Plugs with Power

by Matt McClellan for Nursery Management

Quick Plug Growing Systems, based in the Netherlands, produces and sells hundreds of millions of plugs annually. After being acquired by Dümmen Orange in 2017, Quick Plug and Grow-Tech are working to increase the company’s international growth.

Quick Plug’s products provide substrate from tissue culture up to finished plants. The plugs themselves can be made from basic ingredients of peat, perlite or coco-coir. The exact balance between the three components depends on your crop, your preferences and the advice given by Quick Plug specialists.

We spoke with John van der Maarel, managing director with Quick Plug, about the plugs and how they can help growers.

What are the types of Quick Plug products available for nursery growers?
We have three main product lines. One is the Xcel plug. That is suited for a tray with flat cells, seed or dibbling hole for cuttings. We can fill almost any tray that is available in the market. It doesn’t matter if it is a one-way plastic tray or reusable tray.
The second product is Xtract. With it, we don’t fill the tray completely. We fill a tray from the grower or a tray we buy ourselves with a cylindric plug. That plug has air around the substrate. That is different than the Xcel plug, which has no air between the substrate and the cell of the tray. A seed hole or dibbling hole for cuttings is possible to make as well.
Then we have the Xcellent plug, which is mainly used for tissue culture plants. Those plugs are specially developed and designed in collaboration with our customers. The majority of our plugs that we produce are Xcellent. They are mainly used for Phalaenopsis — orchids. Those Xcellent plugs are not shipped in trays. They are shipped in carton boxes or plastic crates in case the customer supplied them to our factory. Then the customers place the plug including the tissue culture in their own tray. The plants they got from the laboratory goes along with this special designed plug.

What makes the Xcellent plug good for tissue culture?
There are a few reasons why that plug is excellent, so to speak. It is because of the shape, because of the plug itself. The first plug we produced was a horse shoe plug. From the top of the plug, it looks like a horseshoe. That means there is an open center in the middle of the plug and the side is open. It is very easy to place a tissue culture from the bottom into the center of the plug. So you don’t damage the roots and it is very, very easy to handle, which saves labor.
Secondly, because of the way we are producing the plugs, it creates a lot of air. That’s why the plants are generally growing much faster than in other products like paper plugs or glue plugs people can buy around the world. This type of plug is patented by the way.

What other crops are these products designed for?
For the Xcellent plug, growers can put any tissue culture plug in and they will see it will perform very well. The Xtract plug is mainly used for vegetables from seeds and also for hard, woody plants. The Xcel plug can be used for anything. That could be bedding plants, but we are very strong in supplying plugs for cyclamen seeds, perennials and for all kind of seeds and cuttings.

What will convince growers to try Quick Plug?
It is important to know that our mix is adjustable to their growing circumstances. If they grow in Ohio, Florida or in California, there is a different need on the aeration of the plug. We can play around with the amount of coco peat in our substrate to make it at the right moisture content for their specific product. The flexibility of the substrate makes it very interesting for the North American market.
I can say a lot of nice words that the plants will grow faster and better than in other products, but that’s what every salesperson is telling their customers every day. People just have to try it. People who are trying it compared to other products will see the difference. The product is performing better, but that’s what people have to see with their own eyes.

How can a grower get started with Quick Plug’s products?
If people want to start with it, normally what we do is discuss with the customer why he wants to use the plug, for what kind of crop, for what purpose of growing, and then we advise them to use a certain tray in combination with a substrate and a certain fertilizer level. We start with a sample box. And if the sample box is performing well, which it does most of the time, people will start ordering a half a pallet or a full pallet load. From there we do very careful follow up work to see if the performance is good. If there is anything that needs to be adjusted on a fertilizer level, pH or EC, we can change that because we have our own mixing line. It means we don’t have to buy a lot of cubic meters or feet to order a special mix for a certain customer. We can do everything in line, in our factory.
From there, they don’t need to do anything because the plug is ready to use. The plugs will be supplied with a certain amount of moisture content. It’s pre-wetted. They can just put a seed on, or a cutting in, or can put a tissue culture in the Xcellent plug. It’s pretty easy to use.

For more information, click here.