Hydroponics, derived from the Greek words hydros and ponos, means water and labor respectively. It’s a simple method of growing plants in nutrient enriched water solution.
General Hydroponics is also known as soilless plant growing method, where plants are grown in medium like sand, perlite, coco coir etc. The history shows that hydroponics has been utilized by civilization since several hundred years. Soilless work on plants has attracted farmers and growers from the 16th century.
The development of hydroponics is as old as the Pyramids. The Greeks have been using this water culture since the establishment of Pyramids. Hanging Gardens of Babylon is the most lasting attempt of hydroponics. Actually, Aztecs are said to be the first ones to widen hydroponics as an art and science in the world of agriculture and farming. Aztecs grew plants on rafts that were prepared from reeds and bushes on the land where farming was not possible. These rafts were named Chinampas. Chinampas, in many instances, were tied together to build two hundred feet or longer floating islands.
Hydroponics was scientifically commenced by German scientists, Julius Von Sachs, professor of Botany at the University of Wurzburg (1832-1897) and W. Knop an agricultural chemist also known as ‘The Father of Water Culture’. Sach, in 1860, provided growers the first standard nutrient formula to supply directly to the plants for their successful growth. According to the research and study of Such an ideal hydroponic nutrients enriched solution should contain main ingredients like macro elements namely: water, oxygen, carbon, phosphorus, potassium, nitrogen, magnesium, calcium, sulfur; and micro elements namely: iron, manganese, boron, copper, zinc, molybdenum and chlorine.
As a matter of fact, plants don’t need soil to grow it’s the nutrients present in the soil that encourage the overall growth of the plants. Soil only acts as a medium to hold nutrients that plant absorb to grow faster and to provide plants proper physical support. However, soil growing encourages wastage of energy as plants have to struggle for food which also becomes very stressful. Therefore, hydroponics is a smart way out to grow plants where plants are supplied essential hydroponic nutrients with water. Thus, plants utilize little energy to uptake nutrients and more energy for productive measures.
The nutrient solutions should have well-adjusted pH level to prevent any acidic or alkaline conditions. Nutrient formulas are divided into two forms: solid (powdered) and liquid (solution). The powdered or solid nutrients are less expensive and more concentrated compared to the liquid nutrients. However, powdered nutrients need to be properly dissolved in hot water before they are added into the tank. Most growers prefer liquid nutrients because they are user-friendly and encourage effortless gardening. They are directly dissolved into the water tank and nothing else needs to be done.
Hydroponics has grown rapidly and established as a science. The tried and tested methods have made hydroponics an easy plant growing technique with many advantages. Hydroponic plants have consistently given superior-quality results than the non-hydroponic plants. Places where growing plants is not possible, hydroponics have proven to be successful, for instance, deserts or space stations. In populated cities, where growing plants or having a garden is difficult because of less available space, hydroponics makes gardening possible here also.
Hydroponics reduces the risk of pest and any soil-borne diseases therefore there is minimum use of pesticides and insecticides. Hydroponic fruits and vegetables are healthy to eat as there is less use of chemicals. It’s inexpensive method of growing plants with hardly any labor or manual work.
Hydroponics is a technique adapted by humans from nature. Majority of plants are grown hydroponically in seas and oceans. Because of its simplicity it should be exploited majorly to solve the problem of food crises worldwide. Hydroponics is boon for under-developed and developing nations to eradicate food shortage completely. With hydroponics a nation can be protected from deaths due to malnutrition and starvation!