Benefits of Hydroponics
Adjustment of additional fertilizing of plants
The first and most important advantage here is that the food of the plant is under your complete control. Only those elements that you bring into the water fall into the root zone, in addition, in the proportions you set. At any time you can control the quality and quantity of nutrients dissolved in the water. We will not forget that for the last two hundred years, plant growing has been responsible for its success in hydroponic technologies, especially in the field of plant nutrition. Today, hydroponics is used in most plant studies. Whatever the controversy may be, it is also used in genetic research and gene transfer.
To maintain healthy growth, the plant must transpiration a certain amount of water. The rapid lush growth taking place in hydroponics implies the consumption of large amounts of water. However, the plant transpires all the consumed water. Nothing disappears in the soil or during evaporation. The economy of water, compared with plants growing in the soil, is quite impressive. Recent improvements in irrigation – the transition from watering the entire field to the delivery of water to the base of plants – significantly increased the efficiency of water consumption in gardening. However, hydroponics in this respect is still much more effective.
Similarly, plants completely absorb all the nutrients consumed. Nothing goes into the ground, groundwaters are not polluted, and there is no impact on microbial life in the soil.
Due to improved health and accelerated growth, there is less need for pesticides
The word “pesticide” in itself is a misunderstanding! These substances should be called “biocides”, as they kill all living things (but who then buys a biocide!). Many imagine that pesticides kill pests alone. In fact, their action is not selective, and they also destroy useful organisms. Their application should be limited to exceptional cases. The fact that the plant on hydroponics, with proper care, grows rapidly and does not get sick, allows it to develop pests or, at least, to resist them. This does not mean that you will never need to fight pests, but there will be less need for it, and you will be able to solve problems by applying more sparing solutions without destroying all living things around the plant. Of course, this applies mainly to fast-growing annual plants. In the case of perennial plants, one can argue here, although the life-span of the hydroponic plant also helps here.
Herbicides are not needed
It is obvious. In plastic trays or trenches weeds have nowhere to grow. Both circumstances: that there is no need for herbicides, and that pests can be destroyed in less radical ways, make hydroponics a very pure technology.
A plant originally grown by hydroponic methods is more viable
If you grow a mother plant on hydroponics for the purpose of further cloning and then transplant the shoots into the soil, then they will be more viable than if they originated from the parent plant in the soil. William Texier in his book “Hydroponics for all” writes: “I have repeatedly conducted this experiment, and the difference was obvious every time.”
Optimal use of plant genetic potential
The classical picture of a plant-growing enterprise is a chain whose strength is reduced to the strength of its weakest link. In plant growing, this means that there is always a limiting factor. It can be lighting, carbon dioxide (CO 2), humidity, lack of food – anything! In hydroponic cultivation, many weak links in the chain are cut off, especially blocking of elements in the soil, which often occurs for various reasons. Now the plant has optimal conditions for the full realization of its potential. If culture is irrationally chosen, the weak link may be genetics. For many years in our greenhouse we have grown huge plants, previously not seen in nature; we did not do anything special, but only strengthened the weak links. In most cases, in hydroponics, you can create ideal conditions for plants in terms of nutrition, light, temperature and humidity. Then the weak link will be carbon dioxide.
Increase in size, improve quality
One thing is obvious: if the plant’s health is strengthened, productivity and yield will increase. Hydroponic cultures are much larger than their counterparts grown in the soil. And now the cherry tomatoes are no longer like cherries! And in the field of nutrition, a lot of tests were performed, which consistently demonstrate a large, often double, increase in the number of vitamins and mineral salts. This also applies to active substances in medicinal plants.
Access to the roots
It is very useful to constantly check the condition of the roots. In most hydroponic systems such access is available, which allows to solve possible problems with pathogens; with intervention at an early stage they are easily cured. Roots also tell you a lot about the health of the plant and how it will develop in the future. By gaining experience, you can get rid of cuttings, which although alive, but do not have healthy roots.
The use of hydroponics is particularly beneficial when the main product obtained from the plant is the root. In most herbs active substances are in the roots. In some cases, the active elements in the roots differ from those found in the aerial part of the plant. They can not be extracted without destroying the plant itself. As a result, many wild medicinal plants are subjected to predation, sometimes until they are exterminated. In closed hydroponic systems, the roots are bare and washed with a flow of water with dissolved nutrients. In this situation, you can almost always collect a large number of roots, without destroying plants. Obviously, at the same time, it is necessary to cut off the aerial part in order to keep the plant in a state of equilibrium. In some cases, this green biomass is in itself an additional source of extraction, in other cases it simply goes into compost. The collection of roots by this method maintains their purity and does not require washing or other treatment prior to extraction. They are also very rich in active substances. Their concentration can be increased by adapting the plant’s nutrition to the type of molecule that we want to obtain. Further, we can increase the root growth ourselves, regulating the level of dissolved oxygen in the nutrient solution. In this, as in all other areas, when it comes to cultivation, it is first necessary to provide the market and organize the commercialization of the product before the cultivation itself begins. However, in this case, the situation is not as acute as with fruits and vegetables, because dry roots can be stored for a long time without any damage to them. This opens up new horizons for the greenhouse industry, whose survival is in question.
Production of large quantities of biomass
Hydroponics is capable of this. The high content of nitrate (nitrogen) in the nutrient solution promotes the explosive vegetative growth of the plant. If you need a lot of green mass, then it’s profitable. Hydroponic pools can be used to clean heavily polluted sewage. By-product will be a lot of green mass, which can be processed into fuel. Such a technology exists. A lot of successful experiments have been carried out, for example in Portugal, where in the research institute it was possible to purge the effluent of the pig farm, and even worse than that! They were transformed into a lucrative culture! Why this method has not been widely used – remains a mystery to me.
Cultivation of crops under extreme conditions
The first serious study in modern hydroponics was conducted by the NASA space agency back in the late 1960s and early 1970s in the United States. A person can not survive in space without the means to produce fresh food. NASA even carried out experiments to grow plants in weightlessness … A heavy task! On planet Earth, on scientific stations detached from the outside world in Antarctica, the Arctic and other inhospitable places, hydroponics is used to grow food additives. I remember that the hydroponic system was assembled for our station in Antarctica. The room of the greenhouse, which had the shape of a needle, was also equipped with hammocks for members of the expedition, who could rest and warm up there. Of course, the main achievement was the supply of basic food products, which are not priced during a long expedition.
It is not necessary that the conditions are too harsh. Hydroponics can be found on the tourist islands of the Caribbean Sea. The land there is meager, saline and obviously can not provide a large number of tourists with fresh vegetables that are mostly imported, but they can be grown on islands with hydroponic technologies at a lower cost.
Some experiments are being conducted to equip hydroponic installations with shelters in the event of an earthquake or typhoon. For a little over a month, the population can restore a small part of the family garden, applying the principles of hydroponics. This experience was put a couple of times in South America. A certain group – the Institute of Simplified Hydroponics – is developing a “non-technological hydroponics” for third world countries. They carry out projects on different continents.
Rational space is used
Roots do not need to spread like in the ground. Plants can receive all the required food in a limited area, without entering into a competitive struggle among themselves. As a result, they can stand closer to each other than in the ground. So you can get a “sea of ??greenery”. With this method an incredible density of plants is reached – up to 60-70 pieces per square meter. Under artificial lighting it is better to grow many small plants than a few large ones. Hydroponics is extremely suitable for this method.
Do not need to drag the ground
When you live in a house, it does not bother you much, but if you live in an apartment and carry bags of land – this is not very practical. All this causes a lot of trouble. Hydroponics is almost non-waste and does not require large updates after each harvest. Thus, hydroponics becomes an ideal technology in a small, limited space.
Unlike plants like tomatoes or peppers, as well as many others, which simultaneously grow and reproduce, there is a category of plants with a pronounced vegetative stage, followed by the expressed stages of flowering and fruiting. At these stages, these plants require a completely different diet. In the ground, this can be achieved at the expense of certain losses through repeated watering with a huge amount of water. In hydroponics, it’s just “empty the tank – fill the tank”. Of course, the excess of the vegetative solution is not discarded. They watered domestic or garden plants, but do not drain into the sewer. Probably, cardinal changes in the composition of the nutrient solution is one of the reasons why flowering and fruiting are accelerated when grown on hydroponics. Plants receive a convincing signal that the time has come for flowering,
Rapid growth of the mother plant
Hydroponic plant with a rich nitrogen supply gives a lush green growth. Some even consider it excessive, but if you need to constantly produce a large number of cuttings, then there is nothing to replace the mother plant on an effective hydroponic system. This circumstance is widely used in the horticultural industry for the propagation of many species of plants in large quantities. Again these clones can be grown both hydroponically and in the ground, where they will have a special advantage.
But, in addition to the advantages, hydroponics has a number of shortcomings.
Disadvantages of hydroponics
Does not forgive mistakes
The first, and most important, disadvantage is that the plants are not protected from your mistakes! The soil has buffer properties. This means that it is able to maintain a certain stability around the roots. In a healthy soil, all physical and biological parameters are in balance. If you give the plants an excess of nutrient, an incorrect mixture or an out-of-range pH, microorganisms in the upper soil layer, as well as soil chemistry, will eventually restore equilibrium. The same happens in hydroponics, but to a limited extent. The nutrient solution, of course, has a certain buffering, especially with respect to pH. But, on the other hand, the zashkalivshy level of pH can lead to the destruction of the entire crop in one day. In hydroponics, everything happens quickly. For clarity, compare the race car with a family runabout. At the wheel of a racing car you drive much faster, but in the event of an accident, the consequences will be heavier. Hydroponics is the same. Everything happens so quickly that you literally see how plants grow upwards, but sometimes you can even have hours to destroy them!
You can not overheat
Temperature is also a limiting factor. At a temperature of 18-22 ° C within the root zone, hydroponic plants grow best. They will withstand and more – up to 26 ° C with them nothing will happen, then the growth will slow down, and somewhere at 35 ° C their roots, devoid of dissolved oxygen, begin to die quickly, and with them the plants. There are ways to deal with excess heat. However, this is a serious limitation, especially in tropical countries and in a room where artificial lighting emits a lot of heat.
Not suitable for all plants
Another limitation is that not every culture can be grown hydroponically. All root crops or tubers, such as carrots or potatoes – everything that is extracted from the soil requires special adaptations and complex construction. Economic characteristics of culture, too, impose their limitations. For example, wheat grows well on hydroponics, but this is economically impractical. Geographical location, as well as the local market, predetermines the appropriateness and inexpediency of a particular culture.
In fact, hydroponic systems are costly, but growing plants in a room, you quickly pay for the costs. The reason is simple: electricity is expensive. When plants are grown under lamps, they tend to harvest as soon as possible, since the total electricity consumption for lighting and climate control is quite impressive, even in the case of small greenhouses. The faster you harvest, the lower the cost. Hydroponics saves time, and significantly. Now, really, time is money!
Many reproach hydroponics for unnaturalness, and plants grown hydroponically compared to plants “under the dropper.” As for the lack of naturalness, this is a controversial issue. And what is naturalness? When you plant a whole field with one kind of plant, there is nothing natural in it. Nature is diversity. We will think: by definition, all forms of agriculture are “unnatural”, however strange it may sound. When man was still at the stage of gathering and hunting, our impact on the planet was almost zero. Like other living organisms, we extracted food from the environment, but we did not modify it. Problems began when we entered the agricultural stage of development and began planting plants in the field. This allowed a person to move from a nomadic way of life to a settled one. Soon the villages turned into cities and city-states, fighting with each other because of new lands, which led us to our today’s civilization. All the problems of our time are rooted in the man who first sowed the field. Hydroponics, with its plastic pipes and mineral salts, at first glance may seem odd, but, ultimately, it is no more and no less artificial than agriculture.
Strangely enough, no one objects to feeding their home plants in the ground with mineral salts. And this is done carelessly, with the risk to put nutrients in the groundwater or in the city sewer. And on the contrary, they are wary of the same mineral salts, and more clean, under safe conditions of plastic gutters and drains. They resort to foliar nutrition, which, it must be admitted, is not very common in nature, but the roots washed with a nutrient solution are considered unnatural.
There are many islands where the land is not able to feed a large tourist population, there are tropical countries where the land is teeming with voracious pests, there are areas where the earth is so depleted that fertility has almost lost, there are places where there is no arable land at all. Where organic planting can not be the only solution, hydroponics can be one of the solutions to feed the starving world without destroying the environment. And only this kind of agriculture is able to provide people with nutritious and tasty food, as well as medicines in places where it would otherwise be impossible. The degree of “unnaturalness” no longer matters.
Certainly, hydroponics deserves attention. This method allows you to monitor each stage of the growing process, save resources and produce a larger mass of more viable plants. But in order to deal with hydroponics, you definitely need to have experience growing in the soil. Hydroponics does not forgive mistakes and requires careful monitoring of the process, so it is best for beginners to try their hand at the traditional substratum. And experienced gardeners and, especially, owners of large greenhouses can safely use hydroponics methods to increase yield and accelerate the growth of their plants.