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Hydroponics Would Be IMPOSSIBLE Without This 1 Key Feature

Nutrient solution plays an essential role in hydroponics. In fact, without nutrient solution, the practice of hydroponics would be completely fruitless. It provides plants with water and feeds them essential macro and micronutrients that help them develop high-quality produce that tastes as good as it looks.

In this blog, we’ll discuss what nutrient solution is, how it’s used in hydroponic farming, and provide some insight into the nutrients that make it so important for plant development.

What is Hydroponics?

Before we talk about nutrient solution, it might help to provide a basic understanding of what hydroponics is and explain how it differs from soil-based production.

Hydroponics is the art of growing plants without soil, typically using grow media that suspends plants body above a nutrient-rich water solution. Anyone can grow with hydroponics, but the budding practice is attracting more and more attention from serious farmers, ranchers and commercial agriculturalists.

This is because hydroponic methods save water when compared to other cultivation techniques and allow for more precise controlled environment agriculture, especially when paired with a protective shell, like a greenhouse or container farm.

There are various types of hydroponic systems, from NFT (Nutrient Film Technique) systems to DFT (Deep Flow Technique) and custom systems, helping farms cultivate a variety of fruits and vegetables with reduced water usage.

What is Nutrient Solution?

A hydroponic farmer’s nutrient mixture is their most reliable sidekick when cultivating crops. Without it, the system wouldn’t function, and the crops would lack both water as well as nutrients necessary for development.

It’s comparable to fertilizer in traditional agriculture, but it’s even more essential. While plants can develop without fertilizer because of nutrient content in the soil, hydroponic crops will die incredibly quickly if they aren’t provided with nutrient solution.

Two heads of hydroponically-grown lettuce next to a hydroponic farm.
Nutrient solution helps crops grow to maturity. Think of it like a diet. Your plants need a well-rounded supply of nutrients in order to develop.

What Is Nutrient Solution Made Of?

The secret to nutrient solution’s power is a short little acronym: NPK. This nutrient compound, composed of Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium, is essential for plants to develop to maturity.

Nutrients are separated into macro and micro-nutrients. Macro nutrients are those nutrients that plants need in large quantities, the most notable mixture being NPK, but also hydrogen, sulfur, magnesium and carbon.

Micronutrients, on the other hand, like Zinc, Nickel, Boron, Copper and Chlorine, are still required for development, but in lesser quantities than macronutrients.

Most nutrient solutions will include both macro and micronutrients, providing crops with everything required for robust growth at every stage of their development.

How Do Growers Mix Nutrient Solution?

Instead of worrying about adding the exactly right amounts of each nutrient, small-scale growers typically purchase pre-made nutrient mixes that can be added to the water in the system’s reservoir.

Pure Greens’ Head Grower recommends purchasing from sellers like General Hydroponics and Botanicare, and has used the GH Flora Series mixture for over a decade. You can also easily find these mixtures at your local garden center or hydroponics equipment shop.

Large commercial farming operations typically mix their own nutrients together, buying in bulk from wholesalers to save on costs and customize their solution for their growing objectives.

After mixing the nutrient solution, growers measure the pH, or acidity of the solution to ensure that it’s balanced, not too basic and not too acidic. A pH of 10 means that the water is very basic, while a pH of 4 and below is extremely acidic.

Growers use a meter to measure pH, assessing the electrical conductivity of the nutrient solution. It’s crucial to consider the impact of the solution’s pH on plant growth, as different crops thrive within specific pH ranges. While most plants will do well with a pH ranging from 6.2-6.8, research what pH range works best for your chosen crop(s).

Now, let’s delve deeper into the individual components that make nutrient solution a game-changer for hydroponics.

Nitrogen

Nitrogen is a fundamental nutrient for plants, playing a crucial role in supporting healthy development and overall vitality. It is a key component in the formation of amino acids, proteins and chlorophyll, essential for various physiological processes within plants.

Nitrogen promotes robust leaf growth, contributing to the development of lush and vibrant foliage. Additionally, it is integral to the synthesis of enzymes and other cellular components, ensuring proper functioning and metabolism.

Phosphorus

Phosphorus’ primary function lies in being a crucial element in the DNA structure, facilitating proper cell division and tissue formation.

In hydroponic cultivation, phosphorus plays a pivotal role in stimulating the growth of flowers and seeds, contributing to the reproductive phase of the plant life cycle. Additionally, it significantly influences the initiation and strengthening of roots, aiding crops in establishing resilient root systems.

Because of these factors, ensuring an ample supply of phosphorus is paramount in fostering vigorous growth across the stages of plant development.

Potassium

Potassium is an essential plant nutrient that plays a key role in promoting healthy development and overall plant well-being. Its multifaceted contributions include supporting strong stem growth, aiding in the movement of water within plants, and fostering the promotion of both flowering and fruiting.

Potassium ions (K+) play a key role in plants’ water balance by actively participating in the opening and closing of stomata, microscopic pores on the plant’s surface. This helps the plant control the intake and expulsion of water, greatly assisting the plant’s survivability when facing drought conditions or environmental stresses like a change in humidity or temperature.

Lettuce growing in a hydroponic container farm.
Plants have Nitrogen to thank for their vibrant colors. Hydroponic plants can only be as strong as the nutrient solution that supports them.

Other Important Nutrients

Calcium (Ca), Magnesium (Mg), and Sulfur (S) are another essential trio for plants, working together to ensure overall health and growth. The first two are commonly sold together in a nutrient mixture known as CalMag.

Calcium acts as the plant’s builder, fortifying cell walls and providing protection. It cements cell walls together and provides crucial structural integrity to plant tissues. This not only fortifies the plant’s overall architecture but also enhances its resistance to diseases.

Magnesium plays a pivotal role in photosynthesis. Acting as the central atom within chlorophyll, magnesium enables plants to capture sunlight and convert it into energy. Beyond its role in photosynthesis, magnesium activates enzymes associated with energy transfer within the plant, acting as an energy conductor.

Sulfur is a critical component of amino acids, proteins and vitamins within plants, influencing various aspects of plant development. It plays a key role in the synthesis of sulfur-containing amino acids such as cysteine and methionine, which are essential building blocks for proteins. Additionally, sulfur contributes to the plant’s defense mechanisms against diseases and pests.

Summary

At the end of the day, nutrient solution drives energy transfer, and safeguards developing plants against diseases and environmental challenges.

Whether you’re a small-scale grower embracing premade solutions or a commercial farmer customizing nutrient blends, the key to efficient hydroponic cultivation lies in the nuanced balance of these essential elements.

Curious about hydroponic farming? That’s our specialty! We offer a variety of hydroponic container farms that allow for precise, climate-controlled cultivation, at any time of year and regardless of outside conditions. Contact us today, and we can discuss the future of farming together!

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