In the context of growing concern about environmental and public health impacts, the European Union (EU) has led efforts to reduce the use of agricultural chemicals and promote more sustainable practices in the agricultural sector. One of the areas where this transition has been evident is in soil disinfection, which has historically involved the use of aggressive chemicals. However, the adoption of hydroponic agriculture on cocopeat fibre substrate has emerged as a promising alternative, offering a greener and more environmentally friendly option.
I. Reduction of agricultural chemicals in the EU
The EU has been a leading actor in the search for solutions to reduce dependence on plant protection products. Through stricter regulations and incentive programmes, it has sought to encourage the adoption of sustainable agricultural practices, minimising the risk of contamination and protecting biodiversity.
II. Soil disinfection in traditional agriculture
In traditional agriculture, soil disinfection has been a common practice to control pests and diseases. This usually involved the use of chemical fumigants and pesticides, which could leave toxic residues in the soil and negatively affect the health of the ecosystem.
III. Solarisation as an alternative to traditional disinfection
Solarisation is a technique that involves covering the crop surface with transparent plastic to increase soil temperature and eliminate pathogens and weeds. It is a more environmentally friendly alternative, although it can be more time-consuming and must be carried out under specific climatic conditions to achieve the required soil temperature patterns. This implies that production cycles must be adapted to perform solarisation in the months of July and August in the northern hemisphere, months where radiation is higher and ensures that the soil is kept above the temperature required for optimal disinfection. This disadvantage means that the production cycles of summer crops have to be shortened, which can be detrimental to the supply chain as markets are not supplied during the summer period.
VI. Cultivation on cocopeat fibre substrate: a sustainable alternative
Hydroponic farming is a technique that has become increasingly popular in the EU due to its sustainable and resource-efficient approach. Instead of growing in soil, this practice relies on the use of nutrient solutions and an inert growing medium, such as coconut fibre.
Advantages of coir as a substrate
Cocopeat fibre is a natural substrate derived from coconut husks that has become a preferred choice for hydroponic agriculture. Some of its key advantages include:
- Sustainability: coconpeat fibre is a by-product of the coconut industry, making it a sustainable and environmentally friendly option.
- Water and nutrient retention: this substrate has an exceptional capacity to retain water and nutrients, which allows a constant and balanced supply for the plants.
- Chemical reduction: by avoiding the use of soil, the need for agricultural chemicals is significantly reduced, thus reducing the presence of toxic residues in the environment.
- Pest and Disease Control: Hydroponic farming with cocopeat fibre can be more resistant to pests and diseases due to its inert nature and tighter control of the growing environment. This reduces reliance on pesticides and herbicides.
- Water and Space Saving
Hydroponic farming uses less water compared to traditional farming, as it recirculates nutrients. In addition, hydroponic systems can be vertical or in confined spaces, which increases efficiency in the use of space.
Conclusion The reduction of agricultural chemicals in the EU has prompted the search for sustainable and environmentally friendly alternatives. Hydroponic farming with cocopeat fibre substrate has proven to be a promising option for soil disinfection, reducing the negative impact on the environment and offering a more efficient way to grow food. With a continued focus on research and innovation, this practice has the potential to transform the agricultural sector towards a more sustainable and healthy future.