The Solan Experience

Posted in Agriculture
The Solan Experience

South Australian Potato Seed Grower Reaps The Benefits Of Polycarbonate Greenhouse Covers

The Solan Seed Company provides certified early generation potato seed to Australia’s potato seed growers. Based in Waikerie, South Australia, Solan produces potato seed for distribution throughout all of Australia’s growing regions and meets all planting time slots required by growers. The company manages the entire process from tissue culture to tuber storage and dispatches directly to approved growers.


Solan operated with polyethylene film stretched across a steel frame. Polyethylene film greenhouse covers have several disadvantages, including a low level of light transmission, poor biosecurity, high maintenance, and frequent replacement.

Poly-film covers experienced a reduced level of light penetration, the environment was slower to heat up in early winter, was more susceptible to environmental elements, and needed to be reskinned more frequently.

The failure of greenhouse film covers can cause serious crop damage. In such a case, biosecurity is the top concern for the business. In addition to potential crop losses, irrigation equipment damage and other delicate hardware damage are secondary concerns. Furthermore, the business environment has been under growing pressure in recent years, and it has been essential to include efficiency gains in the renovation effort, such as extending the growing season.

Biosecurity is the number one concern for the business. With SUNTUF Plus the frequency of fungicide applications has halved.

At the outset, Solan was looking for a robust greenhouse cover that provided good light penetration and was going to be easy to install to their existing framework. SUNTUF Plus ticked these boxes.

“Our concern was that since SUNTUF Plus is only a one-layer, solid sheet, we would no longer have the insulation provided by the double-skinned poly-film wall during the cold winter months. However, the SUNTUF Plus high light transmission certainly warms up the greenhouse early in the morning, and we are now seeing better plant performance earlier in the growing season.” Says Liteisha Lochert, Solan’s manager.

With SUNTUF Plus, natural light penetrates more effectively into the greenhouse

Within two seasons, four more tunnels were completed and retrofitted with SUNTUF Plus condensation control corrugated polycarbonate sheets. Altogether, the project consists of just over 1,500 m of SUNTUF Plus Greca Clear Embossed, and another 350 m₂ of SUNTUF Greca Clear.

Installing polycarbonate covers and moving to a drip irrigation system have demonstrated the greatest gains. These investments have resulted in increased plant robustness and improved tuber crop factors. Overall, the consistency in quality and size of tubers as well as yield have improved.  In turn, Solan has the ability to process similar orders with fewer tissue cultures, thereby accepting more orders from existing and new clients.

Other benefits include improved flowering, which shows plants are growing in optimal conditions, as well as more compact and disease-resistant plants.

While using the same volume of tissue cultures, yield has increased by 25 to 30%

A higher light transmission means plants do not reach for light as much as they did under poly-film. After reaching the end of their growth stage (senescence), the plants used to collapse quickly, exposing the pots’ tops. The Solan team found that with SUNTUF Plus greenhouse covers, plant stems were firmer, leaves were more persistent, and the plants remained upright longer as the plants grew into their senescence.

The installation of ridged polycarbonate sheeting has improved the seal of the facility against insects and allowed Solan to upgrade its cooling system to a wet wall system.

While all improvements to an agricultural system aim to increase output, some improvements provide greater benefits than others do. Since retrofitting the entire farm, Solan has produced two full seasons with pleasing production results, some expected and others an unexpected bonus.  As a whole, the retrofitting of the farm with SUNTUF Plus has brought operational benefits, improved biosecurity, reduced disease and improved yields.