If I ask a question to you regarding the basic requirement for sowing a seed? and with no doubt, your answer would be soil, indeed it is a fair answer as well. But what if I talk about growing plants without soil, yes that’s true, the revolution in technology has escalated the agriculture in such a way that it has made production faster which could not have been possible by the conventional means. In this blog we will discuss about a technology in Agriculture which brought a major shift in Agri-world, Yes, I am talking about the soilless cultivation.
Farmers face abundant problems related to crops such as disease attack, insect infestation, weed problem and many more and the root cause of all these problems is majorly soil. So, the Scientist provided a better way of farming by inventing soilless farming that is also known as Hydroponics, a method of growing crops in growing media or solution packed with nutrients. Growing media is prepared according to the crop grown. This method reduces the risk factor of insect and disease infestation.
The plant grown in soil is physiologically the same as that of the plant grown in hydroponics but the quality of the plant in the hydroponics is quite higher than that grown in the soil as the plant gets the adequate amount of nutrients from the water in hydroponics. In soil, both the organic and inorganic components are decomposed into inorganic elements, such as calcium, magnesium, nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus, iron, and others before they are available to the plant.
Solution culture does not use a solid medium for the roots, just the nutrient solution.
Nutrients are given to the plants in two different ways in hydroponics i.e. direct or indirect. In direct system a pump is usually used move the water in the hydroponics system.
The indirect system is also known as a passive system, it relies on capillary action where the nutrients are first absorbed by the medium or wick and then passed to the plants. In a passive system, the oxygen supply to roots is less as the system remains wet.
Hydroponic systems can be divided into 6 types based on the techniques used:
The Ebb and Flow hydroponic system
In this system, recirculating and reuse of the nutrient solution is done and is well known as an active recovery type system. It works by temporarily flooding the grow tray with a nutrient solution first and then draining back the solution into the reservoir later. That’s why it is also known as flood and drain hydroponics. This two-phase process is done with a submerged pump which is connected to a timer. The nutrient solution and the pump are placed in the reservoir tank. It is a versatile technique and can be used with a variety of growing mediums such as gravel, grow rocks, rock wool or coco coir. It is associated with aquaponics as well. Because the growing medium can be used as a bio-filtering agent for fish waste nitrates.
The wick system
It is a simple and widely used hydroponic system. In this hydroponics growing setup, a wick is used i.e. soft fabric string. In this method cotton or nylon wick absorbs water and nutrients from a solution by capillary action and then supplies it to plants in containers or grow trays. So in simple words, the nutrient solution travels up to the wick and then into the root system of the plant. This system can use a variety of growing mediums such as Perlite, Vermiculite, Pro-Mix and Coconut fiber.
The water culture system
In this method, roots remain submerged in the nutrient solution. The roots hang down directly into the nutrient solution all the time 24/7. An air pump is used to form bubbles in the nutrient solution. Hence it supplies oxygen to the plant roots. Generally, we prefer to grow leafy vegetables such as lettuce and spinach.
The Continuous Drip system
This drip hydroponics method is essential for city dwellers who are living in small apartments. The submersible pump is used in a reservoir with supply lines that are going to each plant. Provide nutrient solution per plant according to its suitability.
Nutrient film technology
This system is very popular and similar to the Ebb and Flow hydroponic system. In the NFT system, a pump is used to deliver the fertilized water to the grow tray and a drain pipe is used to recycle the unused nutrient solution. This method is good for growing leafy greens by maintaining the ideal nutrients and climatic conditions.
It is the method to grow plants in a mist environment. In this system, roots are hanged in the air and are misted or sprayed with a nutrient solution periodically. Spraying is done consistently after a few minutes. In an Aeroponics system, water and nutrient use efficiency is higher as compared to other systems. There are no chances of lack of oxygen in the system as its roots are already exposed to air.