Hydroponics has evolved as a tremendously successful breakthrough for plant growers, who can cultivate food, grain, fruits, plants, and flowers with much more ease and much less expense!
The term Hydroponics comes from the Greek language, where hydro means water and ponos means labor. Researchers that plants take in the essential mineral nutrients for their growth in the form of inorganic ion in water, and that soil merely serves as a reservoir for the mineral nutrition solution realized it long ago. Hence was born the idea of hydroponics, which is a means of growing plants through mineral nutrient solutions and there is no use of soil. The mineral nutrition is dissolved in water and supplied to the plants roots through artificial means instead of soil. Examples of such ‘grow media’ used in hydroponics include gravel, mineral wool, prelate, and coconut husk. It may be noted that in some of the various methods of hydroponics, growing media is not even required, and the mineral solution is provided directly to the roots of the plants.
Hydroponics, as indicated above can be conducted using several different methods. The simplest of these is what is known as Passive Hydroponics, in which a plant is placed in container with growing medium that stands in the tray of the nutrient solution. The water and nutrients are supplied to the plant roots through capillary action.
Other prominent hydroponics systems include the Flood and Drain (also known as Ebb and Flow), drip feeding, wick feeding, raft cultivation, Nutrient Film Technique (NFT), Deep Water Culture, and Aeroponics.
As stated at the beginning of this article, Hydroponics has proven to be a magnificent breakthrough in the world of gardening and plant growing. In fact, the ease and efficiency of the various hydroponics processes has lured even those people to pursue it as a hobby, something, which perhaps would not have been interested in with conventional soil, based gardening.
But as with anything, it would be worthwhile to take stock both the merits and demerits of this rather radical way of plant cultivation. Discussed below are the advantages and disadvantages associated with hydroponics.
With hydroponics, plant cultivation entails much less space and time, compared to the traditional ways of soil based cultivation
There is an increased efficiency in the use of labor and garden maintenance
Cost efficiency is a prominent feature of hydroponics since there is significant water conservation and the plant nutrients are reusable or recyclable.
Owing to the fact in hydroponics, no soil is used, there is a significant decrease in pests, weeds, and plant borne disease
Hydroponics also enables a plant grower to exercise greater control over the growing environment, since temperature, humidity, and lights can be easily adjusted to provide adequate benefits
Finally, it has been proven that with hydroponics, there are considerably higher and richer plant yields, than there are in a soil based plant cultivation method.
Although once the hydroponics systems have been set up for plant cultivation, the actual equipment used can be rather expensive
If hydroponics is used for commercial purposes, it is imperative that plant growers are adequately adept and knowledgeable as how to use the system
Although there is generally a reduced risk of pests and diseases with hydroponics, there is still a risk that these can spread from one plant to another owing to the fact that they share the same nutrient solution
Should the plant cultivation environment be at all adverse, plants grown through hydroponics can wither easily
Similarly, excess humidity or limited presence of oxygen in the cultivation environment can also result in decreased plants yields or crop loss
If the above mentioned factors are appropriately considered, plant growers would be able to decide more easily as to whether they should use this method at all, and if so, they would be in better position to decide upon the appropriate hydroponics system for plant cultivation.