3 Strong Reasons You Should Switch to Hydroponic Gardening
Posted on February 13 2018
Hydroponics is one of the quietest revolutions in the history of agriculture, and it's rapidly changing the way some crops are grown. Once the domain of science fiction, relatively recent developments have made soil-free growing a realistic option for many crops.
Going forward, it's likely that hydroponics will displace some specialty agriculture, and it may even find its way into space someday.
What is Hydroponics?
For those who don't know, hydroponics refers to a group of techniques for growing plants without soil. Sometimes the seedlings are germinated in moist foam blocks and transplanted to soil when they're ready, and sometimes the entire life cycle of the plant takes place in a hydroponics bay.
Typically, hydroponic plants get water and nutrients through a plastic tube, and the indoor environment they're grown in is controlled for things like humidity, light level, temperature, and so on.
Here are three reasons why you should consider making the switch to hydroponic gardening:
1. Use Less Water
The first reason to do things this way is undoubtedly water efficiency. In places where water is scarce, which is more and more place every year these days, applying water directly to the exposed roots of plants saves vast amounts of water over the old method of spraying it across a field and just letting it trickle down through the dirt.
As places like Israel and California suffer through increasingly harsh droughts, this will become a major consideration.
2. Greater Efficiency
Along with using less water overall, modern hydroponic techniques allow for greater cost efficiency in other areas. One of these is the use of fertilizer. Again, as with water, traditional applications of fertilizer called for expensive phosphorous-based chemicals to be sprayed across a dirt field at key moments in the growing cycle.
This technique is not to be sniffed at -- artificial fertilizer has allowed most of the 5 billion-plus-person population boom of the last century to take place. It's still really inefficient, though, since most of the fertilizer doesn't get taken up by the crops, leaving it to be washed out into the nearest watershed and then into the lake or rivers, where it can cause unfortunate algal blooms.
In the ocean, these fertilizer-caused blooms can reach epic size and poison the water with a so-called "red tide." Hydroponic facilities use far less fertilizer, and they apply it directly to the roots of the plants. Whatever amount the plants don't take up simply drips off the roots and is recycled for another go.
The greater efficiency of hydroponic fertilizer techniques is mirrored in pesticides. Artificial pesticides are, if anything, far worse for the environment than fertilizers, and some of the most effective brands are tremendously destructive, such as the legendary DDT.
When these get loose, such as when it rains after a heavy crop dusting, they can kill off both pest and beneficial insects, spiders, and even small mammals. These chemicals also tend to accumulate in the food chain, so that a poison that kills grasshoppers gets eaten by a bird, which then eats another grasshopper, and then another, until the pesticides of dozens of dead grasshoppers have built up in the bird's body. That bird may then go on to lay eggs with unusually thin shells or nonviable embryos.
Hydroponics solves that problem, and the related problem of artificial herbicides, by mostly skipping them altogether. In the controlled environment of a hydroponics bay, pests are either not present at all, or they are a minor problem that can be handled by more natural approaches, such as ladybugs and preying mantises.
Assuming the harvesting crew remembers to give hydroponic celery a good shake to get these bugs off before they go on the truck, this can reduce or entirely eliminate the risk of pest control measures making it to the produce section of the grocery store.
3. Growing in a Controlled Environment
Another major advantage of hydroponics is the impressive flexibility that the controlled environment gives growers. The reason artificial chemicals are needed at all is because plants ultimately must grow out in the open, where aphids and plant rusts can get at them, where it might not rain enough or too much, and where soil conditions might not be perfect for growing the particular crop that's needed.
Hydroponics solves all of these issues in a stroke. When plants are grown indoors, the length of the day -- which varies with latitude and season -- becomes largely irrelevant, which allows sensitive tropical crops like sugar to be grown in Saskatchewan, if desired. Those plants can also be maximized for yield, without regard to drought and pest resistance. The greater control growers have in a hydroponics bay also helps limit the potentially disastrous cross-fertilization and unwanted hybridization that sometimes happens in an uncontrolled field.
Hydroponics is not the ideal choice for every garden, of course. The equipment tends to be a bit pricey to start, and special facilities are currently needed to grow any sizable crop on a commercial scale. With those limitations in mind, however, the massive cost efficiency, pesticide reduction, and close control these techniques allow make hydroponics an excellent candidate for the next agricultural revolution.
For more information regarding our hydroponics fertilizers, you may visit our website or shop below.
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