Challenge: Determine if IZ’s zeolite-based NEREA® substrate has the potential to reduce labour, be more economically feasible while enhancing plant growth, due to a consistent nutrient supply, as a result of cation exchange capacity (CEC) -based pre-charge Solution: Blend the soil amendment into traditional media in varying amounts and measure seed germination and leaf and root growth Impact: Technological innovations are key to make the best use of valuable resources required to achieve optimal yield and quality for Ontario growers
Conventional media for growing crops in a greenhouse are commonly peat-based and require nutrients to be applied at each watering. In a commercial greenhouse, a blended media consisting of sphagnum peat moss, perlite, and lime, is used to contain the roots, moisture, and air for crop growth. These substrates typically have limited to no capacity to hold onto nutrients.
Zeolite is a mined mineral which carries a naturally high cation exchange capacity (CEC). Nutrients that are essential for plant growth are taken up through plant roots as charged particles, both cations and anions.
International Zeolite (IZ) has partnered with the University of Havana’s Foundation to introduce a novel zeolite-based product called NEREA® to the North American greenhouse industry. Of particular interest is the ability of NEREA® to adsorb charged particles. Verifying the assertion of this broader ability of NEREA® to hold all plant nutrients is especially important. Independent research needed to be performed to validate the claim that NEREA® can be a viable nutrient-rich substrate for greenhouse crops in peat-based growing media.
IZ reached out to Niagara College’s Horticultural & Environmental Sciences Innovation Centre (HESIC) team to work together to assess the performance of NEREA® as a provider of a short-term crop’s complete nutritional requirements. A small-scale trial was performed at the NC Teaching Greenhouse comparing germination and performance of Ocimum basilicum (basil) across a range of percentages of NEREA® blended with sphagnum peat moss.
Results showed that a blend of 25% NEREA® with 75% peat moss (by volume) outperformed all other treatments, including the control. Plant health, as observed via seed germination and growth in both leaves and roots, was highest in the 25% NEREA® blend. Media chemical properties such as pH, electrical conductivity (EC), and CEC, were also the most ideal for supporting plant growth in the 25% NEREA® blend, when compared with all other treatments (including control).
While the 25%:75% NEREA® and peat moss blend performed the best in this trial, it is not known whether a lower percentage of NEREA® would perform as well, better, or worse. Reducing the volume of NEREA® will reduce the final weight of the media blend down to more desirable levels for grower handling, as well as handling of the final potted plant at shipping. It is suggested that a research project examining the effect of lowering the NEREA® content in media on final weight and plant health be considered for future studies.
International Zeolite and Niagara College’s Horticultural & Environmental Sciences Innovation Centre (HESIC) have an ongoing agreement in place that provides priority and support for research projects in relationship to IZ’s proprietary grow system NEREA®, which will be carried out by HESIC.
This project is funded by the Government of Canada through the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario.
Visit Niagara College’s Horticultural & Environmental Sciences Innovation Centre page to learn more about its resources and capabilities.