In winter, I sometimes water only once a day. They key is to maintain a stable EC and to regularly control the weight of the slabs to prevent excess watering. In the summer, the irrigation strategy with Prestige slabs is managed more traditionally

Julien Helies

An excess-free winter 

After a first trial in 2016, Julien Helies was sold on the power of the Grodan Prestige slab. Tomato grower in Brittany, Helies uses the Prestige slab to control excess vegetative growth in winter.

In 2009, after five years of experience as a Cultivation Manager, Julien Helies and his wife took the helm of a production site near Brest, in Loperhet, France. The site has 2 ha of soilless greenhouses, of which it produces 1.5 ha of strawberries and 5,000 m2 of tomatoes. Both crops are commercialised by the Savéol growers cooperative. In 2013, they decided to expand their site to 2 ha of strawberries and 1.3 ha of tomatoes. The couple cultivates four varieties of tomatoes: Pigeon Heart, bulk cherry, cocktail and a bulk flavour. At Savéol, tomato segmentation takes place on each production site. It’s the rule. This means, as growers, we need to be able to adapt our cultivation strategy according to the specific needs of each variety. In this respect, substrate quality also plays an important role. As Cultivation Manager, Julien Helies already used Grodan stone wool substrates. Today, 100% of his tomato production is cultivated on Grodan Prestige slabs. He ran trials on this slab solution for the first time in 2016 and was quickly sold. The solution met his demands, adapting well to Brittany’s tricky climate conditions.

Growers irrigate less with Prestige slabs.

“In the French department of Finistère, crops can easily be too vegetative in the winter season. In these conditions, watering too much is a real risk. That’s the advantage of Prestige slabs. Thanks to its rapid resaturation capacity, growers can reduce watering, letting the top layers dry down between two irrigations”, explains Julien Helies. “In winter, I sometimes water only once a day. They key is to maintain a stable EC and to regularly control the weight of the slabs to prevent excess watering. In the summer, the irrigation strategy with Prestige slabs is managed more traditionally”, adds Julien Helies. The structure of the prestige slab ensures fast rooting immediately after planting. This year, marked by a gloomy spring with low light levels, Julien observed less plant activity, especially in regards to root system development. He noticed that the roots developed throughout the substrate more slowly. In this type of situation, the Prestige slabs are ideal because the plant’s roots penetrate quickly through to the bottom layer and continue a uniform root development as they grow horizontally throughout the entire substrate, even into to the top layers. Root development continues, creating a strong, effective root system from the crop’s start to finish.

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