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Greenhouse crop removal | All important crop rotation steps

Written by Martin Meuldijk | Last update: 21-6-2021

Greenhouse crop removal is the most labor-intensive and physical step in the crop rotation process. It is important to follow the correct steps in order to do the work as easily and quickly as possible. But what is the right process of crop rotation? In this article you will find a useful step-by-step plan and tips from our specialist to help you remove the crop during the crop rotation and to use the most suitable crop removal machines.

Good preparation for crop removal

Before we provide you the steps of crop rotation, there is one impact aspect that needs to be taken into account. Make sure you make the right preparations in advance. Order all the necessary products on time and, where needed, carry out maintenance on the machines and equipment you need during the crop rotation process. This way, you will not be faced with surprises.

Importance of thorough clean out of crops

It is critical to thoroughly clean a greenhouse between two crop cycles. On the one had, you will reduce the risk of carryover pest and pathogens. On the other hand, it will also contributes to the integrated pest management strategy during the new growing season. Crop rotation machines allow you to speed up the process of crop clean out.

Stop watering on time

Before you start with the steps of crop rotation, it is important to quit watering on time. In the Netherlands, growers generally stop watering about two days before the crop rotation starts. This ensures that the plant absorbs as much water as possible from the substrate mat. That makes the mats less heavy when you start removing them.  

The best way to shred a crop is when the plants contain as little water as possible, while still being 'fresh'. Therefore we advise you to start shredding 3 days after the last watering. To do so, first follow the steps below.

Products for crop removal

Greenhouse crop removal steps

For greenhouse plant removal and shredding the crop, one or more machines are often used. Therefore, it is very important that no iron gets in between the crop or on the soil fabric. If iron enters the machine, it can get damaged or even broken. So if you are removing the crop after the last yield, follow the process of crop rotation with these 10 steps: 
  1. Roll out the ground cover at the top. The easiest way to do this is to use the unwinder for transport mats. Make sure the ground cover is straight and tight between the pipes of the pipe rail system on the pad. Do not forget to keep an extra two meters of ground cover at the end of the path.
  2. Lower the plants to the correct working level.
  3. Cut the plant just above the substrate with large scissors.
  4. Bring the plants down with help of the pipe rail trolley. Place your hand on the crop wire and hold the hook from which you cut the rope. Work in the direction where the plant can fall down freely, so that the stem and substrate are in front of you. Meanwhile put the high wire hook in a box. These should not end up between the crop (this could may damage the machine).
  5. Place the plants in the middle of the fabric as much as possible. Make sure that organic matter is on the fabric. The less it sticks out, the less waste ends up lying on the ground. It may be a maximum of one meter wide. The fabric is 130 cm wide, so that means you have 15 cm on both sides. Do not press the crop between the pipe rail* and do not fold the crop at the end of the pad, but use the extra meters of fabric to lay the plants on top of it. Do not place the substrate mats on the fabric. They cannot be shredded.
  6. The substrate mats contain plugs that are connected to the dripping hose. Pull the plugs out of the block of the substrate mat. Leave the hoses attached to the irrigation hose, but pull the dripper off so that you can clean and disinfect them.
  7. Then you can attach the fabric to the crop shredder BioChopper and the crop can be shredded.
  8. After that remove the substrate mats. This can be done manually or mechanically using the Bio Hopper XL.
  9. If necessary remove the films in the paths.
  10. Finally, collect the last crop residues and dispose them in the waste container.
*Some growers choose not to throw the crop between the pipe rail, but under the gutter. The problem with this, however, is that the crop often gets stuck on the gutter, which makes it less easy to pull it out of the path.

Crop removal machines from Weterings Mechanisatie

In this video, the company Weterings Mechanisatie shows what products they have and produce themselves for crop removal, such as crop shredders and other machines to clear the greenhouse.

  • Video 

    In the video on the right, we show you how to remove the old crop during the crop rotation.

Video: Binding Machine Super Twister

Waste during plant removal

When following the steps of crop rotation, a lot of waste is generated. Keep this in mind and make sure you have enough waste containers available in advance. How quickly you can clear the crop depends on the waste logistics. Waiting for an empty container takes time and should therefore be avoided. The number of containers needed is calculated as follow:
  • A pad of 100 meters of tomatoes provides +/- 2 m3 of waste in two minutes;
  • At least one whole row must fit in a container, so with rows of 100 meters of tomatoes you need containers of at least 2,000 litres;
For this, it is useful to choose waste containers which can be emptied with a shovel or s forklift. This will work the quickest. Furthermore, a buffer container increases the speed and ensures a smooth logistics process.

Cleaning the gutters
After the crop and materials have been removed from the greenhouse, you can start cleaning and disinfecting the growing gutters, windows and other objects. Growing gutters can easily be cleaned with a high pressure cleaner. With the help of the Aquajet this is even easier, because this machine can drive into the paths.

Cleaning the greenhouse

When the greenhouse has been cleared, you can start cleaning the greenhouse.

Questions about removing the crop?

Do you have any questions about the crop rotation steps to remove the crop, or would you like custom-made advice? Please contact the account manager for your region, or ask your question using the form below.

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Martin MeuldijkAbout Martin Meuldijk

Martin Meuldijk has had more than 20 years of experience in the glass horticulture, nationally as well as internationally. Ever since 2016 he has been working at Royal Brinkman as a product specialist for the topics of Crop Rotation and Service Items. He likes to help growers to get the best results from their cultivation. His approach? ";Do what you say and say what you do: that is my motto. I attach great importance to always giving proper and honest advice."

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