Hydroponics is a subset of hydro culture. This is where plants are grown in water without soil but using mineral nutrients solutions to substitute for soil. Terrestrial plants are grown with the roots inside the mineral nutrient solution. They can also be grown in inert media such as perlite, gravel, wool with minerals, clay pebbles as well as coconut shells.
This is a relatively new art of farming in Kenya, although it was first tested in the year 1929 by William Frederick Gericke of the University of California at Berkeley.
Farmers in Kenya have been able to adopt the art and are using it mostly to grow fodder for their animals. Farmers are able to grow fodder which is ready in 8 days after planting. This has been able to offer these farmers fodder throughout the year. Using this technology, farmers are able to yield more than 50 kilograms of fodder from a space of 20 feet by 10 feet. This method is very good for modern day farmers who have limited space to grow fodder. For example, a greenhouse which is 140 meters squared can hold up to 1800 trays which can produce approximately 1.2 tons of fodder per day using between 700-900 liters of water. However, the temperatures in the greenhouse should be controlled.
Most farmers prefer to grow grains such as barley, wheat, maize, and oats although barley is the preference choice of most farmers since it has more protein nutrients which have supper results to animals.
Advantages of Hydroponic farming
Some of the reasons why hydroponics is being adapted around the world for food production are the following:
- No soil is needed for hydroponics
- The water stays in the system and can be reused - thus, lower water costs
- It is possible to control the nutrition levels in their entirety - thus, lower nutrition costs
- No nutrition pollution is released into the environment because of the controlled system
- Stable and high yields
- Pests and diseases are easier to get rid of than in soil because of the container's mobility
- It is easier to harvest
- No pesticide damage
- Plants grow healthier
- It is better for consumption
Today, hydroponics is an established branch of agronomy. Progress has been rapid, and results obtained in various countries have proved it to be thoroughly practical and to have very definite advantages over conventional methods of horticulture.
There are two chief merits of the soil-less cultivation of plants. First, hydroponics may potentially produce much higher crop yields. Also, hydroponics can be used in places where in-ground agriculture or gardening is not possible.
Without soil as a buffer, any failure to the hydroponic system leads to rapid plant death. Other disadvantages include pathogen attacks such as damp-off due to Verticillium wilt caused by the high moisture levels associated with hydroponics and over watering of soil based plants. Also, many hydroponic plants require different fertilizers and containment systems.