Taking Advantage of Hydroponic Growing

Farming is essential to life on Earth. Cultivating crops generates the fruits, vegetables, and grains humans need for survival. At the same time, it sustains the livestock that help to feed the human population. If it weren't for farming, Earth's ecosphere might fall into a state of chaos, and life as we know it could cease to exist. While the agricultural industry has been conducted in conventional ways for centuries, recent developments have prompted the world to look for an alternative to the ongoing traditions. Many experts believe they've found the answer in hydroponics.

Hydroponic Growing, Hydroponic, Lifestyle
Taking Advantage of Hydroponic Growing

Hydroponics entails growing crops in nutrient-rich water rather than soil. Doing so allows farmers to bring their crops indoors and cultivate them all year long instead of only during the standard growing season. This technique can be used in areas where farmland and water are scarce, and it generates higher yields than traditional soil-based growing. Certain knowledge and equipment are needed to start and sustain a hydroponic growing system. Though you can find help at Agron, we're going to discuss some of the basics right here.

A Brief Look at History

Many people view hydroponics as a revolutionary new development. That's not actually the case. In fact, early examples of this growing method date back well over 2,500 years. Soilless growing techniques were lost to time for a while, but during the 1600s, scientists began trying to bring them back into the mix. During the 1800s, successful attempts were made at cultivating crops while bypassing soil. Then, during the 1930s and '40s, the process became a bit more practical. Over the next few decades, it became much more mainstream.

How Does Hydroponics Work?

On the surface, growing crops may seem like a simple matter. You drop the seed in soil, and it eventually sprouts. From there, it grows into a plant that produces fruits, vegetables, or grains. It also produces seeds to grow new plants, and the cycle continues.

Upon delving deeper, though, we find that the process is actually much more complicated than it appears. Seeds contain all the genetic material a plant needs to mature into a member of the species it was meant to be. When those seeds are planted, moisture softens the protective outer shell and allows that genetic material to begin branching out. Roots form to take in essential nutrients and moisture from the soil while stems and leaves grow upward to take in sunlight and carbon dioxide. When all those elements combine within the plant, photosynthesis takes place. This is the process by which plants create their own food so they can continue to thrive.

As it turns out, plants don't actually need the soil to grow. It's merely a vessel that holds the nutrients they require and provides pockets of air to allow the roots to breathe. Water flows through the soil, picks up the vitamins and nutrients therein, and carries them across the plants' root systems so it's available for them to use as needed. Hydroponic growers skip the soil and place the nutrients directly into the water. They have to take special care to supply air to the roots to keep them from getting waterlogged and decaying, but the plant maturation process essentially remains the same as it would be with soil.

Crucial Components of a Hydroponic Growing System

Hydroponic growing systems must include certain essential components. They should consist of channels for nutrients and water to flow across the plants' roots and pump systems to push the water along. At the same time, they must include grow lights to provide the UV light plants need for photosynthesis. Pots or other containers to hold the plants and their growing media are crucial as well.

Ventilation is also essential. If the plants can't get air, they won't thrive. These systems also consist of water filtration components, aeration systems for plants' roots, carbon dioxide monitoring equipment, temperature gauges, and other parts. Several variations of hydroponics systems are on the market, but these are some of the basic aspects. Of course, human intervention is critical as well. It's up to the grower to add nutrients to the water, keep the system up and running, and monitor the plants' growing environment to be sure everything remains at optimal levels.

Why Hydroponics Is the Way of the Future

Traditional soil-based growing has served the world well for centuries. Still, certain problems have arisen over time. Let's not forget issues like stripping the soil of nutrients and rendering it unsuitable for future crops. The Dust Bowl of 1930 can't be overlooked, either. That said, those were only the tip of the iceberg when compared to problems the future could potentially hold in store.

Earth's population is surging. It skyrocketed from one billion to almost eight billion from 1800 to the present alone and could surpass 11 billion over the next century. As the population grows, people are spreading out into what was once farmland. In fact, we've lost more than 30 million acres of viable farmland to development over the past 30 years. Despite rapidly dwindling farmland, global demand for food is growing in proportion to the population. All the while, Earth's fresh water supply is slowly shrinking while an ever-growing number of people are depending on it to survive.

Hydroponics is the way of the future because it doesn't require nearly as much viable farmland. It can be carried out indoors, and growers are able to grow far more crops in much less space than with traditional cultivation methods. Since they can grow year-round, this further ramps up the potential yields of hydroponic growing. On top of that, hydroponics uses up to 10 times less water than soil-based cultivation.

All that means that hydroponics may very well be critical to humanity's survival during the years to come. It can allow growers to produce crops in spite of continually decreasing farmland, and it could be the key to meeting future food demands. It'll also leave more of the planet's fresh water supply untouched.

Getting Your Hydroponic Growing System Underway

If you're interested in becoming part of the future as well as part of the solution, hydroponics could be the answer. You'll need to learn more about the soilless growing process and get all the components you need to build and maintain a growing system as well. While getting started in the field of hydroponics may take a bit of time, effort, and money, it's well worth the rewards.

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