Hydroponic farming has seen a real boom in recent years. As we briefly discussed when we discussed where is hydroponics used today, there are more and more commercial growers starting up large scale operations.
In this post, we’re going to look at why hydroponics is useful for crop cultivation and how it can offer a potential (theoretical) method to feed the world, even in some of the poorest countries.
Let’s get started!
What Is Hydroponic Farming?
There are two main types of hydroponic systems used in commercial farming setups:
These are more mechanical and use pipes and pumps to bring water to the plants.
These don’t require any moving parts and rely on the grow medium to trap water and nutrients.
Types of Hydroponic Farming
Most choice of which to use really comes down to money and available resources and the systems listed below are probably the most common for growing crops with hydroponics.
Deep Water Culture System
The wick system is the most simple of all hydroponic setups. In the wick system, plants are potted in the grow medium just above a container containing the nutritional solution. A wicking material is then dipped into the nutrient solution and transfers nutrients from the bucket to the plants.
Because there are no moving parts involved, this is an easy system to set up when resources are scarce which is why so many third world countries are now looking to it as a possible solution for empowering people to grow their own food.
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Why Hydroponics Is Useful For Crop Cultivation
Not only does hydroponics have relatively few downsides compared to traditional agriculture but there are a number of benefits that make it incredibly useful for crop cultivation.
- Crops can be grown pretty much anywhere and aren’t limited by soil types
- No seasonality which means crops can be grown year round.
- Crops develop faster in an optimised system
- Water efficiency – less water is wasted in hydroponic systems
- No weeds
- No soil borne diseases
- Less labor intensive cultivation and harvesting
- No need for crop rotation
The Negatives To Hydroponics
While it’s easy to assume that hydroponics is all positives with no negatives, there are a few important things to consider when looking at it as a growing method.
Requires some knowledge of crop nutrition.
Hydroponics is about creating an optimal environment for your crops and plants to grow in. A huge part of this is about ensuring that the right level of macro and micro nutrients are added to the system to allow your plants to thrive. We’ve put together a great guide to understanding hydroponic nutrients that might be a useful primer to getting started.
Some systems can be expensive to set up
This is perhaps only relevant to large commercial operations but some hydroponics systems can be more expensive to set up and run compared to others. It’s worth remembering that mechanical parts will eventually need replacing, however this shouldn’t put you off as this is no different to traditional farming.
Power failure is a problem
The one weakness in any active hydroponics system is the reliance on power to run the pumps. If you’re looking to set up a commercial system then you must factor in some kind of power back up unit just in case the power goes out as power failure can result in your crops being drowned or withering without enough water.
The Bottom Line
So there you have it, hopefully it’s now a little clearer to see why hydroponics is useful for crop cultivation and understand a little more about what’s required for a larger system to run efficiently.
Image by Oregon State University