Resilience is a growing trend, not only in the greenhouse horticulture sector but also in society as a whole. A survey on parents’ attitudes towards their children playing outdoors was published in the Dutch news media recently. It seems that parents – especially fathers – are increasingly reluctant to allow their children to engage in risky outdoor play. “It toughens you up” is what I used to hear whenever I came home with a graze, a bump on my head or a bleeding knee. These days, Dutch children only get to climb in indoor playgrounds, protected by nets and rubber floor tiles. Do they build up enough mental and physical resilience this way, or are we pampering them too much?
This question is also something we in the greenhouse horticulture sector should ask ourselves. Have we been pampering our plants too much in recent decades? Quite apart from the fact that a hundred years ago there was a deliberate and widespread economic move to start growing many different fruiting vegetables, pot plants and cut flowers in greenhouses. But back to resilience. Necessitated by the loss of chemical fertilisers and encouraged by the growing emphasis on the environment and sustainability, we are increasingly seeking the “recipe” for strong, resilient plants in nature itself. It’s a logical yet challenging search. If plants have survived for centuries in their natural environment, then the key must surely lie in that very same living environment.
“The ‘recipe’ for a resilient crop lies in nature itself.”
It is essential to remember that resilience is not the key that unlocks the problem but a mix of natural substances, beneficial organisms and extracts that together form the unique and complex number combination for a healthier and stronger crop. A crop that doesn’t give pests and diseases a chance to establish. That sounds all very nice and easy to achieve, but the reality is messier than that. After all, we’re a long way away from a straightforward recipe for every grower and every crop – and that’s what is needed, understandably.
This still requires a lot of research, practical trials and product development work. A more structured approach is essential if we are to get to grips with the efficacy of biostimulants. Otherwise nobody will be able to see the wood for the trees any more.