Taking and planting cuttings, root development, hardening off: each process has to be coordinated to ensure a high-quality final product that allows growers to produce strong and healthy plants at their facility. The secret of success with cuttings is to start with excellent material and maintain that level of quality at all stages.
Each phase of the process requires appropriate controls: extreme care when taking cuttings and planting them, good root development, hardening off and collaboration with the customer to ensure delivery in perfect condition. Taking cuttings is highly precise work where the perfectionist approach adopted by many of our employees pays dividends. The first step is to select healthy, vigorous shoots with no apparent defects. After selection, the employee must ensure that the vascular bundles are left intact when taking the cutting. Finally, uniformity is an important criterion.
The greenhouses at our two sites in Schaijk and Uden cover an area of 4 hectares, of which 1.5 hectares are equipped with a soil heating system. The temperature profile can be adjusted for each bed. A small area of the greenhouses is equipped with assimilation lighting; extended daylight using normal lighting is possible in a larger section. In the rooting greenhouse, the cuttings can be protected using film, temporary tunnels or permanent, high tunnels incorporating a water mist irrigation system. Our hardening-off greenhouse features diamond glass. These extensive facilities allow us to satisfy all customer requirements.
The wide range of different plants is immediately apparent in our greenhouses. Both in large and small quantities. Shrubs that can be easily grown from cuttings and the truly challenging plants. We do it all. Thanks to our versatility, we supply to the complete tree nursery sector, servicing the needs of both large and small growers. Our customer base includes companies that grow plants in fields, or in containers, and companies that transfer the plants to pots either very early or very late in the season. It also includes an increasing number of foreign growers. We freeze cuttings to manage our workload more effectively and improve our ability to react to customer requirements. Customer demand for cuttings can be split into three product groups: conifers, deciduous shrubs (including woody berry-producing shrubs) and evergreen shrubs.
Each individual plant species in this extensive range requires a specific approach for developing a healthy root system: a balanced combination of humidity, temperature and light. Fast-growing plants develop root systems in two weeks, as opposed to slow-growing plants, which sometimes require more than six months. The diamond glass in the hardening-off greenhouse provides higher light levels with a greater UV light component. Our customers have this to say about our approach to growing cuttings: the plants grow faster, require less time to recover after potting and are more resistant to direct sunlight. After hardening off, the plants are sent to the customer.
Controlling weeds during the growing process is an area of particular focus. We literally nip weeds in the bud by weeding every two weeks using our own design of weeding platform. As a result, we can almost guarantee a weed-free product. In the case of some varieties, particularly conifers, we store rooted cuttings in a freezer. When delivered, the cuttings all awaken from dormancy at the same time and start to grow at the same rate when exposed to light. The result is a fast growth spurt and a high degree of uniformity at the tree nursery. This approach also frees up space for the next crop at our facility.
The customer's requirements determine our approach to taking cuttings, root development and hardening off. Thanks to our production equipment, extensive facilities and large workforce with wide-ranging skills, we can react quickly and flexibly to any cultivation and delivery challenge. We do not use a standardised approach. The size of the cutting, tray size, type of soil, trimming height, fertilisers, delivery time and delivery method can all be specified individually. Delivery is always subject to agreement. We can deliver quickly or temporarily store batches if required. This flexibility allows us to respond appropriately to customers, regardless of whether they order large quantities or a small quantity of a new and promising variety.
We also release natural enemies of spider mites, aphids and fungus gnats into the tunnels. This cultivation system significantly reduces our use of chemical pesticides. Our MPS certification reflects these environmental measures. The registration procedures required for MPS-A certification give us exact information about our performance in terms of crop protection, energy usage, fertilisers and waste, and help us develop targeted improvement strategies. Furthermore, the uniform registration system allows environmental comparisons to similar companies. MPS, which used to be no more than an effective way of registering data and making comparisons, is increasingly becoming a strategic tool for us. Because the sectors that purchase from our customers set increasingly high tracking and tracing standards, MPS and our unique batch registration system have proved extremely valuable in helping customers demonstrate sustainability in the value chain. In addition, our ISO certification guarantees effective quality and improvement management. This combination of MPS and ISO certification is almost unique in the tree nursery sector.