Monday, January 19, 2009

Pakistan: Hydroponic technology may help boost crops yield

Pakistan may enhance vegetable and fruit crops yield with hydroponic farming technology to overcome the food shortages and price hike tendency. According to the Ministry of Agriculture sources, this technology would not only raise yield, but would also enhance nutrition abilities of plants. A hydroponic pilot project has recently been started in Rawat (Islamabad) under the name bio-blitz over just five acres of land.

The state-of-the-art five-acre Green House facility is producing hydroponic tomatoes of all varieties, including tangy, elegant, cherry and others. If hydroponics farming technology is introduced properly, then country can triple the revenues earned on agriculture exports.

According to agriculture scientists, there are two main types of hydroponics culture, namely solution culture and medium culture. The solution culture excludes roots as source of nutrition, while the medium culture is based on roots as part of the process.

The solution culture method is further divided into three types - static solution culture, continuous flow solution culture, and aeroponics. The medium culture, on the other hand, is based on medium through which the root is routed - sand culture, gravel culture or rock wool culture. These media of nutrition are again sub-divided into two categories - sub-irrigation and top irrigation.

In all these techniques, mostly plastic is used for hydroponic reservoirs, though other materials have also been used, which include concrete, glass, metal, vegetable solids and wood. Experts advise that the containers should block light to prevent algae growth in the nutrient solution. Hydroponics is a method of growing plants, using mineral nutrient solutions without 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.

This technology was discovered in the 19th century. In this technology 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.

Hydroponics is also a standard technique in biology research and teaching. In recent decades, Nasa has done extensive hydroponics research for their Controlled Ecological Life Support System or CELSS. Hydroponics, intended to take place on Mars, are using LED lighting to grow in different colour spectrum with much less heat.

Researchers have obtained groundbreaking results in various countries, however the process has proved it to be thoroughly practical, having an edge over conventional methods of horticulture.

The two major merits of the soilless cultivation of plants are: (1) higher yield, and (2) hydroponics may be helpful in places where ordinary agriculture is impossible. That has removed constraints of cultivable land.


-- It saves water - it uses as little as 1/20 the amount at a regular farm to produce the same amount of produce.

-- Faster growth.

-- Freedom from soil diseases and weeds.

-- Very consistent crops mean uniform quality.

-- Less labour needed and cost effective. Scientists agreed that hydroponics fruits and vegetables are sweeter and more luscious than those grown in ordinary soil are. The technology is being utilised around the globe, including the US, European Union (EU) and African countries.


Publication date: 1/16/2009

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