P1902290: AHDB Research Call - Non-Chemical Growth Growth Control in Protected Pot and Bedding Plants (Part of the Bedding & Pot Plant Centre)

P1902290: AHDB Research Call: Non-Chemical Growth Control in Protected Pot and Bedding Plants


One of the key priorities of the AHDB Horticultural strategy is to generate innovative R&D and KE to improve the productivity, resilience and sustainability of horticultural production systems, as well as working with industry to improve access to existing markets. The bedding and pot plant sector is worth approximately £297 million in the UK (Oxford Economics figure, 2018). However, there is fierce competition from the Netherlands, who account for 74% of all UK ornamental imports. They are also world leaders in terms of the agronomy of protected growing.

In response to the industry wanting to reduce its reliance on plant growth regulators (PGRs), the AHDB commissioned work using deficit irrigation to control stem height in poinsettias, which, with the help of sensors, demonstrated that it is possible to control growth. It is important to optimise this approach, and potentially extend it to other crops, and include other approaches as well, so that the industry has a suite of options to use.

Purpose of the call

AHDB is looking to fund work to bring existing useful methods and innovation for controlling growth without the use of PGR products, into the protected pot and bedding plant sectors.

Call objectives

The work must include the below: 

  1. Controlled-moisture growing in substrates. The work should:

    1. Integrate technologies to enable growers to install a complete ‘system’ for monitoring and automatic deficit irrigation.

    2. Take into account bench and floor-grown plants, as well as different types of capillary matting, and uniformity of water delivery.

    3. Include shelf life trials to follow any agronomic trials to measure performance

    4. Review suitable crops which may benefit from water deficit irrigation (WDI), to see if principles of WDI can be extended to other crops beyond poinsettia. We hope to bring the poinsettia element of the WDI work to a conclusion at the end of the first year of the project.

  2. Improving or adapting the use of existing technology and agronomy, and bringing in innovation where appropriate to protected pot and bedding plant growing. If it addresses a gap in industry knowledge or skills, this could include anything from physical or cultural treatments to LED work, however please note that AHDB will not fund LED lighting recipe development, or look at mainstream applications of general PAR lighting (manufacturers/suppliers have already engaged with growers in this area).

  3. Good engagement with industry. Knowledge exchange should be integral to the work.

We expect the proposed work to be led by a research organisation or partnership with a proven track record of high quality knowledge exchange and research activities in the UK.

Research Partnership Approach

Joint proposals from two or more contractors are acceptable and encouraged where there is added value. AHDB may, if it is deemed desirable, request applicants to form a consortium to work together. There should be one organisation designated as the lead organisation for the Research Partnership which is responsible for project management and delivery. The group size should be manageable. Prospective partnerships can comprise both research institutes and industrial partners, be multi-disciplinary, and draw on a range of research experience for a number of crops. Therefore, the group does not necessarily need to have a history of working together previously. Further, priority will be given to the applicants with in-kind and or cash funding from the industry.

Related information

Previous and current work related to the call. It is not an exhaustive list but includes: 


Project title

Year ended

PC 074

Bedding plants: Effect of temperature on growth, development and flowering


PC 092

Chrysanthemums: The combined influence of supplementary lighting and difference in temperature (DIF) on winter quality of commercially grown varieties


PC 071d

Poinsettia: Investigation of the impact of temperature and light during the phase of growth and an assessment of the interaction between marketing stage and shelf-life


HNS 097

Improving the control and efficiency of water use in container-grown Hardy Ornamental Nursery Stock


PC 206

Maximising energy saving in the production of protected ornamentals using temperature integration: the conflict with humidity control and CO2 enrichment


PC 205

Alstroemeria: Towards understanding and optimising productivity, quality and scheduling of Alstroemeria under UK production conditions through monitoring and analysing data from grower holdings


HNS 097b

Enhancing the quality of hardy nursery stock and sustainability of the industry through water-saving techniques


CP 085

Securing skills and expertise in crop light responses for UK protected horticulture, with specific reference to exploitation of LED technology


CP 139

Commercial review of lighting systems for UK horticulture


CP 125

Understanding crop and pest responses to LED lighting to maximise horticultural crop quality and reduce the use of PGRs


PO 021a

New Poinsettia genetics and controlled soil moisture growing


PO 021b

New Poinsettia genetics and controlled soil moisture growing


CP 164

SPECTRA: Whole plant spectral response models


Budget and duration

AHDB has set aside a maximum total budget of £140,000 over four years for these activities. The earliest date of commencement for work funded as a result of this call will be 01 June 2019.

Completion and submission of the application form

Applicants should complete an AHDB Research and KE Application Form – Full Proposal Large, referring to the guidance notes to aid completion. 

Applications are made on the basis of the AHDB Research Funding Agreement and any organisation receiving funding shall comply with the terms and conditions specified in the RFA. AHDB will not be held responsible for any expenses or losses incurred by applicants in the preparation of an application(s).

Completed application forms should be submitted to research@ahdb.org.uk no later than 12:00 noon on 20 March 2019.

Proposed timings for application and project delivery

Full Proposal deadline

12:00 noon on 20 March 2019

There is no Concept or Expressions of Interest phase.

Make an electronic submission to research@ahdb.org.uk 

Receipt will be the time of receiving email.

Applications reviewed

Submissions will be evaluated internally by AHDB and with Industry Representatives 

Project commences

By 1 June 2019 2019

Project completion

By 28 February 2023

If you have specific questions relating to this call, please email research@ahdb.org.uk 

As part of the open tender process, AHDB cannot discuss specific programme details prior to proposal submission. All Questions & Answers will be published.

Assessment of Proposals

All submitted proposals will be reviewed by cross-sector research representatives within AHDB, and the respective Research and Knowledge Exchange Committees and industry Panels (AHDB Horticulture). If required, external peer reviewers may be sought. The selection will be an open and fair competition according to AHDB’s procurement policy, which complies with EU state aid rules. The standard assessment criteria will be used.