Although hydroponics is a 17th-century invention, it appears to be a 21st-century novelty. The plants are nourished and hydrated by a nutrient-rich solution that is pumped through the system. Why haven’t hydroponic gardens gained widespread acceptance despite centuries of development and use?
Though there have been few documented negative effects of hydroponic systems, there are a few prominent difficulties that are unique to hydroponic growth systems. The absence of organic certification, the complexity of hydroponics, the high initial startup cost, lack of awareness and accessible technical knowledge, and higher constant care and observation are the five reasons why hydroponics is not popular.
It is a disgrace and an injustice that they are not recognized as organic just because they are not produced via traditional farming. Other reasons play a significant role in the lack of acceptability of a cultivation approach that has numerous outstanding advantages.
The Problem of Organic Certification
Given the premium placed on organic produce by both customers and producers, the certification carries a lot of weight in the public’s eyes. There’s a common misconception among the general public that simply because something not grown via organic farming, it’s not healthy food-*-, unsafe, or even harmful to consume.
Opponents of hydroponics frequently use the “soylent green” analogy to characterize the use of chemical fertilizers in hydroponics.
The USDA does not recognize hydroponics as “organic.” Because hydroponics is not certified as “Organic” by the USDA under the Organic Food Production Act of 1990, there is a lot of hostility around it.
Despite petitions and current views that the soil criterion is removed, soil cultivators are adamant that hydroponics be designated as Organic.
Only a few organic hydroponic growers have compromised as a result of this. They narrowly meet the certification requirements by employing organic nutrients and incorporating soil into their systems. The difficulty with this compromise is that gardeners get lesser yields and slower growth than they would with traditional hydroponic procedures.
In some countries, there is a stigma.
The trend is continuing in other nations, such as Canada, which has a similar ban on hydroponics and aeroponics based on the argument that they do not meet the minimum soil requirement.
In 2021, a modification of the European Union’s organic regulations made it illegal to certify hydroponically cultivated crops as certified. They are not soil-grown plants, thus this is the reasoning.
Hydroponics’ Complex Nature
The fact that hydroponics is more involved and complicated than traditional gardening is the fundamental reason for its lack of popularity in the household or hobby area.
In traditional agriculture, you simply place the seed or plant in the ground and call it a day. It will simply require light watering and fertilizer sometimes.
It is a much more difficult process with hydroponics. Seeding and replanting into net pots, the EC level, pH level, water reservoir temperature, nutrient levels in the nutrient reservoir, air pumps, optional grow lamps, and so on are all things to consider. Your plants will suffer nutrient deficiencies or perish if the nutrient solution is overly alkaline or acidic.
Most individuals are put off by the initial intricacy of various aspects that interact with one another, viewing it as a difficult novelty rather than a forward-thinking breakthrough.
High Initial Investment
Most people will avoid hydroponics because of the costly initial investment. To get your hydroponics systems up and running, you’ll need grow trays, growing mediums, PVC pipes, reservoirs, chemical hydroponic nutrients, or a pre-made hydroponic solution, air pumps, and measurement equipment.
Even for a single hydroponics system, this is a large number of items to have. While systems can be modular, allowing a small system to grow larger, increased complexity means more moving elements to consider.
Hydroponics is more involved and requires more parts to function efficiently than soil culture, which at best involves water supply, hydroponic nutrient solution, seeds, and growing medium to grow healthy plants initially.
However, there are ways to save the initial costs, such as using rockwool substitutes. When the right sort of plastic is used in hydroponic systems, such as PVC pipes, there are no negative consequences.
Lack of Awareness and Technical Knowledge
After overcoming the difficulty of installing a hydroponics system, the next challenge is locating knowledge on how to maintain and operate the system. There is a common lack of understanding of what hydroponics is, which contributes to the scarcity of information available on the subject.
Forums, clubs, and scientific journals can provide the most detailed information on hydroponic growing, including growth methods, best practices, and technical nutrient expertise. There are few well-known specialists whose viewpoints are widely recognized or respected.
Apart from the lack of “official” sources, each system is distinct and distinctive, resulting in a wide range of viewpoints and specialty techniques from various growers, some of which may or may not be valid.
Hydroponic farming is thus a scientific process of trial and error till one discovers what works best for them. This may not be suitable for everyone.
Enhanced Continuous Monitoring and Maintenance
Reiterating the preceding points, soil cultivation essentially begins and ends with the seed or plant being planted in the healthy soil and waiting for it to grow.
Hydroponic systems need more constant monitoring and maintenance to guarantee that the best conditions for plant growth are maintained. This includes, but is not limited to, assessing the EC, pH, nutritional balance, water temperature, dissolved oxygen level, aeration of plant roots, and other parameters. For traditional soil farming, this is not the case.
- To provide water and dissolved oxygen, the essential air and water pumps require constant electricity to remain running. Grow lamps can be used as an optional feature.
- The nutrient balance in the water is extremely crucial since it determines whether or not the plant will survive. It is critical that hydroponic plants receive enough water.
- This increased level of care may turn off some producers since it is too demanding, turning growing from a relaxing hobby into a high-risk endeavor.
The 4 Most Important Advantages of Hydroponics
Despite the difficulties in getting started and functioning, hydroponics offers some unique advantages not seen in soil-based agriculture.
Plants are growing faster and healthier.
Plants grow quicker, healthier, and pest-free in hydroponics systems than in soil-based systems, and are more nutritious as a result of this substantially more complex process.
Pathogens, pesticides, and herbicides are not present.
Plants receive critical micro and macronutrients in a sterile environment, free of pathogens and dangerous organisms found in soil. The growing plant has access to nutrients and hydroponic water. Disease, root rot, and nutrient deficiencies can all be avoided in hydroponics.
Because the growing circumstances are managed to prevent the presence of external variables such as pests and hazardous microorganisms, pesticide and herbicide use is minimal, especially in indoor cultivation.
More efficient in space and water.
Because the water is recirculated in the system, less water is utilized. Hydroponics utilizes 10 times less water than soil horticulture, according to the National Park Service.
Hydroponically grown plants demand less room for an indoor garden woth limited space. Even better, rows of plants can be grown stacked on top of one another, increasing space efficiency and yield even more. Deep water culture (DWC), nutrient film technique (NFT), and ebb and flow all have submerged roots.
Crops are more nutritious.
Finally, multiple research published in various scientific journals has demonstrated that hydroponically grown crops are really more nutritious than plants in soil, with no difference in flavor, color, or physical attributes. They’re also quite safe to eat.