P7 – Performance standard
Project P7: Performance standard for amateur products – is focusing on designing a performance standard for amateur products.
The Task Force agreed that there was a need for a performance standard. This needs to be developed and the ownership, methodology of verification and enforcement needs to be determined.
Project Lead: Tim Briercliffe (Horticultural Trades Association)
There has been strong support, across the industry, for the development of a performance standard that provides retailers and consumers with confidence that the products they are buying will work for them. A working group has been formed to further the development of this standard and the key points agreed so far are set out below.
Firstly, it was agreed that the aim of the exercise is to develop a performance standard and monitoring mechanism that ensures the product is fit for purpose, and that this should be limited to multi-purpose compost (not specialist mixes) in the first instance.
A number of tests will be identified to make the appropriate assessments:
- Plant performance – It is proposed that performance testing be based around growing tomato plants from plug stage to first truss. These would be grown within a controlled environment with set temperature, lighting and growing conditions. Performance would be compared to a control grown in 100% peat (specified mix) and assessed for:
- Foliar fresh and dry weights
- Height/width/width (volume)
- Visual score – based on photos from a ranging trial.
- The group needs to consider how it can accommodate other plants within the tests to demonstrate reliability of the results across plant types.
- Seed germination – Chinese cabbage would be used to test seed germination using the existing European Committee for Standardisation (CEN) method.
- Weeds – A test will be developed by the Growing Media Association based on monitoring weed growth in 1 litre / half seed tray growing media.
- Contaminants – Tests for glass, metal and stones will be included and in accordance with BSI PAS 100 (Publically Available Standard 100: Producing quality compost).
- Physical and chemical properties – It was agreed by the group that this information is of lesser importance than performance and that it would be difficult to set thresholds for pH, electrical conductivity, nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium), etc. Nonetheless this information should be recorded because as evidence grows it may become possible to do that in the future.
- Stability – To test to see whether nitrogen has been lost from bagged product testing should take place on product from the point of retail sale.
In terms of how the standard will be implemented and policed there are a couple of options under discussion:
- Manufacturers could have responsibility for carrying out the tests themselves with random third party inspection and research station testing.
- All testing could be conducted by an independent third party approved contractor.
Clearly there will be a significant cost difference between these two options but cost is an important element to address in the development of this project. It will be no good if a system is developed which is then too expensive for the industry to use.