Plant pest research leads to new research models

When it comes to introducing plant sap analysis into gardening, NovaCropControl is way ahead of the pack. This Dutch company has been visualizing the relationship between nutrition and plant health since 2008. On Wednesday, there was an open evening to show the latest research to a diverse audience.

There was so much interest in the open evening that a recording freeze was briefly considered.

It was held at the company’s test site and – not coincidentally – Loon op Zand. Co-founder Bart Froman grows soft fruit there, as NovaCropControl has access to a tunnel greenhouse Since 2018. This year, three climate chambers have also been added to the company’s office in Oisterwijk.

The NovaCropControl test site is located on Bart Froman’s farm, TerraVie.

Diverse audience, young speakers
The evening – a first for NovaCropControl – attracted around 100 people. While he was still light, they visited three projects and a show Bart gave in groups of about ten people. His partner Sjoerd Smits and other members of the growing team of succulents professionals were pleased to see that the evening attracted a very diverse crowd. It included fruit growers, ornamentals, trees and soft fruits. There were a few suppliers.

Besides Bart’s presentation, the evening was unusual as several young researchers from HAS University of Applied Sciences gave presentations. One suggested (credit to Sabine) that after about four years of research into the new facilities, they should be able to locate them. An idea that was quickly adopted by the rest of the team.

Guests were impressed by the irrigation formulas provided with 30 different feeding recipes.

The result: an evening in which current projects were discussed enthusiastically. Shourd made sure the speakers wouldn’t get thirsty, given the nice summer weather, and the researchers had a lot to say about the research.

Sjoerd Smits supplied the speakers with water.

New facilities
Bart talked about the start of test tunnels in Loon op Zand and the new climate chambers that NovaCropControl has started using this year. The three rooms have LED and HPS lighting and, unlike the previously available climate rooms, you can control their climates.

Over the years, he says, the NovaCropControl team has been asked regularly if they’d like to open an offshore testing site. They deliberately chose not to. “We want to learn more about the relationship between nutrition and plant resistance, not more travel,” Bart explains with a laugh.

Waste water is collected for each test tank separately.

Researchers can study all kinds of crops in Mini-Air Tunnel greenhouses, just as in climate chambers. A tunnel greenhouse presents challenges – it gets a little warmer than a glass greenhouse, and it’s hard to slow down the temperature drop during the night. This, however, is not an issue in climate rooms.

Each bowl has its own feeding recipe.

Each test is run at least three times. This is a requirement for plant succulents professionals who have their own research agenda, as well as conduct third party research. For the latter, research should be about plant resilience. “This could relate to crop protection. But last year, for example, we tested an oxygen system. We used plant sap analysis to determine its effect on plant resistance.”

There is a network of hoses feeding each separate experiment.

New search method
The company’s own research from a few years ago has focused on five things: whiteflies, aphids, downy mildew, Phytophthora, and botrytis. The focus this year is on aphids, downy mildew, and Phytophthora. Remarkably, researchers have regularly indicated that they should take a step back in their research. It was because their research methods were sometimes not perfect.

Plant succulents specialists can check results if they differ greatly when a particular technique is used, even if it is used elsewhere. Studies of powdery mildew in tomatoes and the relationship between nitrates and aphid susceptibility, have led to the production of new research methods.

It was a beautiful summer evening.

We will publish more on the research discussed.

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