By Heather Fitzpatrick
When you come right down to it, hydroponics is probably the most exciting thing to happen in agriculture in the last century, because it was able to overcome probably the biggest and most pressing hurdle of all time: shrinking land for agriculture.
We all know that land is one of the most precious resources on the planet. There’s plenty of land, but ownership of a tract of land good enough for agriculture is often the obstacle.
Hydroponics technology changed all that, simply because it doesn’t need soil anymore to actually work. And that’s where we will be taking off in our top eight benefits of hydroponic technology.
Benefit # 1: There’s no soil.
Before hydroponics technology became a thing in the United States back in the 1970s, people thought that it was largely impossible to cultivate plants on a large scale using soil-free technology.
People thought then that the only way to do it was to have soil for anchorage.
Imagine everyone’s surprise when hydroponics came onto the scene.
The root mats of the plants were submerged in nutrient solution and the plants grew as if they were on land.
And the fact that hydroponics systems can easily be adjusted to fit the grower’s needs is another plus. If you want to go small, go small with a passive system with roughly two or three variables.
If you want to go big, invest in large pumps, a vat for the nutrient solution and you’re ready to go.
The beauty of hydroponics is as long as you can deliver the nutrient solution to the roots of the plants, you will likely succeed. That is the be all and end all of this system, really.
Benefit # 2: Crops can reach their full potential.
Here is a little-known fact about plants and agriculture: plants don’t usually receive the ideal amount of nutrients they need when they’re planted on the ground.
Why? Because it’s difficult to control the variables when a plant is in the soil.
The gameplay is vastly different when you’re operating a hydroponics system. Since it is a constrained and man-made system, every possible factor and variable is controllable.
You’re virtually playing god as a grower, and you can tweak factors as you please to get better and better results as time goes by.
If you don’t believe us, just think: what do plants need to mature healthily? You probably thought: sunlight, nutrients, water.
Yes, these are considered the “big three” when you’re cultivating plants. But there are other components, too: humidity, the types of nutrients that are going into the water, etc.
Lighting, for instance, is largely dependent on the climate and the location of a conventional farming setup.
With a hydroponics system, YOU have control of the lighting. You can bring it up or down as you please. Intensity can easily be addressed by adding a bunch of grow lights to the system.
The type of plant also means something for the lighting – grow lights have different modes that can be activated, depending on the type of crop you have and what phase of development it happens to be at the moment.
What does this all mean anyway? Are we really talking about all these stuff just because it’s convenient to have a hydroponics setup?
The answer is: not at all. You see, when you have full control of the factors that affect plants, you can actually unleash the full potential of the chosen crop by providing ideal conditions.
Imagine being able to unleash giants among plants that are normally smaller even upon full maturity.
That’s the kind of potential that you have at your disposal as a hydroponics grower.
Benefit # 3: No more soil-borne problems
Soil is like a rich matrix of different chemical compounds and nutrients. There are a lot of stuff growing in there, not just plants.
At the microscopic level, an ounce of dirt can yield fungi, bacteria, insects that are too small for the naked eye, etc.
In short, plants that live on land have to share resources with other organisms.
Hydroponics takes away this problem by isolating plants and providing them with what they need directly, without the need for soil at all.
Benefit # 4: Plant competition is eliminated completely
Like what we said earlier, plants have to share resources with microorganisms. But there are macro threats to them, too, specifically, other plants like weeds.
Stray seeds from non-weed plants can also grow where your plants are, requiring you to buy herbicides.
There’s none of that in hydroponics because seeds just can’t grow instantly on grow media even if they are flown in by the wind.
Benefit # 5: Pest management is a breeze
You can experiment all you want with organic methods of pest control with a hydroponics system.
No, you won’t be touching pesticides and other harmful chemicals, because the majority of the time, you won’t need them.
Benefit # 6: Rinse and repeat
Every planting season brings with it challenges, especially to the conventional farmer. In conventional farming, you can’t just plant again.
The soil has to be conditioned once again with the right amount of fertilizers.
There is a resting period. In hydroponics, all you need to do is clear plants, add grow media and sterilize your gear and you’re all ready to go.
The turn-around time is much shorter, and in between growing seasons you can scale up or down depending on your needs, too.
Benefit # 7: Higher yield per growing season
Since hydroponics provides more ideal conditions for plants, it’s not unusual to come up with much higher yields than what would expect every season.
With better nutrient delivery and lighting, plants grow faster, too, shortening the time between planting and harvest.
Benefit # 8: You’re never limited by the technology itself.
This is one of the most beautiful advantages of hydroponics. It unleashes everyone’s inner engineer and creator.
You can redesign and recreate your system depending on what you learn from it as the month’s progress.
You can change your gear, add or subtract from the equation – the permutations for success are unlimited.
About the Author
Heather Fitzpatrick is someone who enjoys gardening & also teaching others about it. She runs OriginHydroponics.com, a site focused on teaching others how to garden without using soil.