What Is Hydroponics ?
Hydroponics is a simple technique that involves growing plants in water rather than soil. Hydroculture is a subset of it. Water is dissolved in mineral nutrient solutions. Only the roots of terrestrial plants are exposed to the nutritious liquid, or the roots are physically supported by an inert medium such as perlite or gravel.
Advantages of Hydroponics
- With more control over growing conditions, it’s easier to provide the best possible environment for plants, resulting in higher yields and higher quality produce.
- Because the plant does not have to compete for moisture and nutrients, hydroponic production can be increased by about two times when compared to soil cultivation in a comparable area with proper management.
- During the different seasons, a hydroponics garden can provide plants with the best quality nutrients. This will make it possible to achieve maximum growth.
- Because land is not required, a small hydroponics garden can be set up almost anywhere, including upstairs balconies, open areas, and protected structures.
- In general, hydroponics produce tastes better and has a higher nutritional value than conventionally grown crops.
- Because they have easy access to food and water, plants grow 50 percent faster than soil under the same conditions.
- Continually cultivates and produces off-season throughout the seasons.
- Because soil-borne disease and nematode damage are not possible, hydroponic production can be safely exported.
- Vegetable cultivation can be done with leisure sense.
- Water wastage reduce to the minimum’
History of Hydroponics
Working at the University of California, Berkeley, William Frederick Gericke popularised the idea that plants could be grown in a solution of nutrients and water rather than soil. He coined the term “hydroponics” to describe his growing method. In nutrient-rich solutions, W. F. Gericke was able to grow 25-foot tall tomato plants.
In 1937, W.A. Setchell suggested the term “hydroponics” to Gericke. Hydroponics is derived from the roots “hydro,” which means “water,” and “ponos,” which means “labour.” In this method of gardening, soil is not used.
Julius von Sachs and Wilhelm Knop developed the first standard formula for plant-growing nutrient solutions dissolved in water. This is where the term “nutriculture” came from. It is now known as Water Culture. The roots of the plants were completely immersed in a water solution containing nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), potassium (K), magnesium (Mg), sulphur (S), and calcium (Ca) minerals (Ca). They are now known as macronutrients or macroelements (elements required in relatively large amounts).
Disadvantages of Hydroponics
- Expensive to set-up
- Power outages are a risk.
- Constant monitoring and maintenance are required.
- Waterborne diseases
- Problems affect plants quicker
Should You Try Home Hydroponics?
Absolutely. Hydroponics is a great way to experiment with growing healthy plants without using soil at home. While it may seem counterintuitive, hydroponic plants produce higher yields and offer a variety of other benefits. Just keep an eye out for potential pitfalls along the way.
How Does a Hydroponics System Work?
While plants grow as a result of a variety of metabolic processes, they primarily grow as a result of three factors: essential nutrients, water, and sunlight. Soil anchors the plant and serves as a reservoir for water and nutrients in a traditional garden. A hydroponics system eliminates the need for soil by feeding and hydrating the plant with a nutrient-rich aqueous solution delivered directly to the roots, while supplemental lighting simulates sunlight.
What components make up a hydroponic system?
To keep a thriving hydroponic system, you’ll need to learn about a few key components that make hydroponics run smoothly.
Inert media, which support the plant’s weight and anchor its root structure, are commonly used to grow hydroponic plants. Growing media serves as a substitute for soil, but it does not provide the plant with its own nutrition. Instead, the moisture and nutrients from the nutrient solution are retained by this porous media, which is then delivered to the plant.
Many growing media are pH-neutral, so they won’t mess with your nutrient solution’s pH balance. There are many different media to choose from, and which one is best for your project will depend on the plant and hydroponic system. Both online and in local nurseries and gardening stores, hydroponic growing media is widely available.
Air stones and air pumps
If the water is not sufficiently aerated, plants submerged in water can quickly drown. Small bubbles of dissolved oxygen are dispersed throughout your nutrient solution reservoir by air stones. These bubbles also aid in the uniform distribution of dissolved nutrients throughout the solution. Air stones are incapable of producing oxygen on their own.
They must be connected to an external air pump using food-grade plastic tubing (the opacity will prevent algae growth from setting in). Air stones and air pumps are common aquarium accessories that can be found in most pet stores.
Mesh planters that hold hydroponic plants are known as net pots. Roots can grow out of the sides and bottom of the pot thanks to the latticed material, giving them more oxygen and nutrients. In comparison to traditional clay or plastic pots, net pots also provide better drainage.
What are the different types of hydroponic systems available?
- Deep water culture systems
Plants suspended in aerated water make up deep water culture hydroponics. Deep water culture systems, also known as DWC systems, are one of the most simple and popular hydroponics methods available. Plants are suspended in net pots over a deep reservoir of oxygen-rich nutrient solution in a DWC system. The roots of the plant are submerged in the solution, ensuring that it has constant access to nutrition, water, and oxygen. Some consider deep water culture to be the purest form of hydroponics.
Because the root system is always submerged in water, proper water oxygenation is critical for the plant’s survival. If the roots of the plant do not receive enough oxygen, the plant will drown in the solution. To provide oxygenation to the entire system, place an air stone at the bottom of the reservoir connected to an air pump. The air stone’s bubbles will also aid in the circulation of the nutrient solution.
Without the use of expensive hydroponics equipment, a deep water culture system can be easily assembled at home or in the classroom. To house the net pots, use a clean bucket or old aquarium to hold the solution and a floating surface like styrofoam on top. Only the roots of plants in DWC systems should be submerged in the solution.
There should be no part of the stem or vegetation submerged. Even an inch and a half of the roots can be left above the waterline. The air stone bubbles will burst through the surface and splash onto the exposed roots, ensuring that they do not dry out.
2. Wick systems
Plants are nestled in growing media on a tray that sits on top of a reservoir in a wick system. A water solution with dissolved nutrients is kept in this reservoir. Wicks are used to transport water from the reservoir to the growing tray. Water and nutrients flow up the wick and saturate the growing media surrounding the plants’ root systems.
These wicks can be made out of anything from rope to string to felt. Wick systems are the most basic type of hydroponic system. Wick systems are passive hydroponics, which means they don’t rely on mechanical components such as pumps to work. This makes it ideal for situations where power is intermittent or unavailable.
Wicking systems rely on a process known as capillary action to function. The wick absorbs the water it’s submerged in like a sponge, then transfers the nutrient solution when it comes into contact with the porous growing media. Wick system hydroponics are only effective when used in conjunction with a growing medium that allows for efficient nutrient and water transfer. Coco coir (fibres derived from the outer husks of coconuts) has a high moisture retention rate and is pH neutral. Perlite is also pH neutral and extremely porous, making it an excellent wicking material. Vermiculite is also very porous and has a high capacity for cation exchange. This indicates that it has the ability to store nutrients for later use. These three types of growing media are best for hydroponic wick systems.
Wick systems are slower than other hydroponic systems, which limits the types of plants that can be grown with them. Make sure there is at least one wick running from the reservoir for each plant in the growing tray. These wicks should be placed near the plant’s root system. Despite the fact that the wick system can function without aeration, many people prefer to add an air stone and an air pump to the reservoir. The hydroponic system will receive more oxygen as a result of this.
3. Nutrient film technique systems
Plants are suspended above a stream of continuously flowing nutrient solution that washes over the ends of the plant’s root systems in nutrient film technique (NFT) systems. Water can run down the length of the grow tray before draining into the reservoir below because the channels holding the plants are tilted. The reservoir’s water is then aerated using an air stone. The nutrient-rich water is then pumped out of the reservoir and back to the channel’s top by a submersible pump. A recirculating hydroponic system is the nutrient film technique.
The roots of the plants in an NFT system are not immersed in water, unlike in a deep water culture hydroponics system. Rather, the stream (or “film”) only flows over the roots’ ends. The tips of the roots will wick moisture into the plant, while the exposed root system will have plenty of oxygen. The channels’ bottoms are grooved, allowing the shallow film to easily pass over the root tips. Water will not pool or dam up against the root systems as a result of this.
4. Ebb and flow systems
Ebb and flow hydroponics uses a reservoir below to flood a grow bed with nutrient solution. A timer is built into the submersible pump in the reservoir. The pump fills the grow bed with water and nutrients when the timer goes off. Gravity slowly drains the water out of the grow bed and flushes it back into the reservoir when the timer stops.The system includes an overflow tube to ensure that flooding does not exceed a certain threshold, causing damage to the plants’ stalks and fruits.
The plants in an ebb and flow system, unlike those in the previous systems, are not constantly exposed to water. The plants absorb the nutrient solution through their root systems while the grow bed is flooded. The roots dry out as the water level drops and the grow bed empties. In the time before the next flood, the dry roots oxygenate. The size of your grow bed and the size of your plants determine the amount of time between floods.
5. Drip systems
The aerated and nutrient-rich reservoir in a hydroponic drip system pumps solution through a network of tubes to individual plants. This solution is slowly dripped into the growing media surrounding the root system, ensuring that the plants are kept moist and well-nourished. Drip systems are the most common and widely used hydroponics method, particularly among commercial growers. Individual plants or large irrigation operations can both benefit from drip irrigation.
Plants are suspended in the air and exposed to a nutrient-rich mist in aeroponics systems. Aeroponics systems are enclosed frameworks that can hold a large number of plants at once, such as cubes or towers. A reservoir holds water and nutrients, which are then pumped to a nozzle that atomizes the solution and disperses it as a fine mist. Normally, the mist is released from the top of the tower, cascading down the chamber.
Some aeroponics systems mist the plant’s roots continuously, similar to how NFT systems keep the roots exposed to the nutrient film at all times. Others work in a similar way to an ebb and flow system, misting the roots at regular intervals. Aeroponics does not require substrate media in order to thrive. Because the roots are constantly exposed to air, they can take in oxygen and grow at a faster rate.