For saving space and soil, this method also has several
other benefits, including no soil-borne diseases, no
weeds to pull and no soil to till, run-of-the-mill side
benefits of soil-less gardening.

Hydroponic - Soilless Culture

While there are many types of growing systems, the two most popular growing media today are rockwool and perlite. Due to the high cost of rockwool, root volume is being reduced. Growers in Arizona are growing six tomato plants from a rockwool slab no bigger than 7.5 x 130 x 15 cm. Each plant has a root volume no greater than 2438 cm3. (A gallon contains 3608 cm3.) The irrigation system may be activated more than 30 times per day. At the University of Arizona, excellent tomato crops have been grown in a container no larger than 956 cm3. In this case, the irrigation system was left on continuously to optimize root aeration, pH, and nutrition. Maximum yields were 12.8 kg of tomatoes per plant over a 6-month period.
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In the future, growers will provide little root volume in order not only to reduce media cost but to maximize control over mineral nutrition, pH, aeration and root diseases. Unbelievably high salt levels are maintained in the root systems where the E.C. of the feed solution will approach 3.5 and the drain water at an E.C. of 4.5 to 5.0. This helps to control plant growth as well as flavor of the tomato fruit. All systems in the future will be closed, with no drainage, preventing any loss of mineral elements and the contamination of groundwater. For health reasons, hydroponic systems may be used to reduce nitrogen levels in leafy vegetables at harvest. This is especially true in Europe for such crops grown under low winter light intensities.


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