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Introduction, Hydroponics and the study of mineral requirements of the plants

Introduction:

  • In the year 1860, a prominent German botanist Julius Von Sachs described and demonstrated a technique of growing plants from seeds to maturity without soil.
  • He made a solution that was rich in nutrients and grew a plant from its seed to a fully differentiated plant body in that very solution.
  • This experiment paved the way for studying essential elements that plants require in order to grow.
  • The technique allows the scientist to make combinations and mixtures of various compositions in order to test the optimal quantity.
  • It served as research to understand which elements have a major impact and which of them has a minor impact.
  • We now could pinpoint the lack of a certain mineral that would cause them to undergo certain morphological changes known as deficiency symptoms.
  • Disease identification and treatment became a lot easier with the development of this technique.
  • This experiment proved to be quite ahead of its time as it helped in the improvement of the agricultural sector.
  • Now farmers and commercial growers could have the perfect idea about what their crops lack and what needs to be added in the soil or sprayed with to have a much higher quality crop along with better yield.
  • Hence, studying the mineral requirements of plants has been extremely helpful and now due to the knowledge gathered, the production of plants in remote areas with poor soil quality is very easy.
  • The scarcity of minerals in the soil can be tested and accordingly the deficient minerals can be added in order for the soil to be suitable for cultivation.

Topics covered-

  • Hydroponics and its application

Hydroponics and its application
 

Introduction:

  • Hydroponics is the technique of growing plants in a nutrient solution without using any soil.
  • Minerals that are most necessary are mixed with the water to provide the desired medium.
  • And since the birth of this technique, many experiments have taken place in order to determine the set of nutrients that are most essential to the plants.
  • This is also termed soil-less growth because there is no involvement of soil as in traditional plant growing method, water is used as the source of minerals and nutrients in this technique.

    hydroponics
     

Detailed explanation:

  • The plants are grown in a nutrient mixture prepared by mixing an appropriate amount of pure chemical elements in purified water.
  • The solution is filled within a sterilized glass jar or container and the surface is kept covered with a cloth or dark paper.
  • This covering reduces the risk of sunlight damage and algal growth on the roots as normally they are underground structures.
  • The jar contains split covers or cork with holes for suspending seedling.
  • The jar is equipped with a funnel for adding nutrients and an aerating tube to maintain the oxygen concentration in the solution.

Commercial setup for Hydroponic plant production:

  • Plants are grown in a tube or trough placed on a slight incline.
  • The trough contains the nutrient solution.
  • A pump circulates a nutrient solution from a reservoir to the elevated end of the tube.
  • The solution flows down the tube and returns to the reservoir due to gravity.
  • The lid or the covering of the tank supports the plants.

    hydroponic
     
  • The set up shows a plant whose roots are continuously bathed in aerated nutrient solution

Significance

  • This technique has allowed us to test various mineral elements in a variety of concentrations in order to find the right composition and ratio of those minerals.
  • This technique has been equipped to identify and categorize the essential elements.
  • We also get to know which mineral deficiency can cause what symptoms and what is the optimum amount required for healthy plant growth.
  • This technique is actually used in the commercial field for growing vegetables like tomato, lettuce, seedless cucumber.
  • Diseases particular to soil can be prevented by adapting to this method of plant growth.
  • Weeds are no more an issue for crop production by hydroponics.
  • This technique becomes highly useful in areas with infertile soil and dry regions.
  • The essential elements as C, H, O , N which are necessary for all the basic physiological processes can be studied.
  • The micronutrients and their concentration need to be assessed as they operate in a very narrow range for the optimal growth of a plant.
  • Micronutrients can therefore become toxic for a plant if given in more than the desired range.
  • Elements have the ability to increase or decrease the uptake of any other essential element. Thus, it is useful in the study of interaction of different elements.

Precautions and Limitations:

  • Contamination of the nutrient mixture is to be taken care of very essentially. In order to test a new set of elements, the tank should be cleaned properly throughout. Even a little amount of trace elements can alter the readings.
  • The solution is filled within a sterilized glass jar or container and the surface is kept covered with a cloth or dark paper which reduces the risk of sunlight damage and algal growth on the roots as normally they are underground structures.
  • Adequate aeration of the nutrient solution is essential to maintain a constant oxygen supply to the roots for optimum growth and mineral uptake.
  • This technique for commercial use is still not quite viable because it’s highly expensive.
  • A lot of parameters are to be studied and kept in check for proper results and hence is a complex technique for growers and farmers.

Frequently Asked Questions: FAQs

Q1. What is hydroponics?
Answer:
Hydroponics is the technique of growing plants in a nutrient solution within a glass jar or vessel without the presence of soil. Hence, it is often called soilless culture.

Q2. Mention the significance of hydroponics.
Answer:

  • This technique has allowed us to test various mineral elements in a variety of concentrations in order to find the right composition and ratio of those minerals.
  • This technique has been equipped to identify and categorize the essential elements.
  • We also get to know which mineral deficiency can cause what symptoms and what is the optimum amount required for healthy plant growth.
  • This technique becomes highly useful in areas with infertile soil and dry regions.
  • The essential elements as in N, C, O, H which are necessary for all the basic physiological processes can be studied.
  • The micronutrients and their concentration need to be assessed as they operate in a very narrow range for the optimal growth of a plant.
  • Micronutrients can therefore become toxic for a plant if given in more than the desired range.
  • Elements have the ability to increase or decrease the uptake of any other essential element. Thus, it is useful in the study of interaction of different elements.

Q3. What is the role of an aeration tube in the hydroponics setup?
Answer:
The aerating tube helps to maintain a constant oxygen supply to the roots in the nutrient solution for optimum growth and mineral uptake.

Q4. Why is the setup covered with black paper?
Answer:

  • The solution is filled within a sterilized glass jar or container and the surface is kept covered with a cloth or dark paper.
  • This covering reduces the risk of sunlight damage and algal growth on the roots as normally they are underground structures.

Q5. Name the different forms of nutrients that plants obtain?
Answer:
Nutrients can be obtained in two different forms- organic, which includes carbohydrates, proteins, fats etc. and inorganic, which includes minerals or ions.

Q6. How is the study of mineral nutrition helpful in agriculture?
Answer:
Studying the mineral requirements of plants has been extremely helpful in the improvement of the agricultural sector. Using hydroponics as a primary technique for this purpose has proved to be highly useful. Now farmers and commercial growers could have the perfect idea about what their crops lack and what needs to be added in the soil or sprayed with to have a much higher quality crop along with better yield.

Q7. What precautions are to be taken care of during hydroponics?
Answer:

1. Contamination of the nutrient mixture is to be taken care of very essentially. In order to test a new set of elements, the tank should be cleaned properly throughout. Even a little amount of trace elements can alter the readings.
2. The solution is filled within a sterilized glass jar or container and the surface is kept covered with a cloth or dark paper which reduces the risk of sunlight damage and algal growth on the roots as normally they are underground structures.
3. Adequate aeration of the nutrient solution is essential to maintain a constant oxygen supply to the roots for optimum growth and mineral uptake.

Q8. Describe the limitations of hydroponics.
Answer:

  • This technique for commercial use is still not quite viable because it’s highly expensive.
  • A lot of parameters are to be studied and kept in check for proper results and hence is a complex technique for growers and farmers.
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