Hydroponics- a new method of growing crops without soil
|Optimal use of nutrients added to the water substrate for crops helps increase yields and marketing|
|Shahar Tavor, Agronomist, Gatfertilizers|
|May 15, 2016|
Hydroponics is a method for growing crops without soil where water serves as the substrate for growing the plants with the addition of fertilizers to supply th plants' essential nutrients and promote its commercial success.
Although research projects to raise crops in a fertilizing solution began as early as 1933 with an initial formula for concentrations of 12 essential nutritional elements in a solution, it was only fifty years later that this idea of cultivating the crops directly in a solution with no soil moved forward from research projects to modern farming applications. This Hoagland solution, first developed by Dennis Robert Hoagland University of California, Berkeley has been upgraded and modified over the years in line with the different crops and farming methods.
Growing plants in a nutrient solution offers a number of advantages such as
Several factors led to the eventual introduction of hydroponics in modern farming on a large scale from the 1990s onwards:
- Sophisticated and precise operating and monitoring systems at affordable prices;
- The preparation of the infrastructure for easy installation at reasonable cost;
- Automation cuts labor costs;
- Utilization of the maximum cultivated area with no paths leads to a 40% increase in the yield produced;
- The potential of more intensive growing cycles;
- Using hydroponics in leaf crops yields 5-6 crops a year compared to only 2-3 in the soil;
- The crop is picked ready for marketing thus avoiding waste due to disease or earth residues;
- A significant saving in the work needed to clean the produce for the market.
The hydroponics growing method is relatively simple and involves placing containers on the ground or on tables through which water with essential nutrients flows continuously. The water is enriched with oxygen continuously to facilitate the proper functioning of the roots' system. The plants are inserted into buoyant pads floating on the water's surface; usually the work begins with the containers of seedlings at one end and ends at the far end with mature plants, which are picked easily, shifting the pads along the water's surface is easy.
Monitoring the solution's composition, maintaining the salinity (EC) level and the pH level within the desired range is the system's most complex part as irrigation and fertilization must be strictly managed to prevent any error in the dosage or sudden change in the pH and the resultant crop ruination.
The method is especially suitable for leaf crops.
Points to be emphasized when fertilizing the crop:
Additional advantages of growing crops on an isolated substrate:
Among the system's disadvantages are the high initial high investment required in the infrastructure; electricity outages that might disrupt the processes; the need for constant monitoring of the water source and growing solution; Frequent and planned laboratory tests; the system's sensitivity to sudden imbalances and the consequent risk of imminent damage.
Conclusions: Using hydroponics for growing crops demands expertise and the ability to work with precision in balancing the nutrient solutions. Gat Fertilizers Ltd. offers a wide range of specially designed fertilizers for hydroponics and its team of professional agronomists is available for guidance and consultations.