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20.03.2019
Dirk Röse
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Dra­ma­tic rise in the demand for gro­wing media

Strong growth until 2050

What are the future pro­s­pec­ts for the sub­stra­te indus­try? Chris Blok from Wagenin­gen Uni­ver­si­ty & Rese­arch, Green­house Hor­ti­cul­tu­re hazards a fore­cast.

Chris Blok is rese­ar­cher in “Roo­ting Media and Plant Nut­ri­ti­on” at Wagenin­gen Uni­ver­si­ty in the Nether­lands. He has recent­ly been inves­ti­ga­ting deve­lop­ments in the inter­na­tio­nal sales mar­ket for gro­wing media, a stu­dy made pos­si­ble by the Inter­na­tio­nal Peat­land Socie­ty (IPS). He was also pre­pa­red to tell Klasmann-Deilmann his fore­cast for the peri­od up to 2050. We took this oppor­tu­ni­ty of put­ting a few ques­ti­ons to the expert and to Moritz Böcking, Mana­ging Direc­tor of Klasmann-Deilmann.

Ques­ti­on: Mr Blok, how will the demand for gro­wing media deve­lop?

Chris Blok: World­wi­de demand will rise dra­ma­ti­cal­ly over the next few deca­des and increa­se more than four­fold by the year 2050. An even grea­ter upsur­ge in rela­ti­ve demand is con­ceiva­ble for indi­vi­du­al gro­wing media, but this will be cur­bed by the limits on resour­ces avail­ab­le to the gro­wing media indus­try.

Ques­ti­on: Whe­re does this strong growth come from?

Chris Blok: The first fac­tor I would like to men­ti­on is the growth in the world popu­la­ti­on. We assu­me that the­re will be around ten bil­li­on peop­le in the year 2050, com­pa­red with the pre­sent figu­re of seven bil­li­on. All the­se peop­le have to be fed. Com­mer­ci­al hor­ti­cul­tu­re will the­re­fo­re have an increa­singly important role to play, and this also inclu­des the pro­du­cers of gro­wing media.

At the same time, glo­bal pro­spe­ri­ty will increa­se. Alt­hough by no means ever­yo­ne will be able to achie­ve a Wes­tern European stan­dard of living, the­re will nevertheless be a far grea­ter num­ber of peop­le who live in rela­ti­ve pro­spe­ri­ty. This will dri­ve the demand for a healt­hy diet that inclu­des fruit and vege­ta­bles. The­re will also be gro­wing demand for orna­men­tal plants, not only to make our living envi­ron­ment more attrac­tive, but also to make our cities clea­ner. Com­mer­ci­al hor­ti­cul­tu­re and the gro­wing media indus­try will obvious­ly be invol­ved in the­se deve­lop­ments.

Ques­ti­on: Whe­re will this increa­sing demand take place?

Chris Blok: We will see a sharp upswing all over the world, with demand for gro­wing media more than doub­ling, even in high­ly deve­lo­ped regi­ons such as Euro­pe. By far the hig­hest per­cen­ta­ge increa­se will be in Asia and in Afri­ca, with Asia even over­ta­king Euro­pe as the lar­gest sales mar­ket, whe­re­as in abso­lu­te figu­res, Afri­ca will con­ti­nue to lag far behind.

Ques­ti­on: What role will peat play in this sce­n­a­rio?

Chris Blok: Demand for peat as a raw mate­ri­al for the pro­duc­tion of gro­wing media can more than dou­ble. The poten­ti­al could actual­ly be far hig­her, but the avai­la­bi­li­ty of peat will reach its limits wit­hin the fore­see­ab­le future: the­re is no ade­qua­te infra­st­ruc­tu­re to exploit most of the enor­mous resour­ces, or the­se resour­ces are sub­ject to strict envi­ron­men­tal con­trols.

Ques­ti­on: How will the trend for alter­na­ti­ve raw mate­ri­als deve­lop during that same peri­od?

Chris Blok: The impor­t­an­ce of alter­na­ti­ve raw mate­ri­als will increa­se drasti­cal­ly in view of the rising demand for gro­wing media. I expect to see increa­ses of more than seven hund­red per cent for coco pro­duc­ts, wood fibres and bark. But once again, the avai­la­bi­li­ty of the­se resour­ces will deter­mi­ne the limit for what could theo­re­ti­cal­ly be even grea­ter growth.

Ques­ti­on: Is the­re any room for inno­va­tions in this sce­n­a­rio?

Chris Blok: Inno­va­tions are a firm com­po­nent of this fore­cast. Tho­se raw mate­ri­als for the pro­duc­tion of gro­wing media which are pro­ving suc­cess­ful right now will by no means be suf­fi­ci­ent to cover demand in 2050. Inno­va­ti­ve raw mate­ri­als, substrates and gro­wing sys­tems will have to make up for an annu­al defi­cit of more than for­ty mil­li­on cubic metres of raw mate­ri­als or gro­wing media. That is an incredi­b­ly high quan­ti­ty. The sub­stra­te indus­try is faced with a tru­ly gigan­tic chal­len­ge in that respect – but at the same time, this situa­ti­on will also open up real oppor­tu­nities.

Ques­ti­on: What con­clu­si­ons have you drawn per­so­nal­ly from your stu­dy?

Chris Blok: In view of the limi­ted raw mate­ri­als, com­mer­ci­al hor­ti­cul­tu­re should make more effort to deve­lop gro­wing sys­tems that can cope with far less gro­wing media or even none at all. “Hydro­po­nics” – the cul­ti­va­ti­on of plants with roots in water with dis­sol­ved nut­ri­ents – is alrea­dy very effi­ci­ent as far as space, water and nut­ri­ent requi­re­ments are con­cer­ned. I am also clo­se­ly fol­lo­wing pro­jec­ts such as spha­gnum far­ming that focus on har­ve­s­ting peat mos­ses rather than peat pro­duc­tion. And, of cour­se, the­re is also enor­mous poten­ti­al when it comes to recy­cling gro­wing media.

Ques­ti­on: Mr Böcking, such future sce­n­a­ri­os are natu­ral­ly of immense impor­t­an­ce to Klasmann-Deilmann. Are you sur­pri­sed at this out­look?

Moritz Böcking: This out­look is inde­ed high­ly posi­ti­ve and not just for Klasmann-Deilmann. Any indus­try is hap­py to hear a fore­cast that pre­dic­ts strong growth. We are ulti­mate­ly not sur­pri­sed at the­se good pro­s­pec­ts, as we our­sel­ves are record­ing con­ti­nuous growth. What we do find sur­pri­sing, howe­ver, is the scope of the fore­cast mar­ket deve­lop­ment, which expec­ts demand to mul­ti­ply many times over. That at least does not tal­ly with our expe­ri­ence in the inter­na­tio­nal com­mer­ci­al hor­ti­cul­tu­re busi­ness so far.

Ques­ti­on: In Chris Blok’s stu­dy, the use of peat plays a cen­tral role for future deve­lop­ment.

Moritz Böcking: Chris Blok stres­ses that his stu­dy refers to the raw mate­ri­als that are actual­ly avail­ab­le and estab­lishes that the­se resour­ces will defi­ni­te­ly not be capa­ble of satis­fy­ing demand on their own. Klasmann-Deilmann has always taken the poli­ti­cal and soci­al view­points into account and the­se actors will cer­tain­ly not accept an increa­se in the use of peat to the extent pre­dic­ted in the stu­dy. When the­se fac­tors are inclu­ded, the gap bet­ween sup­ply and demand beco­mes even more dra­ma­tic.

Ques­ti­on: How will Klasmann-Deilmann respond to this situa­ti­on?

Moritz Böcking: Klasmann-Deilmann will dedi­ca­te gre­at effort to con­ti­nuing the suc­cess­ful cour­se we have alrea­dy taken. We will expand our pro­duc­tion capa­ci­ties for alter­na­ti­ve raw mate­ri­als, look for addi­tio­nal oppor­tu­nities for using new raw mate­ri­als in our gro­wing media and will pro­mo­te the deve­lop­ment of pro­pa­ga­ti­on sys­tems which use redu­ced quan­ti­ties of sub­stra­te or no substrates at all – exac­t­ly as fore­cast in the stu­dy. I should the­re­fo­re like to say a sin­ce­re thank you to Chris Blok for his inspi­ring remarks, which are not only high­ly encou­ra­ging, but which also pose cen­tral ques­ti­ons to which we will find ans­wers.

Chris Blok: I should like to thank Klasmann-Deilmann for this frank dia­lo­gue and also for the resul­ting ques­ti­ons that offer nume­rous star­ting points for new rese­arch pro­jec­ts.

Thank you Mr Böcking. Thank you Mr Blok, we wish you every suc­cess for the future and hope that your stu­dy recei­ves the atten­ti­on it deser­ves.

 

No fur­ther use of this arti­cle allo­wed unless joint­ly agreed with Chris Blok and Klasmann-Deilmann.