Can Hydroponics Be Considered Organic?

Thomas Angas by Thomas Angas | Last Updated: January 13, 2021

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

In this post, we take a look at a few different view points before giving you our opiniton on the topic.

Let’s get started.

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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 there are fewer issues with weeds, pests, or soil-borne diseases. There’s a controversy about whether hydroponically grown vegetables or fruits can be classified as organic or not.

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 as long as hydroponic growers utilize organic pesticides, their products can get organic certification.

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Money affects the issue

There’s a financial aspect to the ‘ can be 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

The question’ can hydroponics be 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 natural sourcing of necessary nutrients, provided in a crop-friendly manner by micro-organisms and eco-friendly methods of disease and pest control. For home gardeners, what’s crucial in organic farming is long-haul sustainability and the knowledge that the product is chemical-free.

Although Hydroponics requires no soil, a system that utilizes microbial activity in producing 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 the Arizona university), the taste can be a complicated 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 produce 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, especially 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 unnatural. Rice, corn, tomatoes, and lettuce don’t naturally occur in stacked rows. We transformed nature by creating cultivated agriculture, engineered it to suit our needs, and initiated civilization.

Just like the first humans marveled at agriculture almost 13,000 years ago, some of us may feel unnatural to grow hydroponic lettuces 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 for each pound of production, while soil-grown tomatoes require nearly 37 water gallons for the same output.

The Bottom Line

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

Thomas Angas, the founder of Authority Gardening lives with his wife and two darling pups. He spends his free time writing, hiking and learning how to become a better gardener. He launched Authority Gardening in 2017 to help people all over the world their gardens grow.