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The Greenhouse Effect: crop and climate solutions

17 Nov 2016


Two major phenomena are forcing changes in the way we produce food. Firstly, our burgeoning world population and secondly the vagaries of climate change. A third element is the loss of rich top soils around the globe. Food shortages have become a growing concern and everywhere prices continue to rise dangerously, given the uncertain circumstances.

For many producers the solution has been to go under cover. Once the prerogative of more technologically advanced agricultural environments, greenhouses are being increasingly installed to incorporate a variety of crops in many different areas of farming or even private gardens. A greenhouse design can range from the conventional transparent glasshouse to tunnels made with PVC pipe hoops and plastic or net covering that can run continuously for long distances across undulating landscapes, providing shade, warmth and protection.
A short history of the greenhouse

The greenhouse concept of growing plants in controlled areas is not new. In fact, it has existed since Roman times. The Roman emperor Tiberius liked to eat a cucumber-like vegetable daily, and so Roman gardeners used artificial methods (similar to the greenhouse system) to keep it growing all year round, available for his table every day of the year. The cucumbers were first planted in wheeled carts which were put in the sun daily, then taken inside to keep them warm at night. Then they were stored under frames or in buildings glazed with either oiled cloth or sheets of selenite (lapis specularis) to keep the temperature under control.

Greenhouse ben
efits

While demand and weather are a persuasive combination, farmers are discovering that going greenhouse has substantial benefits beyond just protecting plant growth in all weathers and ensuring more successful yields. They are discovering that initial expenditure is offset by the long-term benefits in which future profits are substantially more assured than relying on conventional methods.

  • Greenhouses are climate-controlled and can be significantly warmer or cooler than the external temperature, protecting crops in all weather conditions.    
  • Greenhouse crops are usually grown hydroponically – without the use of soil, which allows for more enrichment to the roots than might be available in outdoor crop rows.   
  • Indoor crops have the advantage of having fewer pests to contend with – and also no choking weed problems which often bedevil farmers. 
  • Protected by greenhouses, crops can be grown all year round.   
  • Under the greenhouse system, there is far less need for water and fertilizer. 
  • Hot-house farming uses one-tenth of the land that typical farming uses, therefore valuable farm land can be put to other uses.    
  • In the controlled greenhouse conditions, there is an elimination of the need for almost all pesticides – instead beneficial bugs like ladybugs can be used to attack the plant-eating bugs that are harmful to the crop.   
  • Greenhouse growing is certainly a method that will help to combat the world's food shortage problems.
  • Greenhouses can be put up anywhere and can grow nutritious crops all over the world.    
  • There are even different greenhouse technologies to meet the needs of different climate zones.   
  • Greenhouses are completely enclosed, and this allows them to sustain the highest food safety standards.   
  • Retailers love the hot-house growing methods because the supply is very stable. 
  • Hydroponics, a popular in-house growing method, is a system that is easy to learn. It doesn’t require prior knowledge and impressive results can be quickly achieved.  
  • Food produced under greenhouse conditions is often of a better quality, and fruits and vegetables have been shown to have good nutritional value.
  • Crops are harvested when they are ready to be used, which means that produce is always fresh with its nutritional properties intact.

Drip irrigation and greenhouse crops 

Greenhouse crops are grown in highly controlled environments that allow for manipulation of temperature, light, humidity, and CO2 levels. This also creates the perfect setting for the use of drip irrigation. Drip irrigation delivers water and nutrients to the plants in correct amounts, and is then recycled. A great variety of urban spaces, until now considered unsuitable for growing food, can now be used utilising a range of new growing methods and the convenience of drip irrigation as well. Hot house growing opens up scope for entrepreneurial enterprise, offering both income and valuable contribution to the food supply chain.

At Netafim we believe in covering up

At Netafim we are dedicated to alleviating water shortage through constant technological innovation. So whether you are farming the traditional way or branching into new experiments with greenhouse farming, your crops will still need some form of water supply. We feel the combination of temperature management, greater pest control and water savings are making greenhouse methods ever more popular and successful. From crop advice to installation to system maintenance, we are the people you should be talking to. Water, inside and out, is what we do.  

Find out more about our products at: www.netafim.co.za


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