Almost everyone has a garden or small farm these days, even in the urban areas. If you are one of those, then I believe you are very familiar with the many problems that come with traditional farming. Conventional gardening causes a lot of damage to our environment and takes a lot of time, space, and energy.
Traditional Farming/gardening Vs Hydroponics Vs Aquaponics
This is why growers are continuously seeking out efficient soilless alternatives to grow plants while conserving space, energy, and resources. And at the moment, the leading soilless gardening systems are hydroponics and aquaponics. These methods are highly efficient, providing incredible benefits to growers while reducing environmental damages. If you are yet to decide which system is suitable for your garden needs, read this article to learn more about these soilless gardening systems and how they solve the problems of traditional gardening.
First, what are the problems of traditional gardening?
In recent times, traditional gardening has been scrutinized for the following problems:
● Contamination of water sources with fertilizers and other chemicals
● Increased depletion of land resources
● Larger water requirement
● Pest and disease hazards
● The heightened stress and burden involved with conventional gardening
Traditional agriculture is the most practiced across the world, appearing after the great world wars. However, one of the biggest problems in traditional farming remains the death of soils and subsoil. As we very well know, to function the soil needs bacteria, fungi, and micro fauna. But the use of powerful chemicals against harmful fungi of crops (fungicides), against harmful insects (insecticides), and to control the grass (herbicide), has contributed to reducing soil life. To produce satisfactory quantities in this farming method, it is necessary to use fertilizers in doses that can be very large. This phenomenon generates poor soils which no longer produce their organic matter. In addition, chemicals used in production are known to contaminate water sources within the immediate surroundings. Plus, the natural fertility of the soil is at an all-time low. There is also the problem of a drop in quality. Because traditional agriculture primarily focuses on the mass production of food, production strategies overlook the need for quality and nutritious food.
Gardening and farming is also not worthwhile since trees near the planting areas are cut, left to dry in the fields, and then burned, thereby damaging the environment and causing environmental pollution. This method of farming also puts crops at a higher risk of soil diseases. This is because this method depends on the decomposition of the soil, which takes a long time to complete, breeding explosive, flammable, or toxic substances. Plus, traditional farming is not the most ideal choice in today’s modern society, because it is only possible in areas where agricultural conditions including soil are favorable.
Gardeners also abhor the bending, digging, and back pain involved in traditional farming. These problems have increased the necessity and demand for effective soilless gardening systems – hydroponics and aquaponics.
Hydroponics and aquaponics: Solution to the problems of traditional farming
Hydroponics and aquaponics are currently the best soilless solutions to the problems posed by traditional farming. Due to the similarities between the two as well as the fact that aquaponics is an extension of hydroponics, this section highlights the benefits of both systems together. Here are the countless ways in which hydroponics and aquaponics have solved the most radical problems brought about by conventional agriculture.
Saves water, mineral fertilizers and is possible anywhere
Soilless gardening leads to better control of water and mineral inputs, that’s a fact! For example, if we compare the amount of water needed to obtain one kg of plant product from traditional farming to that used with hydroponics, the savings made by the latter can reach 90% to 95% of water inputs. Thus the soilless cultures, as these two are called, make it possible to develop horticultural activities in regions where water is a limiting factor, like the deserts of Saudi Arabia. As for mineral fertilizers, soil-less cultivation techniques also lead to significant savings.
Requires only simplified cultivation methods
Many people would love to till the soil and grow plants but not many are fans of handling crude farming tools. Soil-free cultivation eliminates certain superficial farming methods such as soil preparation, hoeing, weeding, etc. Similarly, the stages of fertilization and irrigation common in traditional farming, are replaced by a system that requires the supply of only necessary nutrient solutions.
Elimination of soil-related problems
The main reason for soilless agriculture stems from the need to eliminate certain soil-related problems such as the problem of contamination by pathogens.
Hydroponics and aquaponics have made this possible. Soilless cultivation solves soil problems common in traditional agriculture like poor soil quality, shallow soil, or difficulty to till. This is the reason why hydroponics has seen a rise in desert states like California, as well as countries of the Middle East where this technique has allowed the development of commercial gardening. The potential of this technique to use surfaces where there is no soil should not be overlooked.
Faster growing crops, higher profits
Soil-free cultivation boosts the growth duration of crops compared to traditional farming, which in turn translates to more or early control over market prices. Why this precocity? This is due to a temperature effect which allows faster healing of a substrate compared to soil. This temperature rise would allow better functioning of the root system and a better quality product, speeding up the growth process. Hydroponics products grow 40-50 percent faster than soil-based farming.
Better product quality
Speaking of product quality, although the concept of quality is difficult to specify and quantify, hydroponics and aquaponics have a favorable influence on certain criteria such as:
● The exterior appearance of fruits and vegetables: Hydroponic crops are more
attractive, cleaner, and brighter because they are never soiled with soil particles.
● Fewer pesticide residues since these crops receive less phytosanitary treatments.
● Weight and amounts of proteins: During the harvest period, some studies on the measurements of different parameters show that no significant difference can be attributed to crops grown in soil.
In fact, the comparison is even favorable to the soilless culture when it comes to protein contents.
The increase in yield and consistent harvests
Yields obtained using this technology are generally higher than crops grown in the ground. If the fertility of a greenhouse soil is not at its peak (problem of pathogens, salinity, bad structure, etc.), hydroponics and aquaponics always give higher yields. In fact, the yield is about 30 percent more than traditional farming, and more importantly, you are guaranteed a consistent, predictable harvest. Likewise, when the water and mineral supply conditions of the soil are not good, switching to soilless cultivation provides you with a certain guarantee by limiting the risks of nutritional deficiencies.
Hydroponics vs aquaponics: which is better for you?
It’s crystal clear that both hydroponics and aquaponics are more beneficial than traditional gardening, they provide an effective solution for various constraints and limitations related to the soil and environment. These water-based, soilless systems provide very similar concepts and benefits, yet they have several differences. This is why it’s important that we explain both systems so you can select the right one for you! While hydroponics simply involves growing plants using an organic growing media that includes nutrient solution and a watering system, aquaponics is actually a form of hydroponics that incorporates aquaculture. Hence, fishes and plants are grown in the same system and plants get their nutrients from the aquatic solution. Now, the verdict- aquaponics seems to be a more cost-effective and multi-purpose system, the addition of aquaculture (fish) to the water-based system helps in creating bacteria that recycles fish waste into a viable source of nitrogen for plants: clearly it’s a self-sustaining system that kills two birds with one stone!
Plus, aquaponics doesn’t require as much maintenance as hydroponics would. It’s a one-time setup system that doesn’t require any replenishing afterward. When it comes to cost, aquaponics systems also tops the chart. Although its initial cost is higher, aquaponic systems are usually more cost-effective as you wouldn’t need to purchase the chemicals used in hydroponics. However, hydroponics is more popular among hobby gardeners and commercial farmers. If you want to get a soilless system installed very quickly, hydroponics is the best option for you. It is easier to set up, has a lower initial cost, and seems to give a more tidy look than aquaponics. But it’ll require more frequent monitoring and continuous replenishment of nutrients. Anyway, both systems are highly effective. They represent a glimpse into the future since the population of the planet is growing and there is less and less arable and fertile land that can be used to meet the needs of these populations. So it doesn’t matter much which you choose- you simply need to select the one that meets your needs!