The agriculture industry is ever evolving with new inventions and technologies to grow plants more efficiently. Increased urbanization has led to scarcity of arable land. In such scenario, growing plants with a technique that can sustain changing weather conditions, and give maximum yield in lesser space is a must. Hydroponics farming is one such technique which will meet the aforementioned criteria. It is a method of growing plants using nutrient solutions, in water, without soil.
History of hydroponics farming:
In the 18th century, researchers discovered that plants absorb essential mineral nutrients as inorganic ions in water. They realized that soil is mere supporter and carrier of nutrients but is definitely not an essential factor in plant growth. The same nutrients when dissolved in water can be efficiently taken in by the plants. This led to the invention of a technique called Deep Water Culture hydroponics. However, surprisingly, the very earliest published work on growing terrestrial plants without soil was the 1627 book, Sylva Sylvarum by Francis Bacon, printed a year after his death. Water culture became a popular research technique after that.
Hydroponic farming can be performed with the help of various hydroponic systems. Each system has its own principle, mechanism, set of nutrient media, and lighting system. The most famous hydroponic systems are Ebb and Flow, Nutrient Film Technique (NFT), Drip Irrigation, Wick System, and Aeroponics.
Ebb and Flow system involves temporarily flooding the grow tray with nutrient solution and then draining it back in to the reservoir. In case of NFT, nutrient solution is pumped through growing tray or growing tube and it flows over the roots of the plants. Drip irrigation follows mechanism of using timer controlled submersed pump to flow nutrient solution and water into the container. Wick system, as the name suggests, uses capillary action of cotton or nylon wicks to provide nutrients to plant roots. In case of aeroponics, too the primary growth medium is air. The roots hang in the air and are misted with nutrient solution.
Advantages of Hydroponic Farming:
- With hydroponic farming, plants can be grown anywhere.
- Hydroponic systems can be monitored by you completely and so you get a better control over plant growth.
- It is a space saving, less time consuming method and automated systems require much less labor work than that of the traditional farming methods.
- The chance of soil-borne disease is largely reduced with hydroponics as it is a soil-less culture system, thus the need to fumigate is much less.
Disadvantages of hydroponic Farming:
- Starting cost to set up a hydroponic system is quite high.
- Sound technological knowledge and professional guidance is needed to perform hydroponics farming successfully.
- Systems like NFT, Drip irrigation and Aeroponics are dependent on electric supply and power breakdown can cease working of the entire system. This can put plants’ health and lives in jeopardy.