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05SoftfruithasbeenacorecropfordecadesforBoxfordSuffolkFarms.Ofits50haofsoftfruitproduction8haofstrawberriesand10haofraspberriesarenowgrowninsubstratesunderprotectionatitsNewHomeFarmsitenearColchesterinEssex.Coirinbagshasbeenthesubstrateofchoiceforthreetofouryears.BeforethatwehadgrowninsomepeatbutmuchofouracreagewasstilllargelyinsoilsaysfarmmanagerPeterKemp.Wehavebeenmovingcropsoutofthegroundgraduallyoverthatperiodbecauseofthelevelsofsoil-bornediseasewhichhadbuiltupovertime.GrowersmaybeunderpressuretoreducetheiruseofpeatbuttherearesoundculturalreasonstoswitchtocoirGrowersmaybeunderpressuretoreducetheiruseofpeatbuttherearesoundculturalreasonstoswitchtocoirhesays.Coirismorefreeowinganditsstructureismorestable.Wendgrowthismoreuniformthaninpeatandwehavebettercontrolovertheplantsnutrition.PeatwillstaywetterforlongerwhichIthinkincreasestheriskofdiseaseandobviouslywewanttokeepplantlossestoaminimum.Thecompanyexpandedtheareaunderprotectionin2014withthepurchaseofaglasshouseunitonasiteadjoiningNewHomeFarmwhichhasgivenitextrasecurityofproductionatthebeginningandtheendoftheseason.WhenitswindypolytunnelsareatriskofstructuraldamagesaysPeter.Andtheresanoticeablybettermoreuniformclimateintheglasshousetooeventhoughwedontheatityet.Insteadofoptingforaset-upwithbagshoweverPeterchosetoinvestinpotsforhanginggutterssourcingsomeoftheloosecoirheneededfromDutchPlantinviaAgriitheUKdistributor.Productioninpotsseemedtobethenextstepforwardforushesays.Theactualpotsthemselvesshouldlast10yearswhereasbagshavetobedisposedofeverytwoorthreeyears.Wehavefoundthepotsjustmoreconvenientandeasiertohandletoo.MostDutchstrawberrygrowershavemovedglasshouseproductionovertocoirinpotsbecausecomparedtocompressedcoirinbagsthesubstrateisreadytouse.ItalsomakesitfeasibleforthosegrowerswhowanttoplantannuallytostartwithfreshsubstrateeachtimesaysDutchPlantinaccountmanagerWimRoosen.Bagsarestillbettersuitedfortunnel-growncropsheaddsbecausethebagsplasticwrapprotectsthefruitfromthehumidconditionsofthecoirandsominimisestheriskofBotrytis.FreshstartforstrawberriesincoirAgriiEastSpring2015JournalHorticultureCoirsuppliedinbulkisproducedatthecompanysIndianmanufacturingplantbutbufferedandwashedtoanECoflessthan0.3measuredbythe11.5dilutionmethodatitssiteintheNetherlands.SomegrowersaskforahighercontentofbrewhichgivesaddedstructuretothesubstratesaysWim.Thatincreasesair-lledporosityandimprovesthedistributionofwaterwhichfollowsthesebressorootsnevergettoowetatthebottomofthepot.Itisimportantthoughthatpotsarecarefullyandevenlylledotherwisewaterdistributionwillnotbeasuniformasitcanbe.TheemphasisonqualityisjustoneofthereasonswhywearepleasedtobeadistributorforDutchPlantinDutchPlantinisinfacttheworldslargestproducerofcoirsubstratesanditsfactoriesinIndiaandtheNetherlandsworktoRHPqualitymarkstandards.Thismeansthatthewholemanufacturingchainstartingwiththesourceoftherawmaterialisinspectedandapprovedandthatthesubstrateisguaranteedtobeofaconsistentquality.TheemphasisonqualityisjustoneofthereasonswhywearepleasedtobeadistributorforDutchPlantinsaysAgriifruitagronomistKevinWorkman.TogetherwithWimAgriisagronomyteamcanhelpgrowersdecideonwhichcoirproductbestsuitstheirset-uporsuggestwhereimprovementscouldbemade.MeanwhilePetersaysthefarmsrstexperiencewithpotproductionofstrawberriesincoirislikelytoseeitmovemoreofitscropovertothissystem.Futureplansmayalsoincluderecyclingtherun-off.Wecontinuetolookatthisoptionandhowitmaytintoourinfrastructureheadds.