12th Jul 2022
Hydroponics is the technique of growing plants in nutrient water. No soil is used. The plants are planted in inert growing media and supplemented with oxygen, other nutrient-rich solutions, and oxygen. The technique is useful to grow plants rapidly and obtain stronger yields and superior quality plant products. Now, you may ask, how is it possible? And, how is it done?
Can you imagine growing plants without soil and by only using water?
But, it’s happening. Through Hydroponics.
Hydroponics is the technique of growing plants in nutrient water. No soil is used. The plants are planted in inert growing media and supplemented with oxygen, other nutrient-rich solutions, and oxygen.
The technique is useful to grow plants rapidly and obtain stronger yields and superior quality plant products.
Now, you may ask, how is it possible? And, how is it done? What all you may require to use the technique?
By the end of this article, you will get answers to all these questions and more.
How Does Hydroponics Work?
The hydroponics technique works on the principle of the natural ability of plants to take nutrients via their roots and convert them into the required energy through the process of photosynthesis.
Photosynthesis is a process by which plants use sunlight, carbon dioxide, and water and convert them into carbohydrates and energy through cellular respiration.
The exposed roots of plants to water nutrients help plants to obtain nutrients, develop their organs, and mature.
Plants capture the light energy and use it to split water molecules obtained through the root system. The released hydrogen and CO2 molecules combine to form carbohydrates (plants’ food) and the oxygen is released into the environment.
The technique is more versatile and effective than the traditional irrigation methods.
Workings of the Hydroponic System
When plants grow only in water, without soil, the mechanical resistance to seeds that occurs due to soil is completely eliminated. It results in faster seedling growth. Moreover, plants are not exposed to soil pathogens, outdoor insects, and pathogens, which enhances the overall productivity of the plant.
Using a hydroponic system allows your plants to benefit from maximum exposure to nutrients, and you can create a highly customized environment for them to thrive. It’s an efficient technique to provide plants with exactly what they need and when they need it.
Apart from controlling the nutrients, temperature, and pH of the plants, you can also control what your plants should receive, when, and for how long.
Growing plants in a hydroponic system reduce the risk factors that occur while growing the plants in soil, such as environment and climate change, insects, soil pests, and pathogens.
Furthermore, plants grown through hydroponic systems do not require the use of pesticides, which also results in healthy and high-quality fruits or products.
Benefits and Disadvantages
The advantages of the hydroponics system are:
- As no soil is involved, thus hydroponics can be used by people having limited availability of suitable land.
- You can have complete control over the plants’ environment, such as temperature, light intensity, humidity, and pH.
- Lesser quantity of water is required in the system compared to traditional irrigation methods. It’s because the used water is recirculated and reused.
- More control over the plants’ nutrients and their availability to plants.
- The faster growth rate of plants is due to the customized environment and more control over nutrient concentration and the duration for which they will be available to plants.
- Production of clean and healthy food due to zero use of insecticides and herbicides.
A few disadvantages of the hydroponic system are:
- Hydroponics is a time-consuming and laborious process. You can grow plants in soil and ignore them for days. However, plants growing in water need more care. The water should be replaced at regular intervals and plants should be regularly checked to see if they are thriving well.
- The hydroponic systems are expensive. Irrespective of the hydroponic system you install, you require high-quality lighting, containers, temperature and humidity regulator, accurate timer, and quality nutrients.
- Basic knowledge and expertise will be required to set up and run the hydroponic system on your own. Even a small mistake in implementing the technique can destroy your whole garden. Thus, familiarize yourself with the workings and use of the equipment and how to monitor the environmental inputs of the planted plants.
- Stable electricity is required for the plants to thrive.
Deep Water Culture System
It’s one of the simplest hydroponic systems, where plants are suspended in aerated water. In this system, the net pots containing the plant are held in a reservoir with nutrient solution.
The submerged roots enable the supply of nutrients to the plants. To supply oxygen to the entire system, put air pebbles connected to the air pump. The setup will allow proper oxygenation of plants and save them from drowning.
Figure: An illustrative image of the deep water culture system.
Nutrient film technique systems
It’s a popular hydroponic system used in commercial space. In this system, plants are kept in net pots and growing medium, in channels with nutrient solutions. The channel pumps nutrient solutions to plants through the channel. And, when it reaches the plant at the end of the channel, the nutrient is circulated back to the reservoir, and the process repeats.
Figure: An illustrative image of the wick system.
The system is also known as passive hydroponics. In this system, the nutrients are made available to plant roots through a rope or piece of felt. There’s no need for air pumps or water pumps.
The media well suited for this system are perlite, coconut coir, and vermiculite. The system is suitable for small size plants. However, there might be some difficulty in growing larger plants through this system.
Figure: An illustrative image of the wick system.
Ebb and flow systems
It’s also known as flood and drain and is less seen and used as a hydroponic system. In this system, the plant roots are not constantly exposed to the nutrient solution, however, they are grown in a tray, which is flooded a few times in the day to provide the plants with the nutrient solutions.
Figure: an illustrative diagram of the Ebb and Flow system.
Hydroponic is an effective system to grow plants without soil. However, not all plants can be grown using the setup. Moreover, the return on investment won’t be high if you are working on a commercial scale. It’s mainly because of the expensive set up at the beginning and unsteady profits.
Another alternative to growing plants without soil is tissue culture. The technique is performed in labs and plants are grown using a few tissues or cells of the plants to grow them into a complete plant.
It’s an effective method, however, mainly limited to plant experts or tissue culturists. Basic knowledge of the subject is required to perform the process on your own. The technique has multiple benefits:
- Growing plants free from diseases
- Produce plants at a commercial scale
- Obtain secondary metabolites from plants for medicinal purposes
- Produce haploids or hybrids
- Conserve plants species
- Embryo rescue
- And, many more.
The choice of technique for the agricultural purpose depends on your budget, area, facility, and basic knowledge of performing the process. Thus, choose wisely which system you try to grow your plants.
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