Hydroponics uses less
Hydroponic Production is a highly efficient way of farming
- It can result in higher levels of water efficiency.
- It is intensive and costly to set up; but can produce more per hectare with less inputs (water/fertiliser etc.) than conventional farming.
- It allows greater control over pest and disease; and over waste products.
- Fish can be farmed on the waste nutrients.
- Even "organic" hydroponics is now viable.
- It can be used to grow just about any plant. Apart from vegetables, fruits and flowers; it has also been used to produce stock feed).
What is Hydroponics?
Simply: growing plants without soil.
By taking away the soil and putting the roots into a different medium, the farmer can totally control what the plant roots are exposed to -from the amount of water and air, to the nutrients. Even exposure to pests, diseases, beneficial bacteria etc can in theory, be controlled.
Examples of Some Different Types of Hydroponic Systems
Two of the more commonly used methods on hydroponic farms are NFT (Nutrient Film Technique) and Rockwool Culture.
The best method for any given situation though, will depend upon both what is being grown and where it is being grown. The resources (water, nutrient, media etc) will vary from place to place; and with innovation and experimentation; the options for creating a system may be almost limitless. Here are a few examples.
Named after Dr W.F. Gericke, who was the founder of this method in the 1940’s, the Gericke system involved waterproof tanks of nutrient solution covered with a wire frame which supports plants. The plants roots pass through the wire frame into the nutrient solution beneath. Aeration is provided by leaving a gap between the wire frame and the surface of the nutrient solution beneath. Cotton wool or some other type of covering is placed over the wire frame to protect roots from light as well as to provide further support to plants.
Originally developed by the West Bengali government in the 1940’s, this method involves growing plants in troughs containing a mixture of five parts gravel to two or three parts sand. Nutrients are applied dry to the surface of the beds and either watered in manually or automatically by specialised spray equipment.
This method involves using a lamp wick or glass wool wick to keep the plants roots moist. The plants are suspended over the wicks in trays supported by some type of litter. The wicks are spliced to provide enough water and nutrient to all areas of the root zone. A constant flow of nutrient solution passes up the wick one end of which is inserted into the nutrient reservoir situated beneath. Wick methods typically have problems with insufficient and uneven transport of nutrient up the wick and into the growing medium, particularly in times of high water demand.
Sand represents one of the simplest and oldest types of hydroponic culture. A basic system may involve placing sand beds directly onto a rock surface or hard earth, however these systems leach nutrients and can become waterlogged in wet weather. The drip method has been applied to sand culture. As with water culture, a continuous drip of solution is supplied to the plants which this time are housed in a waterproof sand bed. As the nutrient soaks through the bed it is harnessed in a sump and pumped back to the reservoir.
The continuous flow method can also be applied to sand and works well on a small scale. A pipe from a reservoir provides a continuous flow onto a vessel supported on a stand which contains sand and the plants. The solution drains out into a basin beneath.
The wick method can also be employed. In this instance, an upper container has the plant and sand culture in it along with a wick which passes to a lower container in which the nutrient solution is stored.
Bucket and Gravity Feed
Not a commercial method but useful for the home grower, this involves attaching a bucket to a gravel bed using a flexible hose. The bucket is filled with nutrient solution whilst on the ground and then raised above the bed and hooked onto a post attached to the bed, or wall. The solution flows into the bed. Once empty, the bucket is placed back at ground level and the solution flows out of the bed back into it. The cycle can then be repeated.
Hanging Basket Method
Shallow trays of aggregate or some other media are suspended over tanks over nutrient solution and regularly dipped into them, often by pulley systems.
LEARN MORE - READ MORE
Our Principal, John Mason, is a world renowned hydroponics expert; author of the best selling book "Commercial Hydroponics".
You can view and purchase the eBook from our online bookshop.
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