Hydroponics | Definition, Inputs, Uses and Benefits

Hydroponics System

About the Hydroponics System

Hydroponics is a method of growing plants using mineral nutrient solutions, in water, without soil. It is a type of soilless cultivation that allows plants to grow in a controlled environment, using water, light, and nutrients. The roots of the plants are suspended in the nutrient solution, and the plant’s leaves and stems are exposed to sunlight.

The modern practice of hydroponics as we know it today was discovered and developed by William Frederick Gericke, who was an American professor of plant physiology.

In the 1920s, Gericke began experimenting with soilless cultivation at the University of California at Berkeley, where he developed the first modern hydroponic system. Gericke grew tomatoes and other plants in nutrient-rich solutions and noticed that they grew much larger and healthier than plants grown in soil. He coined the term “hydroponics” which comes from the Greek words “hydro” meaning water and “ponos” meaning labour. Gericke wrote a book in 1940, “Complete Guide to Soilless Gardening”, describing the system and promoting its use.

Types of hydroponic systems

each with its own advantages and disadvantages. Some common types of hydroponic systems include:

  1. Nutrient film technique (NFT): a system in which the nutrient solution is circulated through a shallow channel, allowing the roots of the plants to hang into the solution.
  2. Drip system: a system in which the nutrient solution is delivered to the roots of the plants through a series of small drippers.
  3. Flood and drain (ebb and flow) system: a system in which the nutrient solution is periodically flooded into the container holding the plants, and then drained away.
  4. Aeroponic system: a system in which the roots of the plants are suspended in the air and are misted with the nutrient solution
  5. Deep water culture system: a system in which the roots of the plants are suspended in a container filled with nutrient solution.

Benefits of hydroponic systems

Hydroponics has several benefits over traditional soil-based gardening, such as:

  1. Increased crop yields: Because hydroponics allows for precise control of the plants’ environment, including temperature, light, and nutrient levels, plants can grow faster and produce more yield than they would in soil.
  2. Year-round crop production: Hydroponics allows for growing plants in a controlled environment, independent of weather conditions, which allows for year-round crop production.
  3. Reduced water usage: In hydroponic systems, the water used to grow plants is recycled, which can significantly reduce water usage compared to traditional soil-based gardening.
  4. Reduced space requirements: Hydroponic systems are often more compact than traditional gardening, which can make them ideal for urban gardening and indoor gardening.
  5. Lower risk of soil-borne pathogens: Hydroponic systems eliminate the risk of soil-borne pathogens and pests that can be present in traditional soil-based gardening.
  6. Lower use of chemicals and pesticides: Hydroponic systems allow for more precise control of nutrient levels, which can reduce the need for chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
  7. Increased food security: Hydroponics can allow for crop production in areas where the soil is scarce or poor, like deserts, rocky areas, or places with contaminated soil, which can help to increase food security in these areas.
  8. Increased environmental sustainability: Hydroponics can save water and reduce the environmental impact of farming by reducing the use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers and allowing for crop production in areas where the soil is scarce or poor.

Inputs for Hydroponic System

  1. Nutrient solution
  2. Water
  3. Lighting (grow lights)
  4. Growing medium
  5. Pumps and tubing
  6. Ventilation and temperature control equipment
  7. pH and Electrical conductivity meters
  8. Pest and disease management products and equipment
  9. Sensors and monitoring equipment to control and measure environmental conditions
  10. Backup power and water supply equipment

The cost-benefit ratio of a hydroponic system

The cost-benefit ratio of a hydroponic system is the relationship between the costs of setting up and maintaining the system and the benefits of the increased crop yields and other advantages of hydroponics. In general, the cost-benefit ratio of a hydroponic system will depend on several factors, including:

  1. The type of hydroponic system: Different types of hydroponic systems have different costs and different benefits. Some systems, such as the nutrient film technique (NFT) and drip systems, are relatively inexpensive to set up and maintain, while others, such as aeroponic and deep water culture systems, can be more expensive.
  2. The size of the system: The larger the system, the higher the costs of setting it up and maintaining it will be. However, larger systems also have the potential to produce more yields, which can offset the higher costs.
  3. The cost of inputs: The cost of inputs, such as the nutrient solution, grow lights, and other equipment, will vary depending on the specific system and the location. These costs can be a major factor in the overall cost-benefit ratio.
  4. The cost of labour: The cost of labour to set up, maintain and harvest the plants, can be a major factor in the overall cost-benefit ratio.
  5. The price of crops: The price of the crops produced by the hydroponic system will have an impact on the overall cost-benefit ratio. High crop prices will result in a more favourable cost-benefit ratio.
  6. The location: The location of the hydroponic system can affect the cost-benefit ratio. Systems located in urban areas may have higher costs for inputs and labour, but may also be able to sell their produce at higher prices than systems located in rural areas

How hydroponic farming is better than open-field farming?

Hydroponic farming and traditional open-field farming are two different methods of growing plants, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. Here are a few ways in which hydroponic farming can be considered better than traditional open-field farming:

  1. Increased crop yields
  2. Year-round crop production
  3. Reduced water usage
  4. Reduced space requirements
  5. Lower risk of soil-borne pathogens
  6. Increased food security
  7. Increased environmental sustainability

The Future of Hydroponics in India

The future of hydroponics in India looks promising, as the country faces challenges such as population growth, urbanization, and climate change, which are increasing the demand for sustainable and efficient ways of growing food.

Limitations of Hydroponics System in India

Hydroponics, which is a method of growing plants using mineral nutrient solutions, in water, without soil, has many benefits, but it also faces some major problems in India, some of the major problems faced in India for hydroponics are:

  1. High Initial Cost
  2. Lack of knowledge and technical expertise
  3. Limited availability of hydroponic inputs
  4. Lack of awareness and understanding
  5. Power and water supply issues
  6. Limited market for hydroponic produce
  7. Lack of subsidies and financial assistance
  8. Quality control and standardization issues

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