PNC
HYDROPONICS

 

How Hydroponics Affects On Agriculture?

 

The human population is increasing, predicted to expand from 7.0 billion to 9.5 billion in the next 40 years. As it does the demand for food will reach critical levels and estimates claim that food production will need to double (Sahara Forest Project, 2009). Evidence shows that current systems of agriculture are already stretched: 1 billion people don’t have enough food, and 1.2 billion live in areas with water scarcity (Sahara Forest Project, 2009).

 

Another statistic shows more affluence and more demand for quality resources. Preventing hunger and providing quality will have collateral damaging effects on environment, biodiversity, habitat fragmentation and degradation, climate, energy resources. Habitat loss is the leading cause of biodiversity loss, and today, about 38 percent of global land is devoted to agriculture. Without altering our current systems of development, this percentage will only increase, as open-air soil-reliant crops cannot be stacked into storied facilities.

 

Traditional agriculture, refers to systems which are characterized by expansive plots of extensively-tilled land. In many countries, the crops of such systems are monocultures selectively bred for high fruit, grain, or biomass yields: agricultural development promotes biological uniformity in food species and in environments. Traditional systems use large quantities of fresh water (for the purpose of irrigation) and fossil fuels (to power machinery and for transportation purposes), with relatively marginal returns. Agriculture accounts for 17 percent of total energy expenditures, and 13 percent of agricultural energy consumption is attributable to irrigation. What is more, it is believed that current energy expenditures must be increased in coming years in order to maintain current crop yields.

 

In short, massive portions of the world's land area and substantial quantities of fresh water and fossil fuels are being devoted to the production of food which fails to meet humanity's basic dietary needs. The continuation of the current system of agriculture would mean the continuation of the degradation and destruction of the habitats of innumerable species, both aquatic and terrestrial, with insufficient returns. New procedures such as hydroponics, which are more space efficient and can make use of already degraded farmlands will help protect wild habitats and provide the world’s food needs.

 

Hydroponic farming also allows the growing season to be extended and, because the plants are generally grown in confined structures where temperature and humidity are regulated, they may be produced in areas of extreme or variable climates. The sustainable development of the planet and the way we feed and clothe the population are major issues confronting the world today. As a global community, we need to advance our expertise in plant production, food technology, sustainable management of natural resources, as well as how we use the natural environment for recreational activities. The main challenge will be to supply safe products that are needed for a quality of life while maintaining a healthy planet.

 

Hydroponic and greenhouse technology, aquaculture and aquaponics, organic and urban farming technologies are intensive plant production systems that are all well placed to meet the challenges ahead. Driving the challenges ahead are consumer and government pressures to produce safe, nutritious food in green sustainable ways. The new global economy and the advent of free trade agreements pose significant challenges for the hydroponics industry worldwide. Cheap products flooding international markets take away livelihoods, threaten the stability of existing fresh food markets, and increase the risk of exotic new pests and diseases, with serious impacts on important commercial crops and natural ecosystems.

 

Growers all over the world are using hydroponic techniques for food and ornamental plant production. Hydroponic growing is attracting attention for its water and land use efficiency. Hobby farmers and home gardeners have used hydroponics on a smaller scale to grow fresh vegetables year round and to grow plants in smaller spaces, such as the basement or an apartment balcony. Many greenhouses and nurseries practice hydroponic techniques by growing their plants in a soilless, peat- or bark-based growing mix and supplying nutrients through the water supply.

 

Soilless gardening offers many advantages to commercial and part time farmers. Since a sterile medium is used in hydroponic systems, there are no weeds to remove, and soil-borne pests and diseases are minimized, if not eliminated completely. Properly grown and adequately nourished hydroponic plants are normally healthier and more vigorous because all of the necessary growth elements and nutrients are made readily available during growth.

 

Hydroponic plants grow and mature faster, yielding an earlier harvest of vegetable, herbal and flower crops. Hydroponic gardens use less space since the plant roots do not have to spread out in search of food and water. This small space requirement makes hydroponics ideal for limited space home gardeners, small scale and commercial farmers also benefit from better and more productive use of greenhouse space.

 

The big advantage of hydroponics is the ability to automate the entire system with timers and remote monitoring equipment. Automation reduces the time it takes to maintain plant growth requirements and the growing environment. Automation also provides flexibility to the grower who be gone for longer periods of time without having to worry. Hydroponics offers many advantages for commercial agriculture. Cultivating plants without soil eliminates the need for vast farmland and allows crops to be produced in greenhouses or even in the desert sands. Properly run farms produce more food with less overall fossil fuel costs than most forms of agriculture. Hydroponic farms can be located closer to markets, ensuring fresher produce with reduced transportation costs.

 

Hydroponic techniques also allow for precise water and nutrient application directly to the roots of each plant saving on costs. Water is reused in these systems and less is lost through evaporation or via field run-off. Hydroponics technologies are effectively used in arid lands, such as deserts, transferring areas into productive lands while using limited amounts of water. Growing plants hydroponically is not difficult with basic understanding of the principles. As long as plant growth requirements are met, there are numerous hydroponic systems that can be used.

 

The bottom line:

  • Most land is suitable including old industrial land, areas with soil infertility or toxicity, conserving more arable land for essential nature and wildlife. The land suited for hydroponics is cheaper than agricultural land and closer to markets.
  • Production is higher and practices such as weeding or ploughing are reduced and in hydroponics, so land is used more effectively. (With the same space a lettuce farmer might get 3-5 crops in soil vs. 10-14 in hydroponics, thus using half the area).
  • A hydroponic acre can yield as many as ten thousand plants whereas an acre on soil can only raise a third of that.
  • Uses 3% of the water of traditional farms.
  • Hydroponics allows for crops outside of their natural climate.
  • Crop rotation is unnecessary because there is no depletion of nutrients because there is no soil.
  • Growing is not regulated by seasonal changes. Hydroponics allows for continual growth throughout the year.
  • There is little to no risk of weeds or parasites in controlled systems.
  • Has been successfully used to grow crops outside of our atmosphere.