Can Hydroponics Be Considered Organic

With hydroponics growing in popularity and being used in more and more places today, many growers are wondering if hydroponics can be considered organic.

In this post, we look at a few different viewpoints before giving you our opinion on the topic.

Let’s get started.

Evaluating Hydroponics in Relation to Organic Farming

When considering whether hydroponics can be considered organic, it’s essential to assess its adherence to the principles of organic farming. Here are some factors to consider:

Nutrient Sources

Organic farming relies on naturally derived sources of nutrients, such as compost, manure, and organic amendments. In contrast, hydroponics typically uses synthetic nutrient solutions to provide essential plant nutrients. These synthetic nutrient solutions are not considered organic under most organic certification standards.

Soil Health and Biodiversity

Organic farming prioritizes soil health and biodiversity conservation. Soil provides a habitat for beneficial microorganisms and contributes to the overall ecological balance. Hydroponics, by its nature, does not involve soil and, therefore, does not contribute to soil health or biodiversity in the same way as organic farming.

Pest and Disease Management

Organic farming places emphasis on natural pest and disease management methods, such as biological control, crop rotation, and cultural practices. In hydroponics, pest and disease management often rely on measures like sterilization, filtering, and monitoring systems. While hydroponics can minimize the use of synthetic pesticides, it does not utilize the same holistic approach to pest and disease management as organic farming.

USDA’s Stand on ‘ can hydroponics be considered Organic.’

Hydroponic farming refers to crop cultivation using water minus the soil. It’s better than soil cultivation since fewer issues with weeds, pests, or soil-borne diseases exist. There’s a controversy about whether hydroponically grown vegetables or fruits can be classified as organic.

The USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) has categorized some hydroponically grown vegetables and fruits as organic. However, farmers argue that organic licensing should only be available for soil-grown produce. They said that organic cultivation improves soil health and regeneration.

In November 2017, the National Organic Standard Board ruled against a reform to prohibit hydroponic methods in organic cultivation. The current verdict is that as long as hydroponic growers utilize organic pesticides, their products can be certified.

Money affects the issue.

There’s a financial aspect to the ‘ can hydroponics be considered organic’ debate. Organic products carry skyrocketing prices thanks to high consumer demand. If more farmers get organic licensing, that selling power will plummet.

America has a few licensed hydroponic producers, less than two hundred even after including soilless medium produce, aquaponics, and conventional hydroponics. However, multiple foreign farmers are waiting to sell in America organically.

Farmers in nearly 30 states can’t get organic certification for their hydroponically grown products. The laws of these countries are against it. Thus growers in Canada, Mexico, and the Netherlands are keen on America’s development to get high returns due to the premium pricing they demand.

Licensed organic Hydroponics

Whether hydroponics is considered organic depends on whether it complies with NOP’s (National Organic Program) regulations. These regulations are focused on cultivating crops with minimal effect on the environment.

This implies the natural sourcing of necessary nutrients, provided in a crop-friendly manner by microorganisms and eco-friendly methods of disease and pest control. For home gardeners, long-haul sustainability and the knowledge that the product is chemical-free is crucial in organic farming.

Although Hydroponics requires no soil, a system that utilizes microbial activity to produce plant nutrients can get organic certification; such systems have been created using the nutrient film technique.

The system consists of organic materials only and utilizes a nutrient solvent produced by the organic digestion unit. Produce fostered using this method is both organic and hydroponic.

Why People Think Hydroponics Can’t Be Organic

Most people argue that plants not grown in soil are inorganic. However, multiple crops only thrive in water, such as lotus, water lily, floating hearts, and water hyacinth. Certain semi-aquatic and aquatic plants have been human food sources for centuries, such as Indian lotus, watercress, water spinach, wild rice, water caltrop, and Chinese water chestnut.

Other folks argue that soil-grown plants are tasty. According to Dr Giacomelli (Agricultural engineering professor at Arizona university), the taste can be a complex blend of plant cultivars, genetics, agricultural management, and growing conditions for both hydroponic and soil-grown produce.

Organic growers who cultivate their plants in soil contend that their vegetables have higher nutritional content and better flavor than those fostered hydroponically. Whether or not hydroponically produced is less nutritious than soil-grown food has never been determined scientifically.

However, enhanced nutrition isn’t a basic motivator to opt for organic produce- the aim is to avoid pesticides and herbicides that could severely impact your health or the planet.

The narrative that soil-grown vegetables have an enhanced flavor is a subjective statement, significantly since flavor varies from plant to plant.

Gone are the days when hydroponic products lacked taste, thanks to technological advancement, more research, and the development of disparate nutrient mixtures.

Opposers of Hydroponics claim that using software and PVC pipes to grow is unnatural. However, this view makes agriculture itself un-natural. Rice, corn, tomatoes, and lettuce don’t naturally occur in stacked rows. We transformed nature by creating cultivated agriculture, engineering it to suit our needs, and initiating civilization.

Just like the first humans marvelled at agriculture almost 13,000 years ago, some of us may feel it unnatural to grow hydroponic lettuce and greens indoors using PVC channels.

Supporters of Hydroponics argue that it’s more energy and water efficient than soil farming. They state that tomatoes can be organically grown with three to five water gallons per pound of production, while soil-grown tomatoes require nearly 37 water gallons for the same output.

The Organic Certification Debate

The question of whether hydroponics can be considered organic remains a subject of ongoing debate. Some organic certification programs allow for hydroponics under specific conditions, while others exclude it due to the lack of soil-based practices and the use of synthetic nutrient solutions. The decision ultimately depends on the specific organic certification standards in a particular region.

While hydroponics may not fit within the traditional definition of organic farming, it offers its own set of benefits in terms of resource efficiency, space utilization, and controlled growing conditions. As the demand for locally grown and sustainable produce continues to rise, the discussion around the organic certification of hydroponics is likely to evolve.

The Bottom Line

So there you have it. Hopefully, you’re now a little clearer about hydroponics can be considered organic.

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