Hydroponics: What is it and what are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Hydroponic Crops

If you are interested in horticulture, agriculture and gardening, you have surely heard of hydroponics. The visibility of hydroponic crops has increased in recent years and we wanted to dedicate a post to this growing technique.

We tell you what are the advantages and disadvantages that hydroponics can present. But before…

What is Hydroponics?

This term comes from the ancient Greek: Hydor (water) and ponos (work).

It is a type of agricultural technique that is carried out outside the cultivation soil and, although at first it was limited only to the use of water as a substrate, currently inert substrates are also being used (rock wool, gravel, coconut fiber, expanded clay, etc.).

The necessary nutrients are added to the irrigation water (fertigation) for the plants and this solution will travel through a circuit. This circuit can be open or closed. In the case of open circuits, the nutrient solution is only used once, while in closed circuits the pump moves the irrigation water along the entire route several times before discarding it.

Hydroponics is used primarily to grow lettuce, tomatoes, cilanthus, celery, and parsley.

Perhaps the best-known home version of hydroponic cultivation is the NFT ( Nutrient Filter Technique or Nutrient Filtering Technique) which consists of a vertical hydroponics system with a closed circuit. To this system is added a tank for the nutritive water and a pump to circulate the water throughout the system.


Advantages of hydroponic crops

– Plants grown by hydroponics grow faster. In some cases, they can even grow 50% faster than conventional crops.

– By having all the necessary nutrients in the container in which the plants develop, their roots do not grow as much as if they were planted in a soil substrate. This means that hydroponic crops may need less space than conventional crops.

– A vertical hydroponics system can be installed to take advantage of small spaces.

– The water used is in a closed circuit and can be reused several times, something that can help reduce water consumption and make more sustainable use of this limited natural resource. Although there are also open hydroponic systems, in which the water is used only once.

– Being able to produce food in areas where it could not be grown otherwise. For example: areas with arid and eroded soils where there is no cultivated soil.

hydroponics crops

Disadvantages of hydroponics

– Environmentally they are very expensive due to the high consumption of energy they require and the large amount of waste that is generated (mainly due to nutrient solutions and leachates).

– The plant is 100% dependent on the gardener.

– Economically, they also require a large outlay to start growing in this way.

– For the production of food through hydroponics it is essential to acquire a very high level of knowledge and have time and resources to be able to dedicate to the care it requires.

– It is a crop limited to leafy vegetables and some fruit vegetables. You cannot grow root and stem tubers (potato or potato, jicama, turnip, tigernut, sweet potato, cassava, carrot, Jerusalem artichoke, beet, parsnip, radish, chago) nor bulb vegetables (garlic, onion, fennel …) .

– The plants are less resistant than those grown in a soil substrate. They are more sensitive to changes in pH, temperature, pests and diseases, etc. That is why commercial hydroponic crops are made in greenhouses, where it is more feasible to control all these factors.

– You have the obligation to buy the nutrients you need for the plants and depending on where you live, you may have difficulties finding them and having them shipped to you. For example, in Agroecology you can prepare all kinds of fertilizers, compost, stimulators, etc. at home. but in the case of hydroponic crops you can only use commercial products.

– So that the roots do not rot, the waterings have to be controlled to the millimeter. If the roots remain totally submerged in water, they may become unable to breathe. For this reason, when irrigation is carried out, the water should only cover the anaerobic part of the root and leave the aeronic part free of water. This is usually one of the main factors that causes plants to die, especially in the beginning.

– It is essential to constantly control the levels of nutrients and water. In addition, aeration and water circulation are two very important factors to constantly monitor. In some cases, a tank with fish that help aerate the water can be incorporated into the hydroponics system (aquaponics).

If you want to go deeper into hydroponic crops, I leave you this link to the FAO ManualThe Hydroponic Garden ” and I also leave you the link to Manuals on Organic Garden , in case they could be of interest to you.

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