Hydroponics to Improve Yield, Minimize Water Use

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Davie Kadyampakeni

Hydroponic growing systems are a means for growers to potentially improve yield, says Davie Kadyampakeni, an assistant professor at the Citrus Research and Education Center at the University of Florida.

These systems are a way for farmers to grow crops without soil by using water and a nutrient solution. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Alternative Farming Systems Information Center defines hydroponics as, “Growing plants in a nutrient solution root medium.”

Drip irrigation and micro sprinkler jets are the two main kinds of hydroponic systems mentioned by Kadyampakeni. He says hydroponics can actually help minimize water use as well, since some systems that can be implemented allow the crops to be irrigated less than they would traditionally need.

Kadyampakeni says growers are able to make their investment back from the hydroponic system within five years of establishing the growth of their crops.

In one hydroponics study Kadyampakeni took part in, young citrus trees were used. With this study, they were able to increase the density of trees per acre with the system used. The system was tested on citrus crops to try to improve tree nutrition, water quality and management due to the issue of citrus greening, he says.

Hydroponics systems can be used with nearly any crop, he says. While the research team only worked on citrus in hydroponics, he says the system can be adapted to work with many crops, including apples, peaches and olives. To make it effective for each crop, Kadyampakeni says you just need to make sure you have the right combination of nutrient solution and water levels.

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