environmentally sustainable growing media for soilless plant cultivation systems – a review. Scientia Horticulturae, 212. pp. 220-234. ISSN 0304-4238

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1016/j.scienta.2016.09.030


Soilless cultivation is recognized globally for its ability to support efficient and intensive plant production. While production systems vary, most utilize a porous substrate or growing medium for plant provision of water and nutrients. Until relatively recently, the main drivers for the selection of the component materials in growing media were largely based on performance and economic considerations. However, increasing concern over the environmental impacts of some commonly used materials, has led researchers to identify and assess more environmentally sound alternatives. There has been an understandable focus on renewable materials from agricultural, industrial and municipal waste streams; while many of these show promise at an experimental level, few have been taken up on a significant scale. To ensure continued growth and sustainable development of soilless cultivation, it is vital that effective and environmentally sustainable materials for growing media are identified. Here we describe the factors influencing material selection, and review the most commonly used organic materials in relation to these. We summarise some of the renewable, primary and waste stream materials that have been investigated to date, highlighting the benefits and challenges associated with their uptake. In response to the need for researchers to better identify promising new materials, we present an evidence-based argument for a more consistent approach to characterising growing media and for a clearer understanding of the practical and economic realities of modern soilless cultivation systems.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Science > School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science > Earth Systems Science
Science > School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science > Department of Geography and Environmental Science
ID Code:68633


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