How does growing plants hydroponically effect the environment?

How does growing plants hydroponically effect the environment? Discuss the amount of land used in hydroponics vs. traditional dirt farming. ? Discuss the amount of water used in hydroponics vs. traditional dirt farming. ? Discuss the amount of fertilizers used in hydroponics vs. traditional dirt farming. ? Discuss the amount of pesticides and insecticides used in hydroponics vs. traditional dirt farming.

Scott responds…

Very good questions – you sound like a school project….lol.

Environmentally Hydroponics has the potential to have very minimal impact, but farmers usually stuff up the ecology because of the cost and the effort required to be responsible with this planet. For example it is cheaper to set up a system that allows nutrients to run off than to recycle them. As this will be illegal shortly it is not a relevant issue, but it is a good example that good practices need to be legislated to ensure 100% participation and that the costs will be passed on to consumers as an industry. Farmers often complain that if they do the right thing and others do not, they will bear higher costs that the non-conformists, and this will not be reflected in the market price and their costs cannot be recovered. Environment and Economics can work, if governments have the courage to set up laws that help the environment and have the economic cost recovered within the community.

Land issues – you can use land that is not agricultural, such as old industrial land, areas with soil infertility or toxicity, and leave more arable land to go back to its natural state to support wildlife etc. On an economic level, this land is often cheaper than agricultural land, and often closer to markets.

As production is higher and practices such as weeding, ploughing etc reduced and in Hydroponics, the land is used more effectively. (given same space a lettuce farmer might get 3-5 crops in soil vs. 10-14 in hydroponics, thus using about 1/2 the area or less to produce the same amount of produce.

Water use is minimised. A test once produced 1kg of produce with 3 Western union locations litres of water. The same test in soil was 80 litres due to continual drainage and run off, soil evaporation and the slowness of crops in soil requiring long term irrigation. Fertiliser run off is minimised because where soil run off has varying levels of fertiliser present, the Hydroponic nutrient is around 500-1500ppm or 99.5% to 98.5% water!!!! This is below soil output. To ensure total ecological control, any time a nutrient tank needs to be refreshed, the nutrients can be pumped to irrigate the farmers normal lawns or gardens or collected for irrigating golf courses etc, to have 0% impact, as at that strength, the nutrition is absorbed by the gardens if applied without any runoff. This also reduces the need for soil fertilisation where the nutrients are applied. Some farmers use a secondary crop field that has a tomato or tough crop in soil which receives a small amount of nutrients regularly. The crop is a bonus from extra income, and eliminates run off for the ecology.

Pesticides should be only applied to keep plant damage from damaging yields. Since Hydroponic Plants grow so fast, losing a leaf or two usually has no result as the plant has grown 3 more during the period a leaf gets eaten. Because most systems are either plastic lined or off the ground, most crawling and soil born pests are not applicable to Hydroponics. Wind break can be used to avoid flying insects flying onto the crop. Crawling insects can also be repelled by treating the surrounds of the system, not the plants themselves. Hydroponics provides more alternatives to soil in the area of pesticides.