Hydroponic Information

Overview

If you hear the word hydroponics, you may think of plants grown under the supervision of scientists in a space age lab under grow lights. But hydroponics is more than a science experiment. Today, hydroponics are used successfully in large commercial operations to supply fresh vegetables out of season as well as feeding people in agriculturally inhospitable regions of the world.

History

Modern hydroponics dates back to the 1930's. Prior to that, scientists knew that plants took up minerals through soil and water in their roots. During the dust bowl era, there was immense study of farming practices and ways of increasing crop production. During this time, Professor William Gericke, from the University of California at Berkeley, promoted hydroponics as a valid way to grow plants. Professor Gericke drew national attention by hydroponically growing tomato vines that were over 25 foot high in his backyard.

Features

Hydroponics is derived from two Greek words: hydro means water and ponics means work. Plants grown hydroponically can sit in an aggregate system with their roots supported in a soil-free potting mix such as vermiculite or free-floating in a liquid system with a rooting chamber and a support system from above. No matter which method that is chosen to grow things, the root chamber is flooded with a liquid nutrient solution and an aeration pump is used to bring oxygen to the roots.

Effects

Plants that are grown hydroponically have several notable differences from plants grown in soil. Hydroponic plants experience rapid growth and high yield of crops, require less labor and use less water than plants grown in soil due to recirculation of the nutrient solution. Plants grown hydroponically are also free of weeds and soil-borne diseases. The plants can be grown spaced more closely together, due to the fact that the roots don't spread over a soil substrate in search of nutrients. Because of this, the plants can be grown in a smaller space. Due to the fact that the fruits get all nutrients that they need, the fruits are often more tasty than plants grown in the soil.

Potential

Because of the versatility of hydroponics and the high yield results, Hydroponics is used to grow fresh vegetables in inhospitable areas where plants could not normally grow. Scientists stationed in outposts on the Antarctic continent grow fresh vegetables hydroponically to supplement their diets. The U.S. NAVY uses hydroponics to grow vegetables on submarines for sailor stationed there. NASA has conducted experiments using hydroponics to see if it would be possible to grow vegetables in space for astronauts.

Significance

Due to the high yield of plants grown hydroponically as well as the minimal drain on resources and the ability to grow plants in a small space, some scientists believe that hydroponics is where the future of agriculture lies. Hydroponic greenhouses constructed on rooftops of urban areas may one day feed large urban populations, while hydroponics systems in countries with high rates of starvation may one day provide foods to these areas.

Keywords: hydroponic greenhouses, science experiments, hot house tomatoes

About this Author

After 10 years experience in writing, Tracy S. Morris has countless articles and two novels to her credit. Her work has appeared in national magazines and newspapers, including "Ferrets" and "CatFancy," as well as the "Lexington Herald Leader" and "The Tulsa World," and several websites.