Hydroponics is the most widely used technique in closed cultivation environments, and this system is often used for the cultivation of baby leaf vegetables. These species can accumulate high levels of nitrates; for this reason, the control of growing conditions is a crucial factor for limiting their content, especially in protected cultivations. The aim of this work was to reduce nitrate accumulation in leafy vegetables grown in a vertical farm while preserving the quality at harvest as well as during storage.

This objective was achieved by completely replacing the nutrient solution with water a few hours before harvest (“flushing”). The trials were carried out on lettuce (Lactuca sativa L. Var. Acephala, cv. Greenet) and rocket (Eruca sativa Mill., cv. Rome). Three independent trials were conducted on lettuce, applying the flushing treatment 24 h and 48 h prior to harvest. One trial was conducted on rocket, applying the treatment 48 h before harvesting. Sampling and related analyses were carried out at harvest and during the storage period to determine chlorophyll, leaf fluorescence, total sugars, chlorophyll (a + b), carotenoids, phenolic index, anthocyanins, and nitrate content. Moreover, relative humidity (RH%), O2%, and CO2% determination inside the package headspace were monitored during storage.

The results obtained indicate that it is possible to reduce the nitrate concentration by up to 56% in lettuce and 61% in rocket while maintaining the product quality of baby leaves by replacing the nutrient solution with tap water before harvest.

Read the complete research at www.researchgate.net.

Guffanti, Davide & Cocetta, Giacomo & Franchetti, Benjamin & Ferrante, Antonio. (2022). The Effect of Flushing on the Nitrate Content and Postharvest Quality of Lettuce (Lactuca sativa L. Var. Acephala) and Rocket (Eruca sativa Mill.) Grown in a Vertical Farm. Horticulturae. 8. 604. 10.3390/horticulturae8070604.