Hydroponics is the science of growing plants without soil. History shows us that this is by no means a new concept. In ancient times the hanging gardens of Babylon, the floating gardens of the Aztecs of Mexico and those of the Chinese were all early examples of ‘Hydroponic’ culture. Egyptian writings dating back to several hundred years before Christ have descriptions of the growing of plants in water.
During the 1930s, scientists experimenting with the growing of plants without soil, using nutrients dissolved in water, discovered that the soil was needed only as an anchor for the plant’s root system. Since that time more and more research has resulted in the development of commercial nutrients and purpose built systems of differing types. Hydroponics is now popular in Western Europe, Australia, Canada and many other areas of the world.
As technology advances more and more of the world’s food is produced using hydroponic methods. Although rooted in history, it is still a relatively young science, Hydroponics has progressed rapidly over the past half century, it has been adapted to suit many and varied situations from outdoor farming to greenhouse production and now also indoor home cultivation. The military use it for growing fresh vegetables in submarines and the space programmes are even experimenting with Hydroponics to feed the crews on board manned space stations.
The potential use of Hydroponics for future cultivation is enormous. It is already being looked at for increasing the food production in underdeveloped countries where space can be a factor. Because it is feasible to grow in areas of poor and even barren soil, arid regions of the world such as deserts could be utilised to grow crops hydroponically. The desert sand could be used as an ideal growing media and the nutrients even mixed with sea water, once the salts have been removed.
Even in countries with a more temperate climate Hydroponics can be used for food production, the temperature being maintained with the use of modern grow lights.
In Holland and other European countries the production of vegetables, such as Lettuce and fruits, like Tomatoes is showing that Hydroponic methods can be very effective and cost efficient. A large proportion of this produce is now being grown that way.
Some 20 plus years ago racehorse stables in the U K were looking at production of highly nutritious barley and wheat ‘grass’ as a feed. It was then very expensive and in its infancy, however today a large number of horse owners feed there animals in this way. It is also not unheard of for farmers to use the same methods to feed their cattle during the winter periods when the fields are too wet to graze.
With the advent of more efficient methods of production the uses of soil-less culture will advance and multiply as more people experiment with the systems available.
To learn more about the history of the NASA Hydroponics research please click the link below.
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