The market for organically grown pot herbs continues to expand, and with it the demand for greater production capacity. Whereas, years ago, the cultivation of organically grown herbs was restricted mainly to 100 % organic growers in the classical sense, today conventional producers of vegetable and ornamental plants are also going organic. Thanks to EU regulations on organic production, switching to organic cultivation is relatively straightforward, without the need for conversion phases as required by well-known organic growers’ associations such as ‘Bioland’ and ‘Demeter’.
As far back as the late 1980s, Klasmann-Deilmann began (in cooperation with growers who were pioneering the ecological approach at that time) to develop substrates which, in their entirety, satisfied the ecological requirements. As demand grew steadily – at first, chiefly that for vegetable young plants and now also the requirement for organically cultivated potted herbs – the company expanded its development and production of organic substrates to create a new line of business in its own right.
All significant developments involving organic substrates have resulted from Klasmann-Deilmann’s close collaboration with the research community, advisory specialists and commercial growers:
– The company’s development of its own high-quality green-residue compost made 30 % peat substitution possible for the first time in both propagation substrates and herb substrates. This compost does not only fulfil RAL criteria but also meets the Dutch RHP standard and the EU organic standard.
– The first compost made with biodynamic compost preparations enabled Demeter producers to switch to ‘industrial produced substrates’.
– Klasmann-Deilmann developed fertilising solutions for all crops, including special recipes for growing cabbages in summer.
– The establishment of plant-based nitrogen fertilisers came in response to the BSE crisis.
– At an early stage, Klasmann-Deilmann used peat substitutes with authentic organic status, such as wood fibres from PEFC-certified sources.
– In conjunction with Demeter, a fermented wood fibre was developed that allows up to 50 % of the peat to be substituted in organic substrates designed for the production of press pots.
– Klasmann-Deilmann introduced fully fertilized organic herb substrates; these enable producers without any previous experience to easily get into organic production.
– Organic liquid feeding began with the establishment of the OPF fertiliser in Germany by the ‘Research Station Heidelberg’; this fertiliser has now become the standard liquid fertiliser for many organic herb growers.
– Klasmann-Deilmann developed special substrate blends for parsley, designed to suppress Pythium root disease.
– Foundational research into the biology of Sciara – and strategies for combating this pest – led to extensive knowledge of risk factors and to effective containment strategies, including the use of hypoapsis mites in raw-material storage facilities.
– Klasmann-Deilmann has, since 2008, been certified to the EN DIN ISO 14001:2005 environmental standard – the first substrate manufacturer to achieve this. This entails an environmental-management system designed for sustainability, with comprehensive measures on environmental protection and a responsible approach to resources.
– Research work is currently underway on ‘Enhancing the suppressive effect of substrates upon pathogens’ and on ‘Improving nutrient reserves of substrates’, aimed at enabling producers to reduce the costs of liquid feeding.
– Klasmann-Deilmann now offers a range of more than ten approved types of fertiliser for organic substrates, satisfying the requirements of customers and organic associations alike. New fertilisers on the market are subject to ongoing monitoring and testing.
Both composting and the entire production process for organic substrates are monitored by the ‘Grünstempel’ certification organisation. The entire production process is covered according to the following defined criteria:
– No production of conventional substrates containing pesticides in mixing facilities at which organic substrates are manufactured;
– No use of chemical disinfectants or wood preservatives in storage boxes;
– Discarding of greater “changeover” quantities (including the disposal of larger numbers of intermediate batches for purification purposes) during phases when mixing facilities switch from producing conventional to organic substrates;
– All raw materials and fertilisers used for organic substrates are organically certified, GM-free and pollutant-tested;
– Clear separation and labelling of conventional and “organic” raw materials and fertilisers;
– All recipes, specifications and customer lists to be disclosed to the ‘Grünstempel’ certification organisation;
– Composting, green-residue collection facilities and substrate production subject to annual audit by the ‘Grünstempel’ certification organisation;
– Inclusion in lists of permitted inputs maintained by the FiBL and the infoXgen database.
Alongside the health aspect, consumers expect organically grown potted herbs and vegetables – just like any other product – to be a reliable and trustworthy product, manufactured on a sustainable basis involving the careful use of resources. Klasmann-Deilmann regards organic bio substrates as an integral part of the overall product, and as such they need to be fully integrated into the company’s value system.