Hydroponics or a hydroponic system is a way to grow plants and crops using formulated, nutrient-rich water instead of soil. The method requires no soil at all and the roots grow in the water solution. Terrestrial plants can be grown successfully with only their roots exposed to the nutritious medium, but in addition, the roots may be physically supported by an inert medium such as gravel and other substrates. A plant needs to select nutrients, water and sunlight to grow. Not only do plants grow better without soil, but often grow a lot better with their roots in water instead.
Need of Hydroponics
Agricultural scientists and researchers investigated diseases of certain plants and observed symptoms occurring from the existing soil conditions. In this context, water culture experiments or hydroponics were undertaken with the hope of delivering soil-less disease free plants under controlled conditions. Later, hydroponics became a popular method for growing agricultural crops in aqueous solutions.
In the late 1930s, hydroponics was used to grow vegetables for passengers and nomadic gypsy people since they had no land holdings for growing vegetables and crops. Also, hydroponics became particularly popular in barren and marshy parts of countries because there were no soil fit to grow crops and it was immensely expensive to airlift vegetables and fruits from fertile parts of the country.
In the present era of urbanization and civilization, population explosion is causing a rapid and alarming reduction in the amount of agricultural lands, since the amount of land in this earth is fixed but the population is not and it is increasing in geometric progression. This is the reason for diverting our views to alternate ways of farming, such as conservation farming, sustainable development and high technology farming which has components like organic farming, vertical farming, aeroponics, hydroponics and so on. Hydroponics promotes cultivation of crops without the need for soil which is the need of the hour in the current epoch.
Advantages of Hydroponics in India
Population of India is increasing in leaps and bounds which is ultimately resulting in shrinking of the available arable land making it difficult to produce food crops for everyone. With hydroponics, this problem can be solved with various other scopes for the farmers such as –
· Consumption of soil and water will be reduced.
· Hydroponics allow plants to grow 50% faster and thus fresh food crops can be cultivated throughout the year that might mark the beginning of a new green revolution in the future.
· Protection of the environment. Hydroponics eliminates the need for herbicides and pesticides compared to traditional gardening.
· Water used in hydroponics stays in the system and can be reused. Thus, the vicious need of irrigation water, as well as fresh water is eliminated.
· Hydroponics can be carried out as a method of indoor gardening too.
The Solution Used
The solution component varies greatly based on the type of crop that is going to be grown. Different types of crops have different needs and thus special solutions can be prepared keeping in mind the chemical elements needed by the plant in larger quantities..
The right nutrient mix combines the efficient presence of essential elements (both macro and micro nutrients) in the solution. Primary nutrients like carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, potassium, Sulphur, phosphorus, nitrogen, calcium and magnesium are immensely important for the growth of the plants. Also, some micro nutrients like iron, copper, manganese, zinc, molybdenum and boron are also required. A basic recipe for the solution can be devised as –
· 25 ml of calcium nitrate
· 1.7 ml of potassium Sulphate
· 8.3 ml of potassium nitrate
· 6.25 ml of mono potassium phosphate
· 17.5 ml of magnesium Sulphate
· 2 ml of other trace elements like molybdenum, boron, zinc, etc.
All these nutrients should be mixed in 20 liters of filtered water (not distilled, because it might result in losing the minerals) and diluted.
Hydroponics can grow healthy and fresh foods in large quantities in the smallest space available and in a highly sustainable way. It is a part and parcel of organic farming and works hand in hand with it for a better future but most importantly, it offers people the ability to grow foods in places where other forms of traditional agriculture is not possible at all.