Vegetables grown in Dutch greenhouses are primarily grown on substrate. This is an artificial growth medium, such as rock wool or coconut-fibre slabs, that serves as a nutrient medium for the plants in the greenhouse. We are discovering more and more that we can stimulate soil life in substrates in the same way as in soil. Soil life consists of organisms such as beneficial fungi and bacteria that live together in an ingenious subterranean ecosystem. If that system functions well, this promotes the growth and resilience of the plant. Growers therefore don’t need to use such large quantities of chemical and other crop protection agents.
Fungi help plants
You might not see much, but underground, around the roots of the plant, miniscule organisms such as fungi and bacteria are fighting over food. Besides the bad ones – pathogens – which can cause diseases, there are good organisms that work together in an ingenious ecosystem with the roots of the plant, providing the plant with nourishment and disease-resistant elements.
For instance, there are beneficial fungi that grow in step with the roots of the plant and give pathogenic fungi no opportunity to strike. Intruders are surrounded and killed off. Growers apply these kinds of beneficial fungi immediately after sowing or planting to ensure long-lasting protection for the crop.