The Top 5 Benefits of Hydroponics
Hydroponics is a wonderful way to grow your plants without having to use soil. There is little risk of diseases, and the plants can be grown in any environment. You could grow plants indoors using low light, or you could grow them outdoors in outdoor pots and use a hydroponics gardening system to house your plants.
The plant’s roots are kept in a nutrient solution that delivers everything the plant needs to grow. There are no weeds to worry about, and you do not have to water or fertilize the plants. We will discuss this and many more advantages in detail further. Let’s take a look at the top 5 benefits of hydroponics for both outdoor and indoor gardening.
Hydroponics Saves Space
The limited outer space in urban areas is a matter of grave concern. And this is only rising. The Earth’s population projected to reach 10 billion people by 2050 which will subsequently raise food demand by 60%. Here hydroponics offers an amicable solution. It allows growing food items without soil and fertilizers to meet the needs of the urban boom.
A study has also found that urban agriculture can produce 180 million tonnes of food per year, reducing energy use and water consumption. This will also provide the urban population access to fresh produce that doesn’t have to travel miles to reach their plate.
In hydroponic systems, the farmers can grow plants in rows overlapped with more rows, thus acquiring lesser space. This is impossible with traditional forms of farming on the soil. Another method is suspending plants in the air or using multiple frames. This vertical technique saves almost 99% of the land.
Also, in hydroponics, the plants do not have to grow long roots to absorb water and nutrients. Both these reach the roots through the water. Since the root system takes up less space, it leaves ample space to grow more plants. Hence the farmers can produce more, and the consumers can buy whenever they want throughout the year.
Hydroponics Conserves Water
Only 3% of Earth’s water is freshwater, out of which 2.5% of water is unavailable confined to polar ice caps, glaciers, atmosphere, and soil. This leaves only .5% water for consumption. Unfortunately, 70% of this water is also used up, not for drinking but irrigation.
Now how to save water for the next generation is a big question? Hydroponics has the answer. This kind of system helps in conserving about 95% of water compared to the conventional form of farming.
For example, growing a head of lettuce takes no more than a gallon of water in hydroponics. The same with traditional farming practices, take 15x more water. As per a survey, Americans consume 930 million pounds of lettuce every year. You can imagine the amount of water it takes to grow lettuce with traditional farming. Adopting hydroponics systems can save so much water.
Plus, higher temperatures add more woes to the freshwater system, including higher water evaporation, disappearing glaciers, and freshwater runoff. Hydroponics systems can combat all these issues with some new innovative methods. The advancement has created recirculating hydroponic systems. It minimizes water use by recycling unused irrigation water.
Another method is rainwater harvesting. Urban as well as rural farmers can collect the rainwater and reuse it for indoor gardening. Still, another invention is a condenser. 95% of water consumed by plants is lost to transpiration. The water leaves the plant in the form of vapor via the ventilation system. The condenser recovers water from the vapors to be used by the plant again.
Hydroponics Fosters Faster Growth
Another advantage of hydroponics is the faster growth of plants. It is seen that in a hydroponics system, plants grow 40-50 percent faster and are capable of producing 30 times more than soil-grown plants. There are many factors responsible.
In hydroponic gardening, you have complete control over the resources. So, you can create an optimal environment for the plants and allow them to grow at the same time but faster. Mixing all the nutrients in the water maintains the pH levels, and the plants consume what they need. Faster growth is possible because a plant focuses on vegetative growth rather than fighting for nutrition with other plants, a common issue with soil-grown plants. Also, there are no weeds playing foul with plant growth, fostering the development further.
Several factors can alter the pH of soil. For instance, potassium is best absorbed at a pH of 5.5 to 6.5. If it rises, two things can happen. One, absorption hindrance and the other potassium deficiency. In both cases, crop growth suffers but not in hydroponics. The advanced systems maintain a balance between pH and nutrients.
Another reason for faster plant growth is aeration. Plants need air for respiration and biochemical processes to generate energy to grow. When the roots are well aerated, the cells divide faster, leading to more rapid growth. The ebb and flow systems, NFT, are a few systems where plants fare better with increased chances of aeration.
Environment Plays A Part
Why plants grow faster in hydroponics is also due to optimal control of the environment. For example, your crop may be rain loving, but if it doesn’t rain sufficiently, you can do nothing? But in hydroponics, you can create a microclimate with all the favorable conditions for a plant to grow. Some of the fastest-growing plants include mint, cabbage, lettuce, oregano, and basil.
Hydroponics Supplies Nutrients Efficiently
Almost all hydroponic systems use a formulated combination of nutrients to grow plants; the nutrient ratio is as per specific requirements. However, the crop differences and transition may lead to some nutrients lost to the environment. Fortunately, with a hydroponic system, it does not happen.
The main nutrients required in a hydroponic system are nitrogen, phosphorus, calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium and manganese. These are made into a solution, known as nutrient solution. A hydroponic system uses water for supplying these nutrients. All the soluble nutrients are mixed with water; they then travel to the plants.
All nutrient solutions are created for three different stages, leaves, flowers, and fruits. Automatic panels ensure everything stays optimal always. Hydroponics have fitted sensors to record the pH and EC of the water; both are measured using meters. With pH, farmers can calculate the acidity of a system. And also record the reaction of different plants with different types of nutrients since every plant has a diverse pH range.
Note: If you are a beginner in hydroponics, a pH between 5.5 and 6.5 is the best for plant growth. However, drastic changes are bad for the plants. No more than .5 pH change a day is permissible.
Further: With EC meters, farmers calculate the amount of salts in the hydroponics systems. Generally, it is maintained within 1.2 and 2.0.
Hydroponics Creates A Microclimate
Unlike traditional farming, plants do not have to deal with severe environmental conditions such as drought, heavy rains, and snow. In a hydroponics system, you have complete control over the climate with respect to the light, air, CO2, temperature, humidity, and the plants’ basic and pertinent requirements.
It also allows you to adjust the nutrient concentration for optimal growth. Build your greenhouse hydroponic system with all your accessories such as an air filter, air extractor, clip-on or inline fans, carbon filter, ducting system, and other setup accessories. Since the plants grow under controlled conditions, it puts less stress on the plants.
When you can control temperatures, you can grow plants all year round. From cuttings to seedlings, you can maintain the ideal humidity, i.e., 60-70%, and then reduce it when the plants start maturing to eventually 40% when the plant is nearing the harvest. This is not possible in the outer environment.
Similarly, an ideal ventilation system can be created. Once you have installed the lights, you know how many fans you need to cool the grow room. There is no fear of pests or insects to the plants and, therefore, no need to try a range of insecticides or pesticides. Hydroponics allows you to grow plants where it is not possible practically.
Also, there are no weeds. This is because weeds typically require the same nutrients as the plants to grow. But because these do not grow from seeds, that chance is diminished.
Some tips to maximize the benefits:
Research and understand the photoperiod requirements of your plants
- Schedule feeding your plants.
- Use an air bubbler and air stone to mix nutrients and oxygenation of the reservoir.
- Change your growing bulbs at regular intervals.
- Ideal temperature for growth is 68 to 70F.
There are many other benefits of using hydroponics: indoor gardening, higher yields, no soil erosion, better quality of the crop, and more. However, the five listed above are the top benefits of hydroponic plants. These advantages transcend man-made boundaries and geographical realms.
We are hopeful that you have understood how useful growing the various hydroponics systems would be. So, get started!