Investigating the potential risk for accumulation of cleansing products in closed soilless culture systems

E.A. van Os, C.C.M.M. Stijger, S.J. Breeuwsma
In the Netherlands recirculation of the nutrient solution is statutory required in soilless culture systems. The goal is to achieve a zero liquid discharge, it means no solution with fertilizers, pesticides and/or cleansing products are allowed to be discharged to surface or ground water or the sewage system. It also means that products added to the system should be taken up by the plants or broken down. The objectives of this research were to investigate i) if frequently used cleansing products accumulate in the nutrient solution and may harm growth of the plants, and ii) if the used concentrations of cleansing products were able to eliminate pathogens in the circulating nutrient solution. Gerbera was used as a pilot crop. The research was divided in four steps. As a first step growers and consultants were inquired (1) about the use of cleansing products additional to the traditional disinfection methods. It was followed by laboratory experiments (2) to test a few cleansing products in various concentrations against plant pathogens. A next step was a greenhouse experiment in which gerbera plants were infected with Fusarium oxysporum (3). Finally sampling at commercial farms (4) was performed to investigate if accumulation did really appear. The inquiry showed that nearly all growers were using, additional to UV or heat treatment for disinfection, cleansing products such as hydrogen peroxide, bleach, chlorine dioxide or ECA water. They were mainly used for cleaning of the pipework. From the laboratory experiments it appeared that the concentration to eliminate the pathogen was much higher as the concentration used to clean the pipe work. In the greenhouse experiment two cleansing products (hydrogen peroxide, chlorine dioxide) were added in five concentrations with two replicates and compared with a control. All treatments were infested with F. oxysporum, except for the control. During the short growing cycle there were no symptoms of F. oxysporum at the plants. However, it appeared that the higher the concentration of added cleansing products the worse the state of the plants, decreasing plant growth. Additionally, bleach showed high sodium concentrations, while the iron chelate was broken down by the hydrogen peroxide. Looking to the cleansing products at commercial farms hardly any accumulation could be measured. It was concluded that the low concentrations applied in commercial practice do not accumulate to toxic levels while a side effect of cleansing products against pathogens cannot be expected.
van Os, E.A., Stijger, C.C.M.M. and Breeuwsma, S.J. (2021). Investigating the potential risk for accumulation of cleansing products in closed soilless culture systems. Acta Hortic. 1321, 55-62
DOI: 10.17660/ActaHortic.2021.1321.8
gerbera, biofilm, zero liquid discharge, Fusarium oxysporum, bleach, hydrogen peroxide, chlorine dioxide

Acta Horticulturae