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Posted: Nov 19, 2013
Making greenhouses greener
(Nanowerk News) Using greenhouses to extend growing seasons and improve yields has had a notable impact on fresh food production in Europe and the rest of the world. Researchers have now identified several approaches to decrease the environmental impact of greenhouse agriculture without affecting productivity.
While greenhouses greatly improve the output of fresh produce, they may carry increased costs when compared to outdoor farming practices. For example, the use of fossil fuels for heating is responsible for both increased environmental impact and higher costs of production.
The EU-funded 'Efficient use of input in protected horticulture' (EUPHOROS) project was established to develop a greenhouse system that does not rely on fossil fuels. The project also aimed to develop a toolbox to reduce inputs and waste outputs, to optimise the growing environment and to monitor the modern greenhouse.The toolbox is freely available on the project web-site.
Researchers tested a number of solutions to reduce the heating energy needs of greenhouses. Several glass coatings were tested, one of which could halve heating requirements while maintaining similar productivity. Another coating improved the productivity of rose bushes in heated greenhouses, and was developed into a commercial product.
A new design for unheated greenhouses with improved ventilation was tested, showing a 40 % increase in production compared to ordinary greenhouses. Other approaches included the reuse of irrigation water and fertilisers, which resulted in 25 % reduction in water use and up to 40 % fertiliser savings.
EUPHOROS was a broad and comprehensive approach aimed at reducing the environmental impact of growing crops in greenhouses. Many of the proposed solutions have demonstrated that environmentally friendly agriculture can be economically viable.