The term hydroponics originates from the ancient Greek “hydros,” meaning water, and “ponos,” meaning work. Hydroponics is a subset of hydroculture, which is a method of growing plants without soil by instead using mineral nutrient solutions in a water solvent. Terrestrial plants may be grown with only their roots exposed to the nutritious liquid, or the roots may be physically supported by an intermedium such as perlite or gravel. A few of the benefits of hydroponics include:
- The ability to produce higher yields than traditional, soil-based agriculture.
- Allowing food to be grown and consumed in areas of the world that cannot support crops in the soil.
- Eliminating the need for massive pesticide use (considering most pests live in the soil), effectively making our air, water, soil, and food cleaner.
Types of Hydroponic Systems
There are six main types of hydroponic systems to choose from:
- Wick Systems
- Deep Water Culture (DWC)
- Nutrient Film Technique (NFT).
- Ebb and Flow (Flood and Drain)
- Drip Systems
The wick systems are more basic as compared to the other systems and it has been in existence the longest. From its construction, it does not require any air or water pumps for usage. Just as with every other hydroponic system, there has to be the presence of nutrients and water. However, with this system, you will need to include a wick. Examples that can be used can be as simple as a rope or a felt. This simplified wick system will allow for the growth of smaller plants that do not require a lot of water.
The growing media used may vary but the recommended options include coconut coir, vermiculate, as well as perlite. These are considered because they transport the nutrients and water well. This is not to mean that you are limited to using these media. The key objective is to use a media that will transport the water and nutrients sufficiently. It is for these reasons that the system has been used for cannabis hydroponics.
Deep Water Culture
Deep water culture is considered one of the easiest systems to use. It consists of a reservoir that is filled with water and the required nutrients. This solution is provides a constant supply to the plants as their roots are suspended in the solution. While the nutrients are mixed in the water, air is pumped through air pump and air stone to push bubbles into the solution.
Considering that the plants cannot hang by themselves, they are housed in pots suspended on the reservoir. It is from this point that the roots will sink into the solution. This system is affordable, home-friendly, and it requires low maintenance. It is recommended for small plants that have short periods of time.
Nutrient Film Technique (NFT)
This system is ideal for commercial use. Just as the deep water culture, it consists of a reservoir, air pump, air stone, and net pots. However, other components are included making it different. This includes an airline tubing, timer, and channel. It is also a recirculating system as the nutrient solution is constantly pumping through them.
Ebb and Flow System (Flood and Drain System)
The ebb and flow hydroponic system (otherwise known as a flood and drain system) is also a very popular form of hydroponics. They work in a similar way to the drip system, but are actually even more simplistic to use which makes them a great first hydroponics system for an amateur gardener.
The aeroponic system is the most technologically advanced of all the hydroponic systems. Many top scientists have claimed that this very system could be the solution to food shortages in the future.
The plants are suspended in the air, as in the NFT system, with their roots hanging down below. The nutrient solution is then pumped up a tube, where a second higher pressure pump sprays the solution as a mist over the dangling roots.
Because each misting provides the plants with less food than a standard cycle in, say, a drip system, the misting takes place considerably more frequently, which does mean a more advanced timer is required. This, as well as the high pressure pump, can mean that the component costs are higher for this type of system.
The most commonly used hydroponics system is the drip system. system.
The main principles behind the hydroponic drip system are relative simple which makes them incredibly easy to use, hence their popularity.
Vital nutrients are added to a tank of water to create a nutrient reservoir which is kept separate from the plants. The water is then pumped up a network of tubes, and is released to the plants individually.
The pump can be controlled by a timer, taking any manual watering out of the equation, and allowing you to decide how frequently you want a watering cycle to occur. You can also place an emitter at the end of each tube in the network to allow more, or less, water to reach a specific plant during each watering cycle. This means that you can put a range of different plants into the same system and tailor make watering cycle to cater to the different plants’ individual needs.
There are two types of drip systems: the recovery drip system and the non-recovery drip system.
The recovery part of the name is pretty self-explanatory, and refers to whether the water recycles itself or not. In a hydroponic recovery drip system, any excess nutrient solution will drain back into the nutrient reservoir, where it can be re-used. This makes the system much more efficient; consequently, a relatively low amount of maintenance is needed.
- According to your fooder quantity demand, you can build a Hydroponic fodder system. to build this system is required a little space, mostly farmer use 10 ft x10 ft shade net to grow Hydroponic fodder, and it is better to choose shed net location near to the livestock shade because it becomes easy to operate.
- To allow ventilation to leave some open space between the roof and side walls when the shed is well ventilated and airy, you can easily maintain the temperature and humidity.
- To grow hydroponic fodder, you required a medium size tray of about 1.5 x 3 Ft. They must be made up of good plastic and strong enough to hold the weight of the fodder.
- The seeds must be kept moist so avoid metal trays because they easily rust so use only plastic trays.
- Make 15-20 small size holes in trays for draining any excess water.
- Inside the shed, you can build a bamboo rack, plastic rack or metal rack to hold these trays.
- Make three to four layers rack but take care rack should not be too high because it becomes difficult to spray water and removes the trays.
- Keep enough space between two layers so you can easily water the seeds also create slightly slope for each layer to one side of the rack this is helpful for easily and quickly water to drain from the trays.
- Make a small drainage line under the slope side of a rack to properly drain out water.
Hydroponic fodder production process
use only good qualities seed for hydroponic fodder production, never use broken or unhealthy seeds as these will not germinate and grow properly.
You can use maize, pulses, wheat, and horse gram seeds to make hydroponic fodder but do not use pearl millet and sorghum seeds because these sprouted leaves contain poison that can harm your livestock.
Mostly farmer uses Maize seeds to produce hydroponic fodder. In cold climatic condition wheat and oats seed are good while in hot climatic condition maize seeds are suitable for hydroponic fodder production.
- Add a 5-7 liters warm water in a plastic bucket and seed and remove seeds are float on the water because they will not sprout also remove other impurities.
- After that add 50 -100 gm salt in water it helps to minimize chance on fungus production on sprouted seed.
- Allow this seed to soak water for around 12 hours.
- After 12 hours drain the water and then wash the seeds with clean water.
- Transfer this washed seed in a gunny bag and allow them to sprout. In a cold climate, they will take more than 24 hours to germinate while in a hot climate the seed will take about 24 hours.
- Before using tray wash them properly and check all holes if they blocked or not if there is blockage remove the blockage.
- Transfer sprouted seeds from the gunny bags to trays and evenly spread them and place this trays on the rack.
- Every day gives light water ( sprinkle) to sprouted seeds. To provide water, you can use watering cans or sprinklers system.
- In hot weather conditions give water after every two hours, and in cold weather condition after 4 hours it helps to maintain moisture.
Always maintain cleanness in the shed it helps to reduce fungus, molds development chance.
Do not disturb the sprouted seeds from the trays until they are harvest as this influences the growth of the fodder.
For sustainable dairy farming, quality green fodder should be fed regularly to dairy animals. Hydroponic fodder is a good option in front of the farmer because it grows fast, it contains a high nutrient value, and the most important thing is animals like to eat.
Article written By:
Prof. Kajal B. Pandit
Department of genetics and plant breeding
College of agriculture, Bhanashiware, Newasa