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Hydroponics

HYDROPONICS

HYDROPONICS, a method of growing plants in nutrient solutions, without soil. Under normal conditions, soil captures and stores nitrogen, potassium, and other mineral nutrients, which plant roots absorb gradually. Hydroponics, in contrast, immerses roots directly in liquid nutrient solutions. Plants are either suspended above water with their roots submerged, or they are placed in sand or in sterile growing mediums and regularly flooded with liquid nutrients. Proponents say this minimizes nutrient loss and allows more precise control over the nutrients the plants receive.

The principles of hydroponic gardening have been used since ancient times. They were brought to popular attention in the United States in 1937 by Dr. W. F. Gericke, who introduced the word "hydroponic" (from the Greek words for "water" and "work") and publicly displayed immense tomato plants cultivated by this method. Hydroponics became a brief fad. Although popular interest subsided, hydroponic methods continued to be developed and studied. In World War II, soldiers on Pacific islands grew their vegetables hydroponically, and in the 1960s large commercial hydroponic greenhouses and multiacre hydroponic farms were established in many locations around the United States.

In the early 2000s hydroponic systems ranged from small home setups to large enterprises. Advocates saw hydroponics as a way to increase the world's food supply and as a form of cultivation suitable for the confines of spacecraft. However, most people viewed hydroponics as a supplement to traditional growing methods rather than as a replacement. It is not suitable for all plants, must be done carefully, and can require large amounts of water.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Nicholls, Richard. Beginning Hydroponics: Soilless Gardening. Philadelphia: Running Press, 1990.

Resh, Howard M. Hydroponic Food Production: A Definitive Guidebook of Soilless Food-Growing Methods. 5th ed. Santa Barbara, Calif.: Woodbridge Press, 1995.

JohnTownes/c. w.

See alsoAgriculture ; Gardening ; Organic Farming .

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hydroponics

hydroponics, growing of plants without soil in water to which nutrients have been added. Hydroponics has been used for over a century as a research technique, but not until 1929 were experiments conducted solely to determine its feasibility for growing commercial crops. There are now hydroponic home gardens and commercial cropping operations in the United States and many other countries. Under hydroponics, plants can be grown closer together than in the field, thereby increasing yields, and multiple cropping (the growing of several crops in the same tank) can be practiced. In addition to conserving space, hydroponics almost eliminates weed and pest problems. The cost of equipment is high and personnel must be trained. Although hydroponics is possible for most plant species, a limiting factor is the amount of physical support required. Usually the plants are held upright by wire supports or are rooted in a sterile medium, e.g., pure sand or gravel. The nutrient solutions must supply, in optimum concentrations and in correct balance, the elements, such as nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and other essential nutrients normally found in soil. Other names for hydroponics are soilless gardening, soilless culture, chemiculture, and water gardening. Aquaponics combines aquaculture with hydroponics.

See R. Bridwell, Hydroponic Gardening (rev. ed. 1990); R. E. Nicholls, Beginning Hydroponics (1990).

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Hydroponics

Hydroponics

Hydroponics is the practice of growing plants without soil. Plants may be suspended in water or grown in a variety of solid, inert media, including vermiculite (a mineral), sand, and rock wool (fiberglass insulation). In these cases, water that permeates the medium provides the nutrients, while the medium provides support for root structures. Hydroponics allows precise control of nutrient levels and oxygenation of the roots. Many plants grow faster in hydroponic media than in soil, in part because less root growth is needed to find nutrients. However, the precise conditions for each plant differ, and the entire set up must be in a greenhouse, with considerable investment required for lights, tubing, pumps, and other equipment.

While hydroponics is as old as the hanging gardens of Babylon, modern hydroponics was pioneered by Julius von Sachs (1832-1897), a researcher in plant nutrition, and hydroponics is still used for this purpose. It is also used commercially for production of cut flowers, lettuce, tomatoes, and other high-value crops, although it still represents a very small portion of the commercial market.

see also Agriculture, Modern; Roots; Sachs, Julius von.

Richard Robinson

Bibliography

Mason, John. Commerical Hydroponics. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2000.

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hydroponics

hydroponics A commercial technique for growing certain crop plants in culture solutions rather than in soil. The roots are immersed in an aerated solution containing the correct proportions of essential mineral salts. The technique is based on various water culture methods used in the laboratory to assess the effects of the absence of certain mineral elements on plant growth.

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hydroponics

hy·dro·pon·ics / ˌhīdrəˈpäniks/ • pl. n. [treated as sing.] the process of growing plants in sand, gravel, or liquid, with added nutrients but without soil. DERIVATIVES: hy·dro·pon·ic adj. hy·dro·pon·i·cal·ly / -ˈpänik(ə)lē/ adv.

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hydroponics

hydroponics Plant growth in a liquid culture solution rather than in soil. This technique is used commonly in experimental studies of mineral nutrient deficiencies or excesses and their effects. Hydroponics also has commercial applications, although to date it has not been used extensively in this way.

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hydroponics

hydroponics Plant growth in a liquid culture solution rather than in soil. This technique is used commonly in experimental studies of mineral nutrient deficiencies or excesses and their effects. Hydroponics also has commercial applications, although to date it has not been used extensively in this way.

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hydroponics

hydroponics (soil-less culture or tank farming) Plants grow with their roots in a mineral solution or a moist inert medium (such as gravel) containing the necessary nutrients, instead of soil.

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hydroponics

hydroponics The practice of growing plants without soil in a solution of inorganic salts.

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