Dear Mr. Andrew: Thank you for the fast response to my last e-mail. It was very helpful for my source list. These are the questions that I would like for you to answer.
1. Based on your experience, do you think plants grown using hydroponics are more or less healthy than plants grown in soil?
Much healthier. There is no doubt that the soil plants are much poorer quality as well as quantity See also question and answer pages on www.hydrocentre.com.au for more information on soil vs.. Hydroponic Questions.
2. Why do you think this is?
The majority of a plants ability to produce nutrition is that the nutrients must be available, at exactly the right time, right quantity and with a maximum solubility level (minerals at correct pH and soluble form) The contaminants absorbed in soil affect health quality. Hydroponics consists of around 16 minerals from soil in dissolved form. It is soil without the solubility or availability issues. Vitamin C is a good example. Nitrogen uptake is critical to formation of this vitamin. Nitrogen is available in ammonium form and nitrate form. Ammonium needs to break down from nitrates because that is the form the plants can take up. The ammonium needs bacteria to break down, as well as a suitable pH and temperature, and is carried by water flowing through the soil, so many things have to happen for the nitrogen in soil to get to the plant and as such most of the time, Vitamin C is low in soil plants. As all the nutrient is designed as the most soluble component in Hydroponics (nitrogen only in nitrate form), at the correct pH and quantity, Vitamin C is higher is hydroponically grown plants. It is accepted worldwide by any scientist that Hydroponics is the only way to ensure total nutrient content in foods grown. More important than any of this is that food must be picked ripe as at least 50% of the nutrition is created in the ripening process, which is not possible from commercial techniques.
3. Which plants, if any, do not grow well in a hydroponics system?
Never heard of anything that doesn’t grow well. Even potatoes, mushrooms, bananas, orchids…..
4. Which plants are better suited for hydroponics?
5. Do you think hydroponics takes too much time, effort, and money, so most people should just use soil?
Time – Hydroponics is time saving
Effort – Hydroponics is effort saving
Ease – Hydroponics is much simpler
Trouble – There are less problems in Hydroponics
Money – Hydroponic Gardening has been shown to be less expensive over a sort term, however the actual initial cost may be higher, there are almost no ongoing costs and produces plants much cheaper. The over cost is the same as soil gardening and purchasing tools for ploughing weeding fertilising and irrigating over say 6-12 months. Example; In the 1970’s Hydroponics was used in England to compete with imported tomatoes. As the greenhouses in England had to be heated, Dr Alan Cooper developed the channel system to keep the cost of production low, as imported tomatoes from Spain and Italy where there were no heating costs, were made more expensive because of the costs in production is soil. In Australia a Lettuce farmer might produce 3-5 crops of lettuce a year, and over a 3-4 acre area might employ 3-4 people. Their cost is around 10-20c per plant plus labour. The Hydroponic lettuce grower might produce 10-14 crops of lettuce per year, has a denser packed area so uses 1/4 the room, uses less arable land so it costs less to setup, employs no-one as 1 person can run the farm, and the cost will be 4-8cents per plant plus non-existent labour. Also Hydroponic Lettuce gets a higher price than soil, because of the perceived greater value, health, cleanliness, etc by the consumer than soil crops. Hydroponics is much more profitable because of this. These figures may vary if buying seedlings instead of planting seeds, and so on, but the comparison would be for seed production on site.
6. What benefits are there for using soil?
Unless a perfect soil can be located, there are no benefits. If one was made up, it would still provide incomplete delivery of nutrients as the soil only dissolves minerals for the plants, not fed directly like Hydroponics.
7. What benefits are there for using hydroponics?
Faster, healthier, nutritious, cleaner, less pesticide, less fungicide, no weeding, less bending, less labor, less knowledge required, cheaper to run, works anywhere, can make use of land close to cities and allow close to market growing, less area required, and more. Soil diseases are almost eliminated, as well as viruses and harmful bacteria.
8. Do you think people in parts of the world with poor soil could be taught hydroponics so that they can earn money growing crops?
Many parts of the world do not have access to refined mineral. That would introduce expensive importation of nutrients, eliminating benefits. This may make some poorer nations unsuitable to Hydroponic growing.
9. Do you think hydroponics is a trend that is growing, shrinking, or staying about the same?
Huge growth in the industry worldwide. Lack of Government support is the main failure. All Schools in Australia are required to teach Hydroponics, and do so VERY BADLY. (not teachers fault either….)
10. What role do you think hydroponics will play in the future of this world?
Hydroponics will be the only method used in 50-60 years, as Organics is likely to be banned for health risks, and the rate of soil degradation is increasing. As population increases, Hydroponics will be the only way to keep pace with food demands.
11. Is there anything else that you would like to add?
Use the Questions I have answered on the Question and Answer page on www.hydrocentre.com.au to provide other angles to your research.
*For my experiment I am growing lettuce. I have not transplanted half of my plants in soil and the other half into the hydroponics system yet because the seedlings look very small and flimsy. How will I know when they are strong enough?
Minimum 2-3 sets of leaves. More is better. To plant into hydroponics you should wash any soil off. TO ensure you have a correct experiment wash the soil of the soil test too, as transplant shock from the roots being disturbed can slow plants. If only washed from the hydroponics group the soil plants would not have this transplant shock, and would give incorrect test results overall.