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Organic Hydroponics

Organic, simply means “non artificial,” in other words anything found in nature is organic. In relation to food the dictionary calls it “grown or raised without synthetic  fertilizers, or pesticides, or hormones.” There are many harmful compounds found in nature, Including radiation. There are many different views on whether organic foods are really helpful to us, or in fact may be harmful. So as you can imagine, the subject of what’s organic has lead to many debates. It really comes down to what you feel is organic when considering growing your plants organically, although most would probably agree that their simply referring to non harmful compounds.

Organic food is free from artificial chemicals, pesticides, antibiotics, growth-promoters and fertilizers. That doesn’t mean NONE were used, just that they were not synthetic or artificial. But you can choose to not use any if you don’t want to. Just remember that’s what you’re paying for when you buy organically grown food from the store. You have control in your own garden. Organic food is also free from genetically modified ingredients. This  process is known as ‘genetic engineering’. The idea behind  genetic alternating is to transfer the beneficial properties found in some types of plants or animals such as resistance to attack by diseases, insects or herbicides, to other plants or animals that normally lack these properties. So genetically altered plants and animals are not considered truly organic.

Taste and Nutrition
While taste depends on many factors, such as the variety of the plant, when it’s harvested, and how far it’s shipped (shipping not a factor for home hydroponics), along with environmental factors, some people feel that organic food tastes better than non-organic food. But because taste is truly subjective to each individual, as a result it’s really hard to prove. Though according to some studies organic foods show that they have more vitamins and beneficial trace elements than conventionally grown food, so organic food has the potential to be more nutritious, and have a better taste. But there is no clear cut yes or no to this question. People generally associate organic food with better health, there local growers and less pesticides, as well as more humane treatment of animals and better environmental practices.

But according to Science in Society by Northwestern university “National Organic Program, which regulates the process of growing organic food, which is actually a marketing program within the U.S. Department of Agriculture,  “the government stops short of making any scientific claims that organic food is safer or more nutritious than conventional foods.  So with the price of food continuing to increase in recent months, shoppers are wondering if organics are really worth the extra cost.” So it really seems to come down to personal opinion on the matter of weather organic food is better for you or not (at least at this point).

Packaged products made with at least 95 percent organic ingredients can use the USDA organic seal. There are strict fines for anyone caught mislabeling there products as organic. Although any vendor can tell consumers their farms are in the process of becoming organic, and those claims are unregulated, so be aware. Of coarse, unless you are selling it, you wont be facing those issues. But if you are truly wanting organic produce, you will still want to adhere to those guidelines for your garden.

Hydroponic Organic Fertilizers
With respect to organic soil crops, when nutrients from soil grown plants are removed from the ground or soil (because plants use them up), their not easily replaced, in order to maintain the soil balance. This is mostly because of the organic standards limited to the fertilizers they can use. This places organic fields at risk of nutrient depletion, in turn causing higher prices for the product. With respect to Hydroponically grown plants, plant nutrition is also the biggest factor, primary because of the limitations on what they can be derived from. Organic hydroponic nutrients are generally derived from things like bat guano, kelp, sulfate of potash, feather meal, oat bran, blood meal, and steamed bone meal.

In at lest one study from the University of Kentucky, Organic Fertilizers for Greenhouse Lettuce Production, there is a significant reduction in crop production resulting from the organic materials derived from algae (Algamin and EcoNutrients), when compared to non-organic nutrients. The dry weight of lettuce grown with these organic materials was only 10 to 18 percent of those grown in inorganic fertilizers (depending on plant), in the same type of system, and with the same conditions.

It seem the materials that organic hydroponic nutrients are derived from, can show to be less effective than the inorganic ones. Although It’s much easier to control nutrient levels in a hydroponic system than in soil, it can still be challenging to grow organically with hydroponics. But with some trial and error, time and patients, growing organically can be productive. On another note, the pH levels of the organic nutrient solutions may fluctuate more than they would when using inorganic nutrients and pH adjusters as well.

Organic Gardening
Advanced Nutrients

Useful Links
Peaceful Valley Farm Supply
National Organic Program
Crop Physiology Laboratory
Organic or not Organic?
Going Organic

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