What is driving industry tipping points from open field to hydroponics

I.J. Porter
Key international regulations including the Montreal and Kyoto Protocols, EU Directive 91/414, and the need for growers to manage greenhouse gas emissions particularly nitrous oxide, are major tipping points forcing high value horticultural industries globally to move production from soils in open fields to controlled soilless production practices in glasshouses or greenhouses. In particular, the impact of these regulations on key inputs used for crop production (pesticides, fumigants, nitrogen fertilizers) are major drivers changing future production practices as markets strive for clean and resource efficient methods to produce crops and food. These concerns, together with other market drivers (decreasing market windows, diminishing land, food quality regulations, energy efficiency audits, water conservation) are influencing the tipping point for a change from open field to soilless systems. As a consequence, new safer food production practices are being developed. These are producing higher yields from fewer inputs, having less environmental impact, using less land, making use of 'softer' chemicals and increasing resource use efficiency especially in terms of carbon, water and nutrients. In the well advanced countries adopting soilless production in Europe, accreditation of growers and alignment into cooperatives/companies who embrace these standards continues (EG. Flandria label). Additionally industries which were once based solely in soil, such as many high value horticultural crops including many vegetables, strawberry fruit and nursery production, are transitioning to soilless culture either outdoors or in protected environments. 'Clean and Green' now means striving for zero pesticide residues in food and proof that crop production practices have no harm to the ecosystem. For all the above reasons, controlled production systems in soilless systems are well positioned to grow in the future.
Porter, I.J. (2017). What is driving industry tipping points from open field to hydroponics. Acta Hortic. 1176, 129-136
DOI: 10.17660/ActaHortic.2017.1176.17
soilless culture, international regulations, chemical and non-chemical soil disinfestation, critical-use exemption, methyl bromide, Montreal Protocol

Acta Horticulturae