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.

The Pros and Cons of Going Hydroponic

Hydroponics is a Latin term, which literally means "working water."What it means to horticulture is the growing of plants withoutsoil. Hydroponic gardening is an exciting field that offerssolutions to several problems faced in the world of foodproduction. For impoverished people who live in a terrain orclimate inhospitable to agriculture, hydroponics offers a means ofgrowing food. In areas where food is traditionally produced, butwhere fields are over crowded or stripped of their nutrients, hydroponics is a way food can be produced using a minimum of spaceand resources. It is not all good news, however. There are manypros and cons any grower should weigh before deciding to make theleap to hydroponic gardening.

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First, the pros. Hydroponic growth leads to an increase inproduction over traditional farming in two ways. For one,hydroponic gardening just plain saves space. Plants can be placedmuch more closely together than in traditional fields; as many asfour times as many plants can be grown in the space usinghydroponic techniques as opposed to traditional methods. Secondly,hydroponics eliminates many of the problems associated withtraditional farming that leads to sickly, damaged, or wasted crops.Because hydroponic growers produce their own nutrients mixes, ittakes the guess work out of figuring out which plants will growbest in a field and what nutrients need to be added to the soil.The nutrient mixture is the right one for the plant, in the rightratios, every time. The fear of soil-based diseases is eliminated,because, of course, there is no soil. These two factors cometogether to make hydroponics an extremely efficient method of foodproduction.

Hydroponics is also environmentally sound. The water consumption inhydroponic growing is significantly less than traditional growthmethods; in many cases, hydroponic crops use a tenth of the waterof equivalent traditional crops. Also, the water that is used isused more effectively; in hydroponics, weeds do not steal part ofthe crop's water supply. Because the crops are in a controlledenvironment and not in a field, there is no pesticide run-off waterto contaminate the surrounding ground.

The benefits are not without their costs, however. Theenvironmental good that hydroponics produces with its decreasedwater consumption is somewhat negated by the amount of energyneeded to support hydroponic growing. Much hydroponic growinghappens in greenhouses, where significant amounts of electricityare used trying to give the hydroponic plants all the light theneed.

The electricity consumption is environmentally damaging andexpensive, and expense is another area where hydroponics comesunder the gun. The nutrient mixtures and growing mediums used canbe very expensive. While research is happening to try and bring thecosts down, and there are some promising leads, like the field ofaquaponics, hydroponics is currently financially prohibitive forsome. This makes its application as a food source in impoverishedareas not very actionable, at least for now.

There is a common misconception that hydroponics produces organicfood. While it is possible to grow organic food throughhydroponics, this is the exception and not the rule. Most growersused pesticides on their hydroponic crops. Though the pesticidesused in hydroponics do not run-off and pollute the surroundingenvironment like the pesticides used on traditional fields, theyare still on the plants themselves.

The field of hydroponics is filled with promise, and much researchis being devoted to solving the concerns that currently stop morefarmers from going hydroponic. Until these problems are solved,however, farmers and amateur gardeners alike will need to carefullyweigh the pros and cons of hydroponics before making the leap tothat style of growing.

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