The Structure & Function of Microbial Communities in Recirculating Hydroponic Systems


Research conducted under the auspices of the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration aims to determine the viability of using hydroponics growing systems not only to provide food for long space voyages, but to aid in recycling human waste products.


Soil-based growing systems have an abundance of organic material and play host to numerous microbial communities. While no hydroponic (soilless) growing system is absolutely sterile, it is possible for hydroponically grown plants to thrive in a sterile environment. NASA's research aims to use organic materials contained in human waste (which require microbial activity to convert them into food the plants can use) as nutrients for the on-board hydroponics systems.


Beneficial microbes and fungi in the root zone protect against the emergence of harmful microbes in your nutrient reservoir and root zone. They also help your plants take up nutrients faster and their waste products provide food for your plants. The natural hormones they produce can also enhance the health of your plants.


Not all microbial communities are beneficial. One of the most dreaded diseases in a hydroponics facility is a condition known as "root rot," caused by fungi such as Pythium or Phytophthora.


  • Science Direct: The Structure and Function of Microbial Communities in Recirculating Hydroponic Systems
  • Rosebud: Oxygen, Root Zones, and Bigger Hydroponics Indoor Gardening Yields for You; Chris Jefferson; February 22, 2010
  • University of California at Davis: Floriculture and Ornamental Nurseries Pythium Root Rot
Keywords: microbes in hydroponics, bacteria in hydroponics, hydroponic bacteria function

About this Author

Lawrence Harris is a consultant, author and web entrepreneur whose 25 years of writing have covered the spectrum from straight news, to technical reports, to features. He has written for the Boca Raton News, Coral Springs Magazine and Wedding and Event Videography Magazine. He attended Florida Atlantic University, majoring in communications.