The advance science and technology have made ways to minimize independence on soil for plant cultivation. The Hydroponics from the Greek words hydro (water) and ponos (labour) is a method of growing plants using mineral nutrient solutions instead of soil. Terrestrial plants may be grown with their roots in the mineral nutrient solution only or in an inert medium, such as perlite, gravel or mineral wool.
Plant physiology researchers discovered in the 19th century that plants absorb essential mineral nutrients as inorganic ions in water. In natural conditions, soil acts as a mineral nutrient reservoir but the soil itself is not essential to plant growth. When the mineral nutrients in the soil dissolve in water, plant roots are able to absorb them. When the required mineral nutrients are introduced into a plant’s water supply artificially, soil is no longer required for the plant to thrive. Almost any terrestrial plant will grow with hydroponics, but some will do better than others.
There are two main types of hydroponics technique. They are solution culture and medium culture. Solution culture does not use a solid medium for the roots, just the nutrient solution. The medium culture method has a solid medium for the roots and is named for the type of medium, e.g. sand culture, gravel culture or rockwool culture.
Advantages of Hydrophonic Method
Compared to the conventional cultivation method it has various advantages. The farmer has full control on the crops, can be planted densely with less rate of fertilizer usage. The crop can also be harvested faster without deteoration of bad climate and pesticides usage. It is capable of producing 2000 tonnes of tomato per hectare per year of land compared to the conventional cultivation of at 50 to 100 tonnes per hectare per year. Saves an incredible amount of water; it uses as little as 1/20 the amount as a regular farm to produce the same amount of food. Hydroponics technology has made high altitude crops species able to be cultivated in temperate climate in Malaysia. Salad Webb Wonderful Lolla Blonda The hydroponics technique is suitable for variety of crops in Malaysia such as in the following.
Type of crop suitable for hydroponics cultivation in Malaysia Crop Category
Vegetable - Salad, cabbage, tomato, chilli, cucumber
Flowers - Rose, orchid
Herbs - Chives, mint, parsley, sage, thyme
Fruits - Banana, watermelon
(Source:Terangganu Hydroponics Association, 2006)
The most common technique used in hydrophonic cultivation for farming in malaysia is the continuous flow culture which are known as the “nutrient film technique”. In this technique the nutrient solution constantly flows past the roots. Whereby a very shallow stream of water containing all the dissolved nutrients required for plant growth is recirculated past the bare roots of plants in a watertight gully, also known as channels. Ideally, the depth of the recirculating stream should be very shallow, little more than a film of water, hence the name ‘nutrient film’. A properly designed NFT system is based on using the right channel slope, the right flow rate and the right channel length.
Do It Yourself (DIY)
As for beginners or any household may try them which is relatively easy to be carried out. Plants can be grown in containers of nutrient solution such as, plastic buckets, tubs or tanks. The solution is kept low enough that sufficient roots are above the solution so they get adequate oxygen. A hole is cut in the lid of the reservoir for each plant. A homemade system can be constructed from plastic food containers with aeration provided by an aquarium pump, aquarium airline tubing and aquarium valves. Clear containers are covered with aluminium foil, butcher paper, black plastic or other material to exclude light, thus helping to eliminate the formation of algae. The nutrient solution is changed on a schedule, such as once per week.
Hydrophonic technique of plant cultivation may serve as a solution for food shortage due to the rapid industrialization and global environmental changes. The basics of this technology can be explored by starting our own vegetable cultivation in the kitchen yard. Without doubt it will produce much yield and benefits to its owner if the culture is made with a little attention. Let us go green Malaysian, cultivate your own food, it may worth a lot for the embraces.
Kenney, Brad P. 2006. Success under glass. American Vegetable Grower. May, pages 12-13