Hydroponics has often been thought of as the future of growing, what many people do not realize is that the concept has been around for a very long time and already has been applied to agriculture. Hydroponics is not just for flowers; in fact with its growing popularity in the past decade hydroponics has begun to be used for commercial vegetable production around the world. It is attracting to farmers because it presents them with a way to grow in areas and times they might not have been able to otherwise. This can mean that soil quality is not a factor and that the farmers can have more control over their own microclimate within a greenhouse. Hydroponics suggests that anyone anywhere can grow his or her own high quality produce under limited conditions. Hydroponics is a method of growing plants without soil. It is the fastest growing sector of agriculture, and it could very well dominate food production in the future.
Hydroponics id defined as the science of growing or the production of plants in nutrient rich solutions or moist inert material instead of soil. Hydroponics comes from Latin, the word “hydro” meaning water, and “ponos” meaning labor, hydroponics is water working. It is important to know that water alone is not enough to support plants growth. Traditionally soil gives plants anchorage for their root systems and supports vertical growth, it is a source of nutrients, fresh organic matter, and has water holding capabilities. Hydroponics must use fertilizers in their ionic form and supply plants with their essential minerals and nutrients through a nutrient solution. Artificial anchorage is used such as stakes or trellising. One benefit is that it is a more sterile environment than the soil. Soil can contain many toxins and pollutants as well as undesirable insect life and disease pathogens. With hydroponics it is likely that a recall, like the one we had a few years back on spinach that became contaminated with e-coli, would be entirely avoided.
Farmers growing hydroponic crops and researchers see many benefits to this method. Higher yields are common and a higher yield per square foot is a given because plants can be grown densely and in vertical or upright ways. Produce from a hydroponic greenhouse is often of very high quality because it has not been subject to the stresses brought on by outside weather conditions and does not bear scars of damage cause by outside factors. It is easier to protect crops from pests and unfriendly weather. In a greenhouse setting light can even be brought in to supplement the sun and increase production. Universities and research facilities for medicine and even NASA study hydroponic methods and use them for control experiments. Facilities can have a fully controlled indoor environment where they can research different affects by introducing variables, or like NASA study possibilities for one day growing plants in outer space or even on the moon.
Hydroponics has been around for a long time but has began to take a strong foothold only in this past decade or so. It is a common misconception that NASA invented hydroponics; this is false. The first record of anything resembling hydroponics is by Sir Francis Bacon back in 1627 in his book Sylva sylvarum printed the year after his death in which he introduces a concept he called “water culture”. Water culture became a popular research technique. In 1699 John Woodward published his water culture experiments on spearmint in which he made the conclusion that plants grew better in unfiltered water. By the 1800’s we knew that the reason for this is that there are essential nutrients that plants require for growth and some are found in minerals present in unfiltered water. 1859-65 German botanists Julius von Sachs and Wilhelm Knop developed techniques of soil-less cultivation using nutrient solutions. The growth of plants without soil became known as solution culture,...
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