Hydroponics (from the Greek words hydro water and ponos labour) is a method of growing plants using mineral nutrient solutions, without soil. Terrestrial plants may be grown with their roots in the mineral nutrient solution only or in an inert medium, such as perlite, gravel, or mineral wool.
Plant physiology researchers discovered in the 19th century that plants absorb essential mineral nutrients as inorganic ions in water. In natural conditions, soil acts as a mineral nutrient reservoir but the soil itself is not essential to plant growth. When the mineral nutrients in the soil dissolve in water, plant roots are able to absorb them. When the required mineral nutrients are introduced into a plant's water supply artificially, soil is no longer required for the plant to thrive. Almost any terrestrial plant will grow with hydroponics. Hydroponics is also a standard technique in biology research and teaching.
The two main types of hydroponics are solution culture and medium culture. Solution culture does not use a solid medium for the roots, just the nutrient solution. The three main types of solution culture are static solution culture, continuous flow solution culture and aeroponics. The medium culture method has a solid medium for the roots and is named for the type of medium, e.g. sand culture, gravel culture or rockwool culture. There are two main variations for each medium, subirrigation and top irrigation. For all techniques, most hydroponic reservoirs are now built of plastic but other materials have been used including concrete, glass, metal, vegetable solids and wood. The containers should exclude light to prevent algae growth in the nutrient solution.
Aeroponics is the process of growing plants in an air or mist environment without the use of soil or an aggregate medium. Aeroponic culture differs from both hydroponics and in-vitro (Plant tissue culture) growing. Unlike hydroponics, which uses water as a growing medium and essential minerals to sustain plant growth, aeroponics is conducted without a growing medium.
Vertical farming (combinations of hydroponic, aeroponic) is a proposal to perform agriculture in urban high-rises. These building have been called "farmscrapers." Using greenhouse methods and recycled resources, these building would produce fruit, vegetables, fish, and livestock year-round in cities. This proposal might allow cities to become self-sufficient.
For More Information: Hydroponics: K-12 Experiments & Background Information
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