Society

Hydroponics, the art of soil-less farming, is trending this year

Now, pluck fresh green peas through the year without leaving home: with the help of hydroponics.

With this gardening technique, soil is replaced with a solution of water and nutrients for plants to grow. “One can have a constant yield at all times if the correct amount of nutrients are continuously supplied,” says Leslie Lawrence, Assistant Professor of Botany at Madras Christian College, explaining why the method is trending this year. With multiple lockdowns and social distancing, people across India are learning how to grow clean, quality food economically.

Pankaj Chaturvedi, who founded Eezegrow Hydroponics with Anuranjita Agarwal three months ago, in Delhi and Kolkata, explains why the science has been gaining popularity: “A tomato plant, when cultivated in soil, can give almost four kilograms of yield. But in hydroponics, we can see up to seven kilograms.”

Stating that hydroponics uses much less water than traditional farming, Pankaj adds, “Lettuce is ready for harvest in five weeks in hydroponics, while taking about nine weeks for harvest in traditional farms.”

Hydroponics, the art of soil-less farming, is trending this year

“When we started out, we made a simple hydroponic system with a few containers and planted a betel and peppermint sapling in it,” says Anuranjita explaining that they wanted to help people grow fresh, pesticide-free vegetables and herbs hydroponically on their own.

Pankaj shares an easy method to grow green leafy vegetables at home, “You will need a container that has a nutrient-rich solution [that can be sourced online]. The plant must be placed such that the roots just touch the surface of the solution. The exact amount of nutrients must be mixed with water at different stages of plant growth. This solution must be changed every four days.”

Leslie says that bio-fertilisers too can be mixed with water. These are living micro-organisms that provide nutrients by attaching themselves to a part of the plant.

Watch | All about hydroponics
 

“They take in the food produced by the plant, and in turn give out nutrients for absorption. This is a sustainable and eco-friendly method, and requires just one time addition of the fertiliser. The nutrients will be continuously produced,” he says, adding that bio-fertilisers such as azotobacter can be employed for the purpose. “It is available in nurseries at nominal prices,” he says.

Pressure cooker fertilisers

Bio-fertilisers can also be made at home. Leslie explains, “We can use hay as a medium for growth of bacteria. It can be sterilised in a pressure cooker for 15 minutes, and then a small quantity of nitrogen-fixing bacteria like azotobacter can be added. The resultant fertiliser can be used after 45 days.”

Anil Kumar of Medavakkam in Chennai has a hydroponic garden in his terrace, covering an area of 350 square feet.

Initially, Anil spent ₹8,000 on buying imported ready-made nutrients. He wanted to find a cheaper alternative, and took up a five-day online course taught by Hemant Mishra, a hydroponics expert based in Kanpur. He learned how to make his own nutrient solutions and also got insights on the hardness and acidity of water used for hydroponics.

Every day, Anil spends around 15 minutes for his hydroponic garden; he adds nutrient solutions every four days.

During lockdown, he faced a few challenges in maintaining his system; he could not buy a lot of materials online during the first few months. But he managed, as gradual unlocks started happening.

He advises those starting out: “Start with a simple and small system, probably with leafy greens. You can initially use ready-made nutrient solutions. Then, you can do some research on how to prepare nutrient solutions on your own.”

  • Help at hand
  • Eezeegrow hydroponics has its own blend of nutrients — Lush and Bloom which come along with their home hydroponic kits, starting from ₹1,499. These nutrients consist of nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium and micro nutrients. For details, call 8777842190, write to partner@eezeegrow.com.

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Printable version | Apr 11, 2021 9:18:01 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/hydroponics-the-art-of-soil-less-farming-is-trending-this-year/article33279308.ece

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