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What You Know About Hydroponics

What You Know About Hydroponics

What is hydroponics?

Hydroponics is a production system in which the roots of plants are not established in the soil, but in a substrate or in the same nutritive solution used. In the nutritive solution, as its name says, the elements necessary for the plant’s growth are dissolved. History of hydroponics has developed more rapidly from experiments to determine the elements involved in plant growth. The first formal work on this production system began around 1600. However, the growth of soilless plants has been known since ancient Babylon, in the famous hanging gardens, which fed on water flowing through canals. Also, more than 1000 years ago, hydroponics was already practiced in China, India and Egypt (banks of the Nile River), which was done through rustic schemes.

In Mexico, the origins of hydroponics are the floating gardens of the Aztecs, called chinampas. The chinampas were built with reeds and vines floating in Lake Tenochtitlan (Mexico) and filled with mud extracted from it. Later in 1860 the Germans Sachs and Knop were the first to make the plants grow in a nutritive solution, calling it the nutriculture process. In 1938, W.F. Gericke, a professor at the University of California, successfully established landless farming units commercially, calling this production system hydroponics and is considered the father of this modern farming technique. Subsequently, commercial hydroponics spread throughout the world in the 1950s. Prospects and future of hydroponics have been widely used for research in the field of mineral plant nutrition and is today the most intensive method of horticultural production. Generally, this production system is a high-tech one, with a strong capital investment, which is why it is successfully applied in developed countries. Among the existing systems that stand out in hydroponics are the NFT (Nutrient Film Technique) and NGS (New Growth System) recirculation systems where the culture medium is a substrate. The most profitable hydroponic crops under these hydroponic systems are tomato, cucumber, pepper, lettuce, strawberry and cut flowers.

How did hydroponic cultivation come about?

The first publication on the growth of soilless plants appeared in 1627 in the book Sylva Sylvarum written by Sir Francis Bacon.

In 1699, John Woodward published his hydroponic experiment on mint plants, and had already found that plants grew better with water other than distilled water (because it gave them more nutrients).

By 1842, a list of the nine chemical elements believed to be essential to plants was available and Julius von Sachs and Wilhelm Knop, in 1859-65, developed the soilless cultivation technique.

In 1929, William Frederick Gericke, a professor at the University of California at Berkeley, created a great sensation by growing tomatoes in hydroponics.

It was also Gericke who introduced the term hydroponics in 1937. Researchers Hoagland and Arnon found that yields in hydroponics were no higher than those obtained from plants grown in the soil.

Hoagland created the chemical nutrient solution that bore his name and that is still used today, modified, in hydroponics.

In the 1960s, Allen Cooper developed the nutrient film technique. Recently NASA has done a lot of research on hydroponics for its ecologically controlled life support system, which might be applied to the planet Mars using LED light.

Some of the advantages of hydroponics are the following:

Water use – Crops grown using this technique require on average much less water. It is estimated that up to 90 percent of the water used for these crops can be recycled. In addition, high-salt water can be used.
High nutritional quality – They are foods highly rich in vitamins and minerals since unlike soils that suffer impoverishment due to intensive practices, hydroponic crops obtain all the minerals necessary to supply their nutritional requirements and form a strong and healthy plant structure.
Tasty food – The taste, colour, aroma and texture of food is determined by the quality of nutrition received by the crops during their development. For this reason, hydroponic crops are very tasty.
In any environmental condition – Hydroponics allows the cultivation in controlled atmosphere, being possible to produce food in all climates and in any type of soil.
No agrochemicals required – Replacing the soil with inorganic substrate protects the plant from all the diseases that come from organic life in the soil, such as fungi, bacteria and insects, which are responsible for 90% of crop diseases.
Much less space is used than is used for traditional crops.
 
By using less space or territory, production costs are significantly reduced.
Crop growth can be better controlled, so the possibility of fungus, weeds or pests is much lower than in traditional crops.
It is estimated that this type of crop grows two or three times faster than the traditional way.
The climate is no longer a determining variable for cultivation so that one can make a production of a tropical plant in a place that is not and vice versa. In the same way, this type of crop does not suffer from changes in temperatures or the lack or abundance of rainfall.
The cost of hydroponic cultivation is very low and its rate of return high, so it is often an excellent investment opportunity.
You can generate hydroponic crops in your own home without having to be a specialist in plant production or agriculture.
Local production – Hydroponics can be practiced anywhere as it does not require fertile land, making it possible to produce vegetables near urban and peri-urban consumption centres, reducing transport costs and associated carbon emissions.

Conclusion

A simple way to define hydroponics is as an agricultural technique that allows plants to be produced without using the soil. In the absence of soil, the roots of plants grow in a solid and inert medium, which supports and protects them, this medium is called substrate. This is hydrated through an irrigation system where a solution of nutrients is applied to the plant throughout its life; these nutrients are known as hydroponic solution.

The word hydroponics literally translates as “work in water” as it is derived from the Greek words hydro (water) and ponos(labor), it is not only farming on water, currentlythe trend is the search for soil substitutes through substrates.

Because hydroponics is based on scientific principles and because there are universities and institutions looking for an easy way to spread it, hydroponics has become a simple way to obtain food in the US and Latin American countries like Mexico.

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2 thoughts on “What You Know About Hydroponics

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