The vast majority of plants are still grown using soil. Hydroponics is not a new farming process, it has been used for close to 2000 years. However, it is becoming more popular and important in the modern world. Bearing in mind that land space is not increasing, we must use every alternative means effectively to keep producing as much food as we can.
Hydroponics provides nutrients and water to plant and most times higher yield compared to soil. It is growing plant in nutrient solutions which consist of water and fertilizer with or without, gravel, vermiculite, rock- wool, peat moss, coir, or sawdust as mechanical support.
This method of farming has very definite advantages over conventional methods of the crop.
Many Crops Are Perfect For Hydroponics!
Some of the plants that grow well under hydroponic conditions include:
- Spinach – where nutrient film technique is used or other methods that keep the nutrient solution oxygenated, spinach grows quickly. The best pH 6.0 to 7.5 and within 40days. These are varieties; savoy, smooth leafed, regiment, Catalina, red cardinal, Bloomsdale.
- Lettuce– these plant still grows well in the hydroponic system, become mature and ready for harvest between 6 to 8 weeks.
- Tomatoes – many farmers grow tomatoes using this method, the most favorable pH is 5.5 – 6.5. It requires a lot of light, grow light may be needed if you are using a shaded place.
- Chives– it takes 6 to 8 weeks under the standard growing condition for full maturity and ready for harvest. Favorable pH of 6.0. Chives are regularly consumed in households, hydroponics is certainly a suitable option to have it readily available.
- Pepper – requires pH between 5.5- 6.0, much light is needed and warm temperature. You can choose to plant any variety of your choice.
- Beans –you can grow all kinds of beans but they will need a lot of support. Green beans are easier to grow because of its size compared to the pole beans.
- Cabbage – cabbage thrives best in cool weather, so conditions to achieve cool weather for the plant to grow should be regulated.
- Mint– mints generally grow well because they love wet conditions, mint has different varieties like the peppermint, ginger mint, spearmint etc. you can choose to grow anyone.
- Basil– the flavor of this plant is improved when cultivated hydroponically, this may be as a result of the moist condition.
Having known what hydroponics is, and why it should be adopted as a way of farming, let us now journey into the benefits of using hydroponics.
If you are still wondering why you should adopt this method, you need to pay attention to the benefits of farming hydroponically.
Benefits of hydroponics
The benefits of hydroponics are numerous. A lot of things are much easier if you understand the processes and techniques involved in hydroponic farming. In this section, challenges of conventional farming will be listed and also how hydroponics combats these challenges.
Lack of adequate farming space in traditional crop farming
You will agree with me that a lot of developed countries lack adequate farming space, the increasing population is further worsening the lack of space.
This makes farming on a large scale very difficult due to a lot of trouble involved and cost implication of acquiring large hectares of land.
Also, plants in a bit to get food and nutrients, their roots expand and spread in the soil occupying more space and this does not change in the course of a season.
Hydroponics conserves space
Hydroponics minimizes the space required to farm. It completely makes better use of available space. A system is provided with all that the plant requires for proper growth. So this means there is the possibility of producing large quantities of hydroponic crops right in your home provided you have some space.
You could even use your spare room in your apartment. In this method of farming, plant roots do not spread as they have their roots sunk in a tank of nutrient and oxygenated solution. They get all essential nutrients directly from the solution, therefore, conserves space.
They are equally constructed in such a way that some are suspended in midair and grow pots can be placed nearby.
A search of nutrient-rich soil in traditional farming
In other farming methods, it is very important to have fertile soil to gain confidence that your crops will grow well. This can be distressing, farming in areas where there is limited land is difficult as the available land would have lost its fertility due to overuse and possibly contaminated.
What about having to miss a planting season waiting for a soil that has lost fertility to grow fallow and regain its nutrient or the farmer resort to using extremely high quantities of fertilizers. Excessive use of these chemicals can be detrimental to the health of the consumer.
Soil is not needed in hydroponics
The problem of searching for a fertile soil does not exist in hydroponics, no soil is needed. Hydroponics saves you the trouble of using soil to grow plants, instead, a nutrient-filled oxygenated solution is used to grow plants.
With hydroponics, planting in contaminated soil, spending so much to get land for farming, and deforestation will no longer happen.
Increase the use of herbicides and insecticide in traditional crop farming
This is the issue with using soil as you equally have to deal with unwanted plants called weeds, plant diseases and pests. These things can cause a nuisance in the traditional farming methods. You will require time, manpower and money to deal with them.
Sometimes they become difficult to control leaving the farmer devastated as they incur losses due to pest attack, plant diseases or plant dyeing off as the weeds compete with them for nutrients.
Hydroponics requires less use of insecticides or herbicides
You grow healthier foods with hydroponics. The use of insecticides and herbicides are drastically reduced. This ensures safety for consumption and reduces the health implications of chemicals used.
The reduction in the use of these chemicals is what makes hydroponics unique.
Increase labor demand farming traditionally
The traditional farming method requires you to use a lot of effort tilling, watering, cultivating, etc. The stress involved discourages a lot of people from farming especially those who cannot afford the large machines that make it a bit easier.
Labor demand is greatly reduced in hydroponics
All the weeding, tilling, watering is not needed in hydroponics. You do not cultivate on the ground so you will not need to worry over tilling the ground with so much effort as it is with traditional crop planting.
Traditional farming is time-consuming
Aside from other stress involved with the traditional method of farming, one of the major challenges is time consumption. This includes all the time spent in tilling the ground, weeding, watering, and fumigation. As a result, a farmer spends most of his time on the farm.
Hydroponics spares time
Hydroponics spares you enough time once you have put your plants in the right conditions, all you need do is monitor. You have no worries about weeding and sometimes since it is within your vicinity, time to go all the way to the farm is completely out of the equation.
Traditional farming requires a lot of water
Traditional farming needs a lot of water, temperature changes can equally put the farmer on his toes in search of a way to make water available to the plants. In most cases, farmers resort to irrigation to provide water for the plants.
Without keeping the plants hydrated, the plants will dry out. Even after applying water to the soil, excess of the water sinks beyond the roots thereby requiring a continual water replenishment which may be cumbersome for the farmer.
Minimum water wastage with hydroponic
There is better water conservation as it is estimated to use 95% less water compared to traditional soil farming. Continuous pumping of water is not needed as a central nutrient reservoir is used. The water in a water bank can last for a long time, as evaporation is minimal.
Soil erosion is common with traditional farming
Tilling of the soil surface is done when planting, this leaves the soil loose and prone to erosion. Erosion washes away the soil surface also with its nutrient thereby living the plant with little nutrient which is barely sufficient for their healthy growth.
Enjoy your planting, no soil erosion in hydroponics
Soil is not used as a mechanical support in hydroponics therefore soil erosion is not a factor to get you worried while using hydroponics. This is because it does not exist. There is nothing compared to the peace you feel knowing you will not have to bother about such a disaster.
Did you know?
Hydroponic plants grow faster
Some people wonder if there is any need to use hydroponics. Of course, there are so many reasons that you may not be aware of and the fact that the hydroponic plant grows faster and larger than plants from traditional farming is a plus. It is said that plants grow 30 to 50 percent faster than they would have if they were planted in the soil.
Farmers have control over climate
You decide and adjust climatic factors that will enable the proper growth of your plant. You can control the light intensity, duration, temperature, air composition, and pH to enable plant to absorb the nutrient.
These factors are important to growing plants successfully, in traditional farming, the farmer gets worried when these factors are not favorable for the growth of the plant. There is little or nothing the farmer can do about it. But in hydroponics, these factors can be adjusted to suit plant growth.
Your planting is not season bound
The fact that you have control over factors like climate and pH tells you that you don’t wait for a particular season to grow crops. Just go ahead and plant whenever you want to and have time to care for the plant. It’s left for farmers to maximize production all year round growing crops as demanded by consumers.
There is no such thing as growing crops in the rainy seasons or dry seasons. Hydroponics abolishes seasonal planting giving the great benefit of planting any crops, anytime that you want.
Nutrients and vitamins contents are the same as traditional farming
Some believe that fruits and vegetables from traditional farming contain more nutrients but that is not true. Hydroponically grown plants contain equal or even more nutrients when grown with nutrient-rich solutions.
No crop rotation practice involved
This method allows the farmer to produce crops based on the consumers’ demand. So the practice of monoculture can be done. Soil rotation is usually practiced by traditional farmers to reduce soil erosion and increase the fertility of the soil. When one crop is grown in the same land continuously for many years, it depletes the soil of some nutrients.
In other to prevent this depletion and exposure to soil erosion, farmers using the traditional farming method practices crop rotation. But in hydroponics, you don’t require soil. You determine what nutrient is available in the system and with this, you can focus on growing the plant of your choice for many years.
Hydroponics can be practiced in different techniques
Hydroponics offers you the opportunity to choose from any of these techniques. Rather than using soil as a source of nutrients and support, hydroponic plants are buttressed artificially and their nutrients are derived from ionic compounds. You can choose any technique that is most suitable for you. You are not limited to just one method!
Hydroponics offers technique best for the small root system
This technique has suspended plant roots and sloped channels underneath where a nutrient-filled solution from a reservoir is pumped through. The grow bed drains back into the reservoir and the cycle is repeated. This system works best on plants that have small root systems.
Most commercial growers prefer Nutrient film technique (NFT) because so many plants can be grown simultaneously and individual plants can be removed and replaced if need be.
Hydroponics provides a technique for planting herbs
This method is passive, requiring no aerators, solution pumps or electricity. In this system, plant roots are immersed in an absorbent grow medium such as vermiculite, coconut coir or perlite which has a wick running from the plant into a nutrient-filled reservoir.
Due to the limited quantity of nutrients this technique supplies, it is best used for herbs, plantlets, and houseplants. This is known as the wick technique.
Hydroponics technique for growing almost any type of plant
Aeroponics system may appear complex but in reality, it isn’t. In this technique, the plant’s roots are suspended in air, through mist nozzles, the nutrient solution is sprayed over the plant’s root system. To ensure that more oxygen gets to the root area, finer sprayers are used to generate the mist.
The most outstanding benefit of this method is that it can grow almost any type of plant provided the nozzles can spray the whole root systems.
Hydroponics offer technique for the plant with a large root system
In the Deep Water Culture technique, the plant’s roots are sitting in nutrient solution and the air is supplied through an air stone or diffuser.
Plants grown by this means develop very rapidly because they are suspended in the nutrient solution, using net pots. This method of growing plants is very affordable to make and suitable for almost all plants but works better for plants with large root systems.
Ebb and Flow/Flood and Drain Systems offers energy efficiency
This is a technique not commonly seen, despite its effectiveness in growing certain kinds of plants. Unlike other systems earlier mentioned, they are in such a way that the root systems are exposed to nutrient solution intermittently. With this method, plants are grown in a tray filled with a growing medium.
Underneath the tray is a nutrient-filled reservoir, a water pump and a timer to schedule the frequency of “flooding”. After the flooding, gravity drains back the solution into the reservoir where it is continually supplied with oxygen through an air pump and air stone. Ebb and Flow offers the advantage of energy efficiency and ease of customization.
Drip Systems offers cost-effective planting
The drip system is a hydroponic technique that is quite easy to set up and use. With this system, a nutrient solution is pumped into the base of the root systems, and excess nutrient draining back into the reservoir.
Drip technique can be used to grow so many different kinds of plants and it can be easily tailored to suit any plant being grown. This method is quite affordable and can be managed easily.
To sum it up
Hydroponics is the answer to reduce hunger in the future as the population increases. This method makes farming much easier, ensure food is available always to the consumer. This allows farmers to grow crops that are healthy for consumption, and very rich in nutrients. Anybody can adapt pretty fast while using this method of farming.
You just need to understand your chosen technique, ensure that chemicals in your nutrient solution are not reacting or forming complexes plant roots cannot absorb.
Preparing a good light source is very important for plants. So, putting all these to check, you can go ahead with planting and expect a bountiful harvest of larger, richer produce within a shorter duration compared to the other farming methods.
You can even go ahead and practice aquaponics, combining hydroponics and aquaculture. It takes about the same time the crop grows for the fishes to equally mature. This is to say aside from all the benefits of hydroponics, it is very easy to combine with fish farming compared to traditional farming.
The ability to maximize farming and make more profit through hydroponics is very possible. Having said all this, I believe you now know all that you need to get started.