Hello garden enthusiasts, today I'm back with an interesting topic. Before starting the topic let me ask you a simple question.
What are the essential components required for growing a plant?
Yes. You are right. We need seeds, soil, pots or land to grow, water and fertilizers. These are the basic physical components we need for growing a plant. We sow the seeds in the soil, pour water and add fertilizers to the soil. Within few days the seeds germinate and start to grow. This process goes on and the plants start to yield. We all know this process. But did you know that we can grow plants without soil?
Confused? You heard it right. You can grow plants without soil. This technique is called Aeroponics. So today I'm going to tell you about Aeroponics.
What is aeroponics?
Aeroponics is the process of growing plants in an air or moist environment without the use of soil or other growing media. The word Aeroponics has derived from Greek words where Aero means 'Air' and ponos means 'Growth'. This technique was first introduced in 1911 by a botanist called V.M.Artsikhovski. He designed the first aeroponics and in practice showed about plant cultivation without soil. He published an article in a famous agricultural journal 'Experienced Agronomy' about 'Air Plant Cultures', where he had explained about the method of physiological studies of root systems by spraying various substances in the surrounding air. This is the basic concept for the Aeroponics method.
How does Aeroponics work?
The basic concept of aeroponics is to grow plants suspended in a closed or semi-closed environment by spraying nutrient-rich water solution to the plant roots and lower part of the stem. The plants are suspended on a support structure where the leaves are placed above the structure and roots are suspended downwards. A foam is used as the support structure. It is compressed around the lower stem and inserted into an opening in the aeroponic chamber. As we are not growing the plants in the growing medium, the whole system is pest free when compared to that of other plants. But we cannot assure complete pest resistance as the system is not a closed one. Many aeroponic systems look very similar to traditional potted plant systems, with the main difference that the containers for the plants are sealed around the plants’ bases and have an almost closed environment for the root systems.
With aeroponics, indoor horticulturists may use vertical and horizontal space to grow more plants using less floor space and they conserve water by using sealed aeroponic systems. Depending on the aeroponic system, nutrients may be sprayed manually at intervals throughout the day. But most of the aeroponic systems have one or more pumps that automatically keep plants nourished by spraying the nutrients without constant supervision. As long as the system is sealed and nutrient mist is consistently pumped to the roots, plants grow well in an aeroponic environment.
Advantages of Aeroponics
1. Exposure to air: An ideal aeroponic system provides minimal plant support features. Minimal contact between a plant and support structure allows the plant to be entirely in the air. Long-term aeroponic cultivation requires the root systems to be free from the intermediate system surrounding the stem and root systems. Physical contact is minimized so that it does not affect the natural growth and root expansion or access to pure water, air exchange and disease-free conditions.
2. Good supply of Oxygen: Oxygen is very important for the healthy growth of plants. As the aeroponics method is conducted in the air combined with micro-droplets of nutrient-rich water, the plant can grow to easily in the air with an ample supply of oxygen, water and nutrients. Clean air contains oxygen which is an excellent purifier for plants and the aeroponic environment. For natural growth to occur, the plant must have good access to air. Plants must be allowed to grow in a natural manner for the successful growth.
3. Comparatively free from Diseases: As the system does not depend on any growing medium, the risk of plants getting prone to disease is less. Aeroponics can limit disease transmission since plant-to-plant contact is reduced and each spray pulse can be sterile. Most of the plant diseases are caused by the growing medium. Due to the disease-free environment in aeroponics, many plants can grow at higher density when compared to other forms of cultivation.
Types of Aeroponics:
There are three types of aeroponic methods namely Low-Pressure Aeroponics, High-Pressure Aeroponics and Commercial
1. Low-Pressure Aeroponics:
In the low-pressure aeroponic systems, the plant roots are suspended above the layer containing the nutrient solution or inside a channel connected to the nutrient solution layer. A low-pressure pump sprays the nutrient solution via jets or small sprinklers which then drips or drains back into the nutrient solution layer. As the plants grow bigger in these units their roots lose the ability to absorb the adequate nutrients.
2. High-Pressure Aeroponics:
In the High-pressure aeroponic system, the nutrients are sprayed by the high-pressure pumps. This technique is used in the cultivation of high value crops and plant specimens used for the study of horticulture.
3. Commercial Aeroponic System:
As the name itself suggests, this method is used for growing commercial crops. Commercial aeroponic systems are also used for the cultivation of high value crops where multiple crop rotations are achieved on an ongoing commercial basis. Commercial aeroponic systems comprise high-pressure systems and biological systems. The biological systems include intensifications for extended plant life and crop health. Biological systems include good controls systems, disease prevention & pathogen resistance features to avoid diseases, nutrient solution pressurization system to spray the nutrient solution to the roots, heating and cooling sensors & thermal control of solutions to maintain the required temperature, efficient photon-flux light arrays to provide required light etc.,
Whatever may be the complication, this can be a very good substitute for the conventional plant cultivation using soil.
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