Farming is one of the lucrative businesses on earth today; it is a clandestine way of making money for some people in some areas. There are different systems of cultivation using the soil as a planting medium; this is the conventional and the most widely adopted system. Farmers have been using these systems for long; some have been fortunate while others experienced great mishaps as a result of the soil factor.
The soil is the natural habitat for plants; it is naturally endowed with all necessary factors to aid plant growth. However, there are some encumbrances that deter the soil from reaching its potential; human activities and pest invasion are the two basic threats.
Planting on soil is like taking a huge risk because the condition of the soil is obscure.
Some pests live beneath the soil, planting on such soil is dicey as pest may evade the crop and reduce the yield greatly.
This led to the development of hydroponic farming, where water is used as the planting medium.
Hydroponic farming is a system of farming where water, in form of nutrient solution, is used solely as the growing medium. Hydroponic farming is a great initiative and improvement to the cultivation of crops; this system greatly conserves water and brings about high and good quality yield. Crops sown under hydroponic systems are better, in terms of quality and quantity, than crop grown under conventional planting system.
The parameters necessary for healthy plant growth and profitable yield, such as: water, sunlight, nutrients etc.; are controlled under hydroponic system.
Hydroponic system also facilitates multiple planting seasons as all the growth parameters are being modified. This system greatly conserves planting resources such as water, nutrient, planting space and others. The soil contains nutrients that enhance plant growth but in hydroponic systems, nutrient solution is made to provide necessary nutrients require for the plant growth.
Hydroponic farming is inexpensive, the cost of land preparation is boycotted and can be done using cheap and household tools; it can be done in any location provided the growth requirements are met. The system can be adopted commercially with little space. The materials required for its construction are cheap and readily available; they are:
- Planting medium: These materials provide support for the plant; this is where the plants are held firm and conserves nutrient solution for growth. Examples of these materials are: Perlite, Vermiculite, grave, small basket and Coconut Fiber; they are cheap and can be gotten at little or no cost.
- Submerged pump: This is used to supply nutrient solution to the growing medium for plant uptake to enhance the growth and development of the plant.
- Air pump and air stones: The air pump supplies air into the air stones to provide bubbles in the nutrient solution, thus, aerating the plant roots through the supply of oxygen to the plant roots.
- Reservoir: This contains the nutrient solution; the pump takes up the nutrient solution from here to the plant root to enhance plant growth.
These are the basic materials required to successful start a hydroponic farm.
Systems of Hydroponic farming.
These are ways whereby the hydroponic farm can be designed; all are aimed at providing good and cost effective yield, these systems are:
1. Wick system
The wick system is the simplest form of hydroponic systems. It is simple in nature but very effective. In this system, the plants are grown on any growing medium. However, Perlite, Vermiculite, Pro-Mix and Coconut Fiber are the common growing mediums used. The nutrient solution is prepared in a reservoir and transported to the growing medium with the aid of a wick so as to reach the plant root. The wick, which is suspended in the nutrient solution, draws the nutrient to the growing medium to reach the plant roots, thus, supplying the plants nutrients to enhance their growth.
2. Water culture
This is another simple form of hydroponic farming; it is very cheap to design and less technical. It is commonly used as the elementary school practical. It is best used to cultivate any hydrophilic vegetable like cucumber and lettuce. In this system, the plant is suspended directly in the nutrients solution with the aid of a Styrofoam; which supports the plant firmly. An air pump is installed to supply air to the air stone that bubbles the nutrient solution, thus, supplying oxygen to the roots of the plants.
The disadvantage of this system is that it doesn’t work well with large plants or plants with long gestation period.
3. EBB & FLOW OR FLOOD AND DRAIN SYSTEM
In this system, the nutrient solution is temporarily used to flood the growing medium and later drained to the reservoir. This is made possible with the aid of a submerged pump that is connected and regulated with a timer. This timer regulates the activities of the pump; the nutrient solution is pumped into the growing medium when the timer is turned on, and when the timer is turned off, the pump stops and the nutrient solution flows back into the reservoir. The timer is made to come on several times a day at regular interval, depending on the size and type of the plants, and the type of growing medium used.
The main disadvantage of this system is that there is high risk of the roots drying out quickly due to the possibility of power outage and failure of the timer, which can lead to interruption of the water and nutrient supply.
However, This problem can be resolved using growing mediums that are absorbent, that is, can retain more water, mediums like Rockwool, Vermiculite, coconut fiber are absorbent in nature.
4. DRIP SYSTEMS: RECOVERY / NON-RECOVERY
This is the most commonly used hydroponic system in the world. It is simple and very conservative, especially the recovery. It operates with the aid of a submerged pump and a timer. In this system, the nutrient solution is pumped from the reservoir and dropped in the root zone of the plant in the growing medium using drip lines. In a Recovery Drip System, the excess nutrient solution that runs off is collected back in the reservoir for re-use. The recovery does not really require a timer for the regulation of the nutrient solution. However, the Non-Recovery System allows the excess nutrient solution to run off; this requires a timer to regulate the supply of the nutrient solution.
5. Nutrient Film Technique
This system efficiently utilizes the nutrient solution as there is a constant flow of nutrient solution without the need of a timer to regulate the operation of the submersible pump. In this system, the nutrient solution is pumped into the growing medium (usually a tube); it flows over the roots of the plants, and then drains back into the reservoir. There is usually no growing medium used other than air; however, the crop is supported by a small plastic basket which makes the roots dangle inside the nutrient solution.
The aeroponic , similar to the nutrient film technique, is the most technical type of hydroponic farming. It makes use of air as its primary growing medium. The roots of the plants are made to hang in the air and are mechanically sprayed or misted with nutrient solution. The spraying or misting has been automated to come up every few minutes; this is made possible with the aid of a timer. Care must be taken to ensure the timer is not interrupted so as to prevent the roots of the plants from getting dried. This system greatly conserves nutrient.
These are the forms of hydroponic farming you can adopt.
Hydroponic farming is a great way to increase the quality and quantity of crop produced. It is one of the best ways to produce disease free crops with reasonable yield as all the parameters to facilitate growth are monitored and controlled.