Soilless Substrate Science: Be a Part of the Next (R)evolution in Specialty Crops

Industry News

Horticulture is rooted in soilless culture, with ample opportunities for ever-evolving systems to better produce specialty crops while overcoming a diminishing availability of soil fumigants, increasing pest pressure, and the need for flexibility in a constantly changing world of new cultivars and production methods. Soilless culture, specifically using growing media (i.e. soilless substrates), provides an unprecedented opportunity to rethink how we produce nuts, small fruits, tree fruits, vegetables, leafy greens, pharmaceuticals, and hemp. The foundational science and knowledge used to produce containerized greenhouse and nursery crops over for the past half-century can inform future innovations while also incrementally improving existing ornamental production systems. 

The United States Department of Agriculture Specialty Crops Research Initiative has awarded a Planning Grant to a multi-disciplinary team of seven North American universities and federal laboratories, led by Dr. Jeb Fields at the Louisiana State University Agricultural Center. The goal of this Planning Grant is to reimagine and redefine Soilless Substrate Science to better meet the expanding range of crops and productions systems that are transitioning from traditional field soils into soilless substrates.  This goal will be accomplished through hosting a North American Soilless Substrate Summit to steer our research, pursue innovative ideas, and develop a national needs assessment for current and future specialty crop growers. We are seeking input from growers and growing media manufacturers/suppliers across the continent, representing multiple sectors and demographics, to identify needed innovations and constraints when producing specialty crops with soilless substrates, regardless of the system utilized. Together we will determine the needs, cost restraints, material availability, and overall sustainability to ensure successful paths forward for each crop sector and within emerging markets. We invite you to provide your input through participation in our online survey by visiting:

Please contact Jeb Fields (, Jim Owen (, Brian Jackson, James Altland or Loren Oki for more information and to become a partner in this endeavor. For projects updates and more current information, visit 

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