What is Hydroponics & how does it work?
From childhood, you always see plants growing in the soil, giving us the food we need. Soil acts as a medium to support, grow, flourish and also give the yield. What if you are able to grow plants without soil? Strange, right? But this is what exactly Hydroponics does. It’s nothing but growing plants without using any soil.
The idea is in the works since 1627. So, it’s not a recent science technique. However, this technique is getting more popular in recent years as you can grow plants without soil in a controlled environment. Climate change is happening in real, so we must have some standby method to grow plants as we depend on them for food.
Furthermore, you can control the entire growth cycle of the plant. The external environment doesn’t affect the plants as you grow them in a controlled environment. Secondly, it requires very little space. Hence, you can grow them in big cities, in a building, on a terrace, and a balcony. As a result, this technique is getting more popular nowadays.
What is Hydroponics?
Hydroponics is a technique of growing plants without soil. As you know, plants require sunlight and chlorophyll to convert carbon dioxide & water into glucose and oxygen. This process is nothing but photosynthesis. In this process, the nutrient provider is the soil. So, in hydroponics, you remove the soil part and feed the plants’ nutrients and water artificially.
Also, this means growing plants by standing them in nutrient-rich solutions. So, that is the main idea behind hydroponics. Theoretically speaking, hydroponics means growing plants in water. But sometimes, it is not mandatory to stand the plant in the water; just humidity will suffice the purpose, which is why hydroponics is growing plants without soil.
How does Hydroponics work?
Hydroponics involves different techniques to grow plants without soil. The first one is growing media with an abundance of nutrients. This growing media will be nutrient-rich sand or vermicompost, or coconut husk but not soil. Here the soil is replaced with growing media.
Also, the second method is the nutrient film technique. In this technique, a nutrient-rich liquid continuously flows near the root zone. This liquid moves with the help of gravity or by the pump. Here, the plants are placed in a plastic trough, and nutrient-rich liquid flows near the root zone. Plants pick up nutrients, and the same water is recirculated after adding oxygen and nutrients again in predefined doses. This saves lots of water.
The third method is aeroponics. In this method, humidity acts as a nutrient carrier. Here, the roots are suspended in a highly humidified container. This container has thick mineral clouds, just like the rain forest clouds. The roots take up the nutrients from this dense, humidified mineral-rich cloud inside the container. As the name suggests, this technique literally grows plants in the air.
The important advantage of hydroponics is the ability to grow plants without soil. The yields increase as you provide ready nutrients to the plants. The root system of hydroponically grown plants is small, and hence, they can divert more nutrients to the leaf and fruits.
Besides, you get great hygiene as everything happens in a closed environment. The plants grow at a faster pace in hydroponics when you compare them to the traditional method. You can also take yields throughout the year as you can grow plants indoors irrespective of the outside climate.
Furthermore, the single most important advantage is the space. Hydroponics saves lots of space. You can grow thousands of plants in tiny areas. This allows you to grow plants in a minimal area like balconies.
The hydroponics system has some disadvantages. The major disadvantage is a large initial investment. You need to build a close environment; building such an environment is a costly affair as you need to control the inside climate. The running cost also increases as you need artificial lights. The plants you grow need support structures as you don’t have the soil here.
Besides, you are growing plants in an environment entirely controlled by you. Hence, you must be very vigilant about the growth of these plants. The constant check on the plant must be routine. So, if you neglect the check, the plants would not grow as you want them to. In nature, it doesn’t happen that way, plants still survive irrespective of your vigilance, but in hydroponics, vigilance matters the most.
Image Courtesy: Aerofarms