EC measures the electrical conductivity of your hydroponic nutrient solution in hydroponic systems. (Current pH levels can also be expressed as CF for conductivity factor). EC can be used to approximate TDS levels since all elements carry some electrical charge. Therefore, comparing pH to EC can provide information about how many plant nutrients in the water are available in your hydroponic reservoir.
Because it does not contain any dissolved minerals, distilled water, osmosis water, or de-mineralized water does not conduct electricity. When applied to hydroponic plants, tap water can contain sodium and chloride with EC values but no nutritional value. The dissolved nutrient salts in water make it capable of conducting electricity once minerals are added. Conductivity increases with the concentration of nutrients. You can determine the water’s nutrient levels by measuring this. The ideal EC measurement for plants during vegetative growth should be between an optimum range of 1.2-1.6 and during flowering between 1.6-2.4. However, this depends on the type of plant being grown.
The Importance of EC
It gives you a better understanding of what is happening inside your nutrient feed instead of just taking the pH reading. The concentration of salt affects electrical conductivity. Whether your electric conductivity goes up, down, or stays the same over time, why you should measure it on a regular basis. Furthermore, EC is a climate control mechanism that relates to water absorption.
If the electrolytic conductivity value or salt concentration stays the same, the plant uses as much fresh water as it does nutrients and is in balance. Check regularly to make sure everything is in top shape, and keep the nutrient tank topped up with a solution of the same nutrient strength.
The plant uses more nutritional salts than water if the EC measurement goes down. You should top the nutrient solution with a fresh batch and possibly even try a stronger nutrient concentration. If you do increase the strength, watch the EC closely to see how your plant is reacting.
When the EC measurement goes up, your plant uses more water than it should, and it isn’t taking in adequate nutrient requirements. The solution needs to be diluted with an additional water dose. Over-feeding can cause nutrient burn and slowed plant growth, and if so, you may be using a concentrated nutrient solution. You may need to often water your plants on hotter days due to the high water temperature. It is important to separate your plants into light feeders, medium feeders, and heavy feeders if possible.
Your plants could be at risk of a toxic level of nutrients if you don’t change your nutrient mix regularly and top it up when necessary. Although EC measures the number of mineral salts available, it does not indicate how much each element is present. Over time, nutrient ratios can fluctuate beyond their desired limits, creating deficiencies and toxicities. It is possible, though, to have an accurate measurement and still have nutrient deficiencies. Additionally, you won’t know if certain waste elements or elements have accumulated to high levels, which could further damage your plants.
It is necessary to measure the conductivity every day, top-up nutrients whenever necessary, and do a nutrient refresh every seven days by emptying your tank and creating a new hydroponic solution.
How to measure EC?
Using a digital meter is the most convenient way to measure EC. These meters measure electrical conductivity using electrodes located on the bottom of the ppm meter. While they can be faster than digital meters, a truncheon meter is much more expensive since you must read them manually. Check the digital reading after dipping the end into your solution. In all meters, the molar conductivity is read the same way. The only difference is the conversion factor which is determined by the meter manufacture.
Nutrient management will allow you to keep track of your progress. Growing with hydroponics is a fluid process and can easily change regularly. You should be able to resolve any issues promptly. You should clean and calibrate your EC meter regularly to ensure accurate readings.