Understanding Hydroponics

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Technology has been changing the way we do a lot of things in many ways, making them less stressful, faster, or in this case, more productive. Fifty years back, the idea of growing plants without soil might have sounded unrealistic or flat-out delusional. But today, this type of farming exists, and it is quickly winning over the hearts of many farmers. 

Hydroponics is a type of farming or gardening where plants are grown in a nutrient solution rather than in soil. The solution contains all the necessary nutrients in the right proportion needed by plants to survive. Contrary to what some people might think, plants grown hydroponically have been found to yield more than those grown traditionally. 

These plants use less space and water but are still able to yield better thanks to all the necessary nutrients they need being readily available to them. Because they do not have to struggle to find food, they do not need highly developed roots, rather, they focus on developing other important parts like the leaves or fruits, for fruit-producing plants. 

Another advantage this method of farming has over the conventional is that crops can be sown year-round without nutrient levels depleting. It is also convenient since it can be carried out with limited space. This is especially beneficial for farmers with not enough farmland to grow crops, and for city dwellers that enjoy gardening. 

Hydroponics can be done on both small and large scales depending on your budget. People living in cities, especially in high-rise apartments who love having plants around will certainly benefit from hydroponic farming. The fact that the necessary basic equipment is not so expensive is also an added advantage; only that the bulk of expenses will, however, fall on the nutrient solution.

Types of Hydroponics Systems

There are six main types of hydroponic systems, and they include:

  1. Wick system
  2. Aeroponics
  3. Drip hydroponics
  4. Water culture
  5. Nutrient film technology (NFT)
  6. Ebb and flow

Wick System 

The wick system can be used by about anyone since it is the simplest type of hydroponics. The fact that it does not require pumps, aerators, or electricity makes it an even more popular choice among hydroponic farmers. 

In a wick system, nylon (wick) is hung around the plant before it is placed in an absorbent medium like coco coir, perlite, or vermiculite. The wick placed around the plant is allowed to run into the nutrient solution, thereby supplying nutrients to the crop. 

While this system is incredibly simple to use, it is generally regarded as inefficient when compared to others. This is because it does not supply enough nutrients to the plants and so is only recommended for home gardening and small plants. 

Despite being recommended for small household herbs and crops, the wick system is not appropriate for crops like tomatoes or pepper that are heavy feeders. These crops require more nutrients than other home-grown crops to grow properly. Before you adopt this method, you need to know that the wick system is not efficient in regulating the amount of water and nutrient absorbed by the sown crops. They take both in unevenly which allows poisonous mineral salts to accumulate. 

Aeroponics

In this method, the plants are suspended in the air with their naked roots sprayed with nutrient-filled solutions. While this concept may look simple, it is not easy to pull off and it is definitely one of the most difficult forms of hydroponics. 

The exposed roots are sprayed using nozzles that are connected to a solution tank. The tank is constructed with pumps that enable the nozzles to project the solution onto the exposed roots. Underneath the whole setup is a reservoir that is positioned to receive the excess solution dripping from the plant roots. 

One notable perk that comes with the aeroponic system is that the exposed crop roots have ample oxygen supply which is an issue with other systems. Aeroponics can be employed to grow just about any type of herb; all it takes is the right reservoir size. 

This makes the system highly efficient for large-scale hydroponic farming. One important thing to note about this farming method is that the water in the reservoir should always be at the right temperature. To do this, you can go online to see the water chillers for hydroponics available for sale. 

Like most things made by man, there are downsides to this method. Nozzles get clogged from time to time making frequent checkups and maintenance a headache. The most important drawback to aeroponics might be the fact that it is expensive to set up and maintain. 

Drip Hydroponics

Farmers that frequently change the type of plants they grow will find drip hydroponics a great option. This is because the system can be built to fit different types of plants and it is easy to use. Plants receive nutrients through a tube that runs across the plant base. 

For efficient supply of nutrients, each end of the supply tube is fitted with a drip emitter that helps to regulate the solution fed to the crops. This method is convenient for cultivating different crops since the flow can be set to fit the needs of each plant. 

The drip system has two ways it can be designed and both ways can be scaled to just about any size. They are the circulating and non-circulating systems. While the flexibility of drip hydroponics favors a wide variety of plants, it does come with one notable drawback. Farmers must constantly monitor the nutrient and pH levels since they become unstable because of the recirculation. 

Water Culture

In a water culture system, the roots of the crops are placed directly in the solution. By itself, this method is incapable of supplying enough oxygen for crops to grow properly, which is why oxygen is supplied to the system using a diffuser or an air stone.  

Many people use the water culture because plants can absorb nutrients faster since their roots are placed directly into the mixture. This enables crops to mature a lot quicker than when sown using other hydroponic methods. 

The water culture system can be used for almost any herb, including big root system crops. Farmers should however be aware that crops may get infected if the growth medium becomes dirty. 

Nutrient Film Technology (NFT)

The NFT system utilizes a large reservoir and slopped channels that supply nutrients to the plants. The solution is pumped from the reservoir to the slopping channels that allow the excess flow back to the reservoir after passing through the roots.  

The channels in this system are relatively smaller than the grow mediums used in other methods. This, however, does not affect yield because while large crops can’t be cultivated using nutrient film technology, the system can be built to accommodate a large volume of small crops. 

Ebb and Flow

In the ebb and flow method, crops are placed in grow beds containing grow mediums like rockwool or perlite. Once the plants have been successfully planted, the solution is pumped into the grow beds and stopped a few inches below the tip of the grow medium to stop overflow. Click here to learn more about perlites. 

Pumps used in ebb and flow have timers that turn the system off after it has been allowed to run for a while. When it goes off, the solution is drained to regulate the amount of nutrients absorbed by the herbs.  This hydroponics method is not suitable for crops with big root systems since space in the growth mediums is often limited. This is why it is so popular among home gardeners. 

Conclusion

While this method of farming is considered much more expensive than conventional farming, it does come with several benefits, two of which are incredibly important for profitability in this industry. One is the fact that crops yield significantly more and secondly, the growth environment is controlled, giving growers much control over many environmental factors.  

 

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