b'HOW TO GET CHAMELEONSINTO YOUR COMMERCIAL GREENHOUSE?GREENHOUSE HORTICULTURE IN SPAIN: WELL ON ITS WAY TO SUSTAINABILITY. BY: JAN VAN DER BLOMP rotected horticulture is a highly profitable farming system, offering a major turnover per hectare and providing work for hundreds of thousands of people. Under plastic, crops produce yields that can never be reached in open air. Furthermore, the use of water and fertilizers can be optimised, and the greenhouse cover isolates the crop from insect and mite pests. Nevertheless, intensive horticulture suffers from a bad image with respect to environmental issues, frequently accused of contaminating and abusing water reserves. HIGHLY PROFITABLE AGRICULTURAL SYSTEMThe economic importance of protected horticulture becomes clear by observing the figures of the province of Almeria, Spain, where over 60% of the Spanish horticultural greenhouses are concentrated. Approximately 31,000 ha. are owned by 15,000 growers, organized in cooperatives and auctions that export over 70% of the harvest. This makes Almeria the most important sup-plier of greenhouse vegetables in Europe. Together, the growers account directly for 13% of the gross domestic product (GDP) of the province. The contribution of the total horticultural sector,Intensive horticulture in Almeria.including the supplying and commercializing industry, ascends to 40% of the GP of Almeria. This is an impressive figure, con-sidering that this agricultural system only covers 3.4% of thethe sector, a continuous effort is required to optimise each one provincial territory, permitting a major part of the province toof these factors. Below, a summarised overview is presented with be respected as, mostly protected, natural areas.respect to some of these key factors in horticulture.SUSTAINABILITY FOSSIL ENERGYIn most Mediterranean countries, the greenhouse industry isMediterranean plastic-houses are generally constructed in areas still young and has grown quickly after the first plastic-houseswith a maximum of solar radiation and favourable temperatures, were constructed in the last decades of the 20th century. Inallowing year-round production of crops, like tomato, sweet many places, this expansion initially occurred in an erratic way,pepper or cucumber, exclusively heated by the sun. In Almeria, neglecting basic environmental values in arid and sparsely pop- less than 5% of the greenhouses dispose of any additional heat-ulated landscapes. However, the enormous success of the sector,ing system. Thus, the use of fossil energy for the production is combined with the fact that little economical alternatives for thenegligible. Even when the energy needed for transport is taken population are available, has led to the awareness that intensiveinto account, the total energy requirements for the produc-horticulture needs to be safeguarded for the future. At the sametion and delivery of vegetables from Southern Spain to Central time, there has been an increased appreciation of the ecolog- Europe is far lower compared to the energy needs for products ical richness of the landscapes where this sector has mainlyfrom other important greenhouse areas, where continuous arti-developed: coastal areas, with the most suitable microclimate forficial heating of the crops is indispensable.horticulture, but also with a unique flora and fauna, providing aVery likely, there will be a gradual increase in the applica-vital role for bird migration. tion of artificial heating in greenhouses in the South of Spain. The technical sustainability of agricultural systems dependsThis may be perfectly in line with sustainability, since it will on the minimal use of basic resources, such as fossil energy,allow the optimisation of other basic resources, for instance water, fertilizers and pesticides, as well as on the complete recy- to significantly increase the harvest at low temperatures or to cling of residues. In order to guarantee a long-term survival ofavoid fungal diseases due to excessive humidity. At present, an 40IEUROPEAN SEEDIEUROPEAN-SEED.COM'