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Home > Hydroponics Gardening > Importance of Hydroponics
Importance of Hydroponics Gardening
Importance of Hydroponics GardeningHydroponics is a very young science. It has been used on a commercial basis for only 40 years. However, even in this relatively short period of time, it has been adapted to many situations, from outdoor field culture and indoor greenhouse culture to highly specialized culture in atomic submarines to grow fresh vegetable for crews. It is a space age science, but at the same time can be used in developing countries of the Third World to provide intensive food production in a limited area. It`s only restraints are sources of fresh water and nutrients. In areas where fresh water is not available, hydroponics can use seawater through desalination. Therefore, it has potential application in providing food in areas having vast regions of non-arable land, such as deserts. Hydroponic complexes can be located along coastal regions in combination with petroleium-fueled or atomic desalination units, using the beach sand as the medium for growing the plants.

Another area in which hydroponics promises to play an important role in the future is growing seedlings for reforestation, orchards, and ornamental shrubbery. In a report published in 1966, researchers at the University of Wisconsin stated that seedlings of white cedar, blue and white spruce, red pine, and others were grown in a controlled environment. Using a hydroponic system with controlled feedings of a nutrient solution, the results of growth in one year were three to four times as great as in year old nursery grown seedlings. The extension of the growing season in this northern area, through the use of hydroponics and more concentrated use of space, made it possible to grow five to ten times a many plants in a given area. Some plantigs of pine were 18 yeras old at the time this report was published and were said to be growing vigorously.

Hydroponics is a valuable means of growing fresh vegetables not only in countries having little arable land and in those which are very small in area yet have a large population. It could be particularly useful in some smaller countries whose chief industry is tourism. In such countries, tourist facilities, such as hotels, have often taken over most arable areas of the country, forcing local agriculture out of existence. Hydroponics could be used on the remaining non-arable land to provide sufficient fresh vegetables for the indigenous population as well as the tourists. Typical examples of such regions are the West Indies and Hawaii, which have a large tourist industry and very little farm land in vegetable production.

To illustrate the potential use of hydroponics, tomatoes grown in this way could yield 150 tons per acre annually. A 10-acre site could produce 3 million pounds annually. In Canada, the average per capita consumption of tomatoes is 20 pounds. Thus, with a population of 20 million, the total annual consumption of tomatoes is 400 million poiunds (200,000 tons). These tomatoes could be produced hydroponically on 1,300 acres of land!

But there continues to be problems that hamper the growth and development of hydroponics as a whole. One problem is the negative attitude of the directors and people of position in many of our colleges, universities and government agencies, which has ranged from complete disinterest, to open hostility. This attitude partly results from their own failure to achieve crop yields matching those of many hydroponic growers. Fortunately, in some of our schools, there are people who not only have open minds, but who have also given generously of their time and talents to help growers establish very successful hydroponic farms.

Another problem that has developed in the past few years is the ever-increasing cost of energy for heating. In many areas the high cost of fuel has caused a number of installations that were operating at a profit to suddenly plunge deeply into the red, and some operators have been forced to shut down entirely in the colder months. Since this is the time of year when vegetables are at or near peak prices, these increased fuel costs have had a disasterous effect on the industry as a whole, including soil-based greenhousemen.

One bright spot in this picture is the development of solar heating systems. Much research has and is being done in this field, and there are many ready-built systems available on the market today. Also available are a number of publications with detailed plans on hwo to build one`s own solar energy system. There will of course, be many new developments in this field over the next few years, and solar energy may eventually solve the delemma for all growers.

Currently, plans are being drawn for using the techniques of soilless culture on space flights and even on the moon, or beyond. For hydroponics, the future seems very bright. The biggest danger to the growth and development of hydroponics has been the influx of "instant experts" over the past 10 years. The success of many growers using properly designed equipment has attracted these self-styled authorities in ever-growing numbers. Making extravagant claims, they have sold many shabby, poorly made copies of workable units with the assurance that this was the easy road to riches. Many of these fly-by-night promotions have been short lived, but, sadly, others continue to flourish.

Hydroponics is a fascinating method of growing plants and can give the hobbyist or serious grower many hours of pleasure.

Hydroponics may simply be described as growing plants with nutrients and water, and without soil. The water must be delivered to the plant root system. The root system may hang directly in the nutrient solution, be misted by it, or can be enclosed within a container or a trough which is filled with a substrate [a replacement for soil]. The substrate may consist of many different types of materials, such as perlite, sand, sawdust, wood chips, pebbles, or rockwool. All substrates must provide good water holding capacity, yet be porous for gas exchange. Between watering events, they become the storage location of water and nutrients for the plant root system. The roots grow within the substrate to secure the plant within the container, or trough.

There are many techniques to deliver water to the plant root zone. For container grown plants, each individual plant is provided an emitter for water from a drip irrigation system. Water may be channeled to a continuous row of plants within a trough, such as in the nutrient film technique system. A large tray of plants may be watered from below by filling the entire tray with water and then draining all excess water. This is called ebb and flood irrigation. Water is typically recycled within nutrient film technique and ebb and flood systems. It is more difficult to recycle in a drip irrigation systems and requires additional equipment such as water a sterilizer and fertilizer monitoring and adjustment equipment.
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