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For many people, soilless agriculture systems such as Hydroponics have been rapidly growing in popularity over recent decades. Plants grown in soil, while functional, can be incredibly inefficient and environmentally unsustainable. And while there are many benefits to starting your own hydroponics garden, there are a few things you should consider before jumping into it headfirst. Carefully weighing hydroponics advantages and disadvantages are often the key to helping you decide if this plant growing system is truly right for you.
Some of the key advantages of Hydroponics is that it produces sustainable, eco-friendly, and efficient crops. While some of the inherent disadvantages may include high start-up costs and risks of water-borne disease. In this article, we will discuss the benefits and drawbacks of hydroponic gardening and help you decide if this method is the right one for you.
What is Hydroponics?
Hydroponic systems are a gardening method introduced in the 1920s where growers cultivate crops without the need to have them grown in soil. Interestingly, it has been said that the US troops amid World War II utilized Hydroponics to cultivate vegetables and fruits while deployed in a barren area in the Pacific Islands.
The term “hydro” means water, and this technique leverages nutrient-rich water in growing plants, vegetables, and fruits. A lot of folks are now becoming health-conscious; hence, preferring organically produced crops. One-way gardeners can meet this soaring demand is through the use of the Hydroponics method.
Hydroponic gardening is more straightforward and less time consuming compared to the conventional way of farming. With Hydroponics, the factors required in cultivating naturally grown crops can be readily managed and more easily regulated.
Advantages of Hydroponic Systems
One of the best things about this system is that it will allow operators to set up either an indoor or outdoor garden. Growers will also have no problem if they prefer to start small or even begin with a large-scale commercial system. Below are some of the advantages of Hydroponics farming.
One of the main advantages that practitioners of Hydroponics farming can enjoy is that the system generates crops all-year-round regardless of the season. In contrast, the conventional way of farming will have to depend on planting and harvesting seasonality. Furthermore, having an efficiently managed Hydroponic system will produce thriving crops even if you are living in an area with extreme climate.
For growers living in urban areas, limited space is not an obstacle to set up a small Hydroponics system. This type of system only requires adequate space compared to the typical garden setting. Thus, you will see urban dwellers installing vertically stacked systems or putting up rooftop gardens.
What’s more, with the current technology, gardeners with an indoor system can utilize artificial grow lights for crops to receive the necessary lighting. With people producing food locally, this trims down the transportation charge for goods, and more people living in arid places have access to fresh, affordable food.
Disadvantages of Hydroponic Systems
While there are lots of benefits to Hydroponics, know that the method is not without disadvantages. Take a look at some of the setbacks you may face when you decide to engage in Hydroponics.
Cost is a crucial factor to consider whether you are looking into a small or large-scale Hydroponic system. Regardless of size, the required equipment for setting up the system will be a substantial investment. Also, bear in mind there will be considerable upfront and operational expenses needed to maintain your Hydroponics garden.
Maintaining a Hydroponic garden will require regular monitoring of pH levels, air, and water temperature. This can become tedious to some, and others may experience failure until they get their maintenance routines down to a science. While it can be tricky, know that it can take learning through trial and error.
As water is a vital component of the system, we will discuss this essential element and products such as vegetables and fodder in the next sections.
The Water Advantages of Hydroponic Systems
With nutrient-rich water nourishing your crops, let us examine the advantages of this vital component of your system.
Help Saves Water
When engaging in Hydroponics, practitioners are able to utilize roughly 20x less water compared to growing crops in soil. This is because water touches the plant roots directly, and there is no ground surrounding the crop to absorb the liquid. In addition, because many hydroponics setups are covered or indoors, this can help slow or prevent the rate of water evaporation.
Moreover, the water in Hydroponic systems is reusable. Growers usually retrieve the water at the culminating cycle of the system, filter the liquid, and reuse them again. This process is a nifty way to save natural resources plus reduce operational costs.
No Need For Soil Testing
Conventional farming usually requires soil testing before you can even begin planting. Although this testing is necessary in most cases, however, it can also be costly and time-consuming. With Hydroponics, since you will be cultivating plants in water and use of a man-made structure, you will be able to avoid this hassle.
The Water Disadvantages of Hydroponic Systems
Now let’s look at some of the downsides of hydroponics water:
Risk of Water-Born Microorganisms
Although water is an essential component of the system, the risk of water-based microorganisms emerging in the garden is inevitable. Though there are fungi and bacteria safe for plants, some can be hazardous. Thus, consider testing your water before starting your operation. Note, also that keeping your system sterile is part of the regular task in maintaining a Hydroponics garden.
Susceptibility to Power Outages
Most Hydroponic gardens utilize system timers. In cases, there will be prolonged power outages, and the generator runs out, there’s a high chance of crops getting damaged. Due to this, Hydroponics operators opt to purchase multiple back-up generators in the event a power crisis strikes.
Advantages of Hydroponically Grown Vegetables
After understanding the importance of water as a component, you may be wondering, are there benefits to hydroponics vegetables? Indeed, there are upsides to them. Take a look at some of the advantages of Hydroponics vegetables.
Hydroponics, as a soilless method, provides plants their ideal environment. As a result, crops grow larger and faster compared to traditional gardening. Harvesting is likewise convenient. There is no need to stand in the sweltering heat to pick vegetables in the field. In a Hydroponic farm, your plants are already in one particular place and very easy to reach.
Since the method avoids the use of chemicals, the food generated is fresher and cleaner compared to soil-grown crops that can be loaded with pesticides. Also, because vegetables are grown locally in a sterile system, the quality and taste are more refined compared to plants that were transported hundreds of miles.
Disadvantages of Hydroponically Grown Vegetables
However, as previously discussed, there is no such thing as a perfect method. Here are a few disadvantages of hydroponics vegetables:
Rapid spread of disease
With water running throughout the system, if a pest or disease is able to afflict one crop, there is a high chance of it affecting your entire system. Hence, see to it when you discover a diseased crop remove the plant immediately, and implement disease/pest control.
If you are a novice in Hydroponics, it may take a while to learn the technicalities of growing your favorite crops in water. Thus, you will need to dedicate time to learn how to work your Hydroponics garden.
Advantages of Hydroponic Fodder
Surprisingly, Hydroponics does not only generate food for human consumption. The system also produces livestock feed or fodder to nourish animals such as goats, sheep, and cows. Here are some of the gains of Hydroponics fodder:
No leaching of nutrients
Typically, hydroponic fodder systems cultivate grains like wheat, barley, corn, and oats. One of the advantages of Hydroponics fodder is that compared to traditional growing methods, there is no need to worry about nutrients leaching into the ground. Also, with the fodder being regularly produced, farmers do not need to store the feed for a lengthened period and lose essential nutrients over time.
When you look at fodder sprouts, you will notice that they are delicate and young similar to fresh grass. Farmers who use Hydroponic fodder claim that these types of feeds have nutritional values not found in unsprouted grains. However, more research is needed to validate this claim.
Disadvantages of Hydroponic Fodder
Then again, with all these advantages will inevitably be some disadvantages. Let us see some of the issues you may encounter with Hydroponics fodder.
More labor requirement
Know that this type of animal feed involves lots of labor. There is considerable time required to soak and germinate seeds, move the grain to beds, monitor seed development, sterilize the fodder trays, and give the fodder to the animals. While you can automate some steps, this will amount to considerable costs.
Vulnerable to Molds
Fodder with molds can result in reduced animal performance or even livestock deaths. Hence, practicing good hygiene in your Hydroponics system is critical. Consider also regularly cleaning your trays in between crops.
Are Hydroponic Systems the Best Method for You?
After learning the advantages and disadvantages of Hydroponics gardening, the next important thing to know is whether Hydroponics is the right method for you. Indeed, compared to the traditional soil-based technique, Hydroponics offers lots of advantages. Though some may get intimidated with the upfront and operational costs of starting a commercial system. However, with a properly managed system, in the long run, you need not worry about this when profits start coming in.
So, is Hydroponics the method for you? The answer to that question is whether the technique can supply all your financial and individual requirements as a gardener. Need to know as to whether Aquaponics might be the more suitable option for you? Click here to learn the differences between Aquaponics and Hydroponics.