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What’s the big deal about Hydroponics?

After all, if growing Hydroponically was so great wouldn’t everyone be doing it? Well that’s a good question, but the truth is not really. There are many alternate forums of energy, but oil and coal are still the most common forms of energy that the world rely’s on. Even with the strong need to find other sources of energy, big business still focuses on oil and coal. It’s basically the same way with agriculture. Even though hydroponics has been around since WWW2, the agricultural industry tends to just focus on what they already know, and what they are already used to, just like in most industries.

But unlike large industry (not so easy to make your own gas), it’s much easier for the home gardener to pave the way for hydroponics. Mostly because of the home hydroponic gardener, there’s a need for the hydroponic supply’s and products. This need/demand of hydroponic products drives manufactures to create these products for the public, simply because there’s money in selling them (after all that’s what drives industry). These products are slowly making their way into the commercial agricultural industry, mostly for high value crops like tomatoes and peppers etc.. Bottom line is there are many benefits and some drawbacks to growing hydroponically, but until they learn how they can benefit from growing hydroponically, they will likely remain doing things just as they have always done in the past.

Growing Hydroponically has many advantages over growing in soil, but the one big disadvantage is that it’s not as easy as just sticking a plant in the ground and watering it once in a while. Although growing hydroponically is not hard at all, it does take more of the gardeners time and attention. And simply paying attention to how the plants are doing from day to day is important. Unlike soil gardens, hydroponic plants respond to changes (both good and bad) much more rapidly. So that’s the reason why it’s important to take the time to pay attention to how they are doing.

But because hydroponic plants respond to changes much more rapidly than soil grown plants, this is one of the big advantages to growing hydroponically. This allows the gardener to provide the optimum growing conditions 24/7, and thus the plants grow much larger and faster than they ever could in soil. For commercial growers this increases there produce production, and ultimately their profits as well. For the home gardener this allows them to get more from their limited plant space.

Another big advantage to hydroponics is the ability to have many more plants in the same amount of space. Not just closer together but also taking advantage of vertical space. Traditional soil grown plants are grown from the ground, and spacing is determined by how much ground space there is. With hydroponics you can stack plants above others plants, taking advantage of the vertical space also. Growing in this fashion is much more highly productive for both commercial growers, as well as home gardeners. For commercial growers this means much less land they need to buy, and much more production for that land, both of witch translates into profit for the growers.

Also with hydroponics there is no need for crop rotations, or time lost between crops conditioning the soil. Once a crop is harvested, the grower can simply plant new plants directly into the hydroponic system the same day. By starting hydroponic seeds in small propagation tables, and growing them there until there large enough to transplant into the hydroponic system beforehand, that cuts down on time lost waiting for the plants to get big enough to become productive. Growing in this way allows the grower to have two, three or even four year round crops in the same space, rather than just one crop in a particular season.

For commercial growers another downside for growing hydroponically is typically the start-up cost of the hydroponic system, and/or any greenhouse they build to house year round crops. This can be a substantial start-up cost depending on system design, crop, and location. But most of this can be offset by less land needed (acreage), as well as there is no need for costly large specialized farming equipment that can run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, not to mention the maintenance, fuel and general upkeep of this expensive equipment. Home gardeners are just growing for themselves, so the start-up cost can be quite inexpensive depending on the system design, and how many plants they want to grow. Usually a home grower will start with just a few plants, and as they begin to have success they will begin to expand their systems and setups.

Also hydroponically grown plants typically only use about one tenth the amount of water than soil/field grown crops. That’s because most of the water in soil grown plants is lost to evaporation, as well as the water draining down through the ground back into the water table before the plants ever get a chance to drink it. In some places like arid regions this can be a substantial operating savings, simply because water is scarce and water costs can be high. All in all, given a all the benefits for commercial crop production, as well as for the home grower, the question should be, what’s the big deal about soil grown crops?

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