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3 Key Benefits of Substrate Farming

Better yields with less labor, pesticides, water, and fertilizer are just a few of the reasons growers today are considering substrate farming. As the AgTech world considers additional ways to grow more food with fewer inputs substrate farming has moved up on the list. Especially for soft fruit producers and backyard growers the way forward is growing in a substrate.

What Is A Substrate?

A substrate is a surface on which an organism is attached or grows. Soil is the universal substrate for growing plants, but the majority of substrate growers look to develop a better medium specific to their plants. Popular substrates growers are using today include sphagnum peat moss, bark, coir, perlite, and vermiculite. When you grow in soil, you don't know what you are getting with your soil. You run the risk of unwanted materials (bacteria, insects, weeds, disease spores) in your growing medium. Using a substrate like peat moss, which is sterilized after harvest eliminates the risk. Also, using a soilless mix gives growers more control over essential elements like drainage, airspace, and soil pH.

Better Yields

Plants grown in a substrate system tend to produce in a much higher density resulting in higher yields. There is less loss to disease, and the grower’s management decisions can make a difference in a much faster time frame.




Less Labor

Some examples in reducing labor cost for substrate farming can be quickly seen in strawberries and blueberries. Harvesting strawberries is backbreaking labor-intensive work. Many strawberry growers elevate their crops making harvest less labor intensive. Harvesting blueberries can sometimes feel more like a hunt than a harvest. Substrate blueberry growers can space their plants better making the harvest easier and quicker. Labor is a problem facing all growers today, and many feel substrate growing will help make mechanical harvest a reality for more growers.


Water Savings

Drip irrigation is often used in substrate growing. Proper irrigation setup provides active water management and the ability to capture the runoff water, measure it and reuse it. Growers get better water management while experiencing less cost for fertilizer too.


Increased management is needed to produce the crop yields we need for the future. Substrate farming in a controlled environment provides growers with a better opportunity to manage many aspects of their plants. For all of you looking to improve sustainability, and continually improve your growing practices while supplying the worlds best food supply substrate farming might be a great option for you.


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Richard Restuccia

Richard is a water management evangelist. He believes passionately in water efficiency and sees the financial and social benefits far too often to keep a secret. Richard is a spokesperson at industry events and on the Hill to provide direction and insight on landscape water management best practices. Richard puts his words into action through service on various boards and committees. He served on the Irrigation Association's Board of Directors and is a University of California Master Gardener. Richard also writes for other publications and is an award winning contributor to Lawn & Landscape Magazine. In 2014 his efforts were recognized with a “Leadership in Landscape” award. He has a great interest in the supply of clean water for people in developing countries and as an outdoorsman, spends his free time running, swimming and surfing.

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