The key to effective fertigation: Clean lines

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Intrahorti states that a common and obstinate problem for growers is contamination of fertigation lines due to a biofilm on the inner walls. A biofilm is a nutrient source for bacteria and other harmful microorganisms which harm the crops. Intrahorti claims to be the only hydrogen peroxide-based biocide with official EU approval that both disinfects and cleans the fertigation lines.

The company adds that good qualitative irrigation water is fundamental for optimal production and healthy crops. However, the quality of the irrigation water only remains good from start to end if the lines are clean. Fertilizers and organic supplements in the irrigation water adhere together with bacteria to the walls, forming a biofilm. This becomes the perfect breeding ground for all kinds of microorganisms, including fungi and yeasts.

Claudia Weick (technical sales manager), Mayra Nagtzaam (R&D Project Manager Agriculture), Daisy Roijackers (Manager Biosecurity)

Microorganisms hide and multiply in this biofilm, creating organic contamination in the lines. Once such pathogens are present in the irrigation system, they can quickly infect the crops. “The irrigation system becomes a highway for pathogens,” warns Claudia Weick of Intrahorti, the developer and producer of Intra Hydropure.

Such a biofilm is not visible in the closed lines in the greenhouse. Therefore, Daisy Roijackers of Intrahorti advises growers to open a pipe and run a finger along the inner wall. The slimy layer that remains on the finger is the biofilm.

The biofilm not only poses serious risks of contamination and infection, but it also causes the fertigation water to be different at the beginning of the lines compared to the end. The biofilm consumes some of the nutrients intended for the crop. The further along the lines, the lower the nutrient concentration.

Secondly, it changes the pH of the fertigation water. “A biofilm significantly affects the pH,” says Mayra Nagtzaam. “All growers would like to have a specific pH of their irrigation water, sometimes when biofilm is present the pH on the end of the line may differ from the water in the beginning of the line. The cleaner the pipeline, the more consistent the quality of the irrigation water from start to end.”

Disinfection and Cleaning
“Intra Hydropure has proven itself in practice for many years in greenhouses and fields with fertigation systems. It is the global standard in greenhouse horticulture for both disinfection and cleaning of irrigation systems,” says Weick. “Disinfection of the passing water alone is not sufficient,”continues Nagtzaam. “If biofilm remains in the line, it can cause recontamination shortly after treatment. Intra Hydropure also thoroughly cleans the lines. his cleaning removes the biofilm and eliminates all the pathogens up to the last dripper.”

Intrahorti conducts research on fertigation systems and has practical experience with their disinfection and cleaning products. In their own laboratory, they have a so-called biofilm-generator that simulates horticulture in practice. In transparent tubes, you can observe what happens inside the lines and the effect of water contamination with bacteria and other microorganisms. “We can simulate many practical situations,” says Roijackers. For example, tests show that chlorine is not effective. “Chlorine does disinfect, but only kills the top layer of the biofilm. It does not clean down to the pipe surface. After a short time, recontamination occurs from the biofilm.” Weick adds: “After using Intra Hydropure, the system starts clean again. For example, missing a few days of disinfection is less serious if the system is already clean.”

The biofilm-generator

New Approval
Intra Hydropure is not a new product. It has been widely used in greenhouse horticulture, according to Weick. Additionally, more and more outdoor crop growers, such as tree nurseries, fruit growers, and arable farmers, are using the product. What is new is its approval. It is the first product to meet the new requirements for EU registration of biocides. Previously, each country had its own register, but there were significant differences between them. The EU has chosen for a new and stricter registration system, known as the EU-BPR (Biocidal Products Regulation) by the EU agency ECHA. The company team says: “Intra Hydropure has its own EU-BPR registration for use in greenhouse horticulture. It is the only hydrogen peroxide-based biocide with EU approval for cleaning and disinfecting fertigation systems.”

“The fact that Intra Hydropure is the first and so far the only biocide with this approval demonstrates Intrahorti’s focus on leading innovation with knowledge and research. Until recently, biocide manufacturers claimed various effects, such as ‘bactericidal’ and ‘biofilm removing,’ without thorough research or meeting EU approval. The consequences for users and the environment were not well studied. But that has changed. “Nowadays, everything must be thoroughly researched and calculated,” says Roijackers. “Only when it is truly safe, effective, and future-proof, is it approved. At Intrahorti, we place great value on obtaining the right registrations. This significantly adds to the trust in a product.”

Free Analyses
Intrahorti not only sells products to growers, but the company also provides free system-wide water quality measurements and analyzing water samples for bacteria and fungi. This service is free for growers who use Intrahorti products. “There is a lot of interest in this service,” says Weick. This fall, construction will start on a new factory with office, research lab and storage, which according to the company will be significantly larger than the current facility.

For more information:
Voltaweg 4
5466 AZ
Veghel, the Netherlands
T +31 (0)413 354 105
M +31 6 120 36082

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