As the name suggests hydroponic ‘hydro’ is a Greek word meaning water while ‘ponic’ meaning labor. Therefore, hydroponic farming system is water driven mechanism thus removing soil into the equation into this farming method.
In hydroponic farming, farmers grow plants under controlled conditions like quantity of water and nutrients to ensure the healthy growth of plants. The technique grows plants under controlled productivity by adding specific amount and types of nutrients to the water.
Hydroponics system allows fast growth of vegetables and fodder by promoting efficient consumption of nutrients. As a result, a farmer collects higher yields within a shorter period compared to other conventional methods of growing fodder which involves the use large acreage.
Hydroponic is cost effective and consumes less space of land, very economical, high efficiency of nutrient supply, high returns as compared to other conventional methods of growing fodder.
Since water is the driving water force of nutrients in this farming system, it is therefore necessary to design the most appropriate way of water supply in the system. Most adequate methods of water supply may include the use of drip water system, micro-sprinklers (G and star misters) and impulse sprinklers.
These are emitters which spray water out to larger diameters than typical drippers or spray jets.
While the spray pattern is usually 360 degrees, at least one type is available with an adjustable arc between 30 and 330 degrees
Unlike the impact rain gun sprinklers which require high pressure to operate, impulse sprinklers do employ low pressure to operate. They do operate even using the lifted pressure heights of the tanks above 2 meters high.
Majority of impulse sprinklers provide uniform distribution of water in a circular motion manner. This circular water spread is very useful in hydroponic farming system since no much pressure that is dangerous in breaking vegetables or fodder stems are avoided. The working pressure of many low impulse sprinklers is about a bar or 10 meters above the sea level with spread water diameter of 3 meters.
From specifications of the impulse sprinklers above, one can easily deduce that the impulse sprinkler is the best for hydroponic farming since they cover larger diameters.
Crops grown under hydroponic farming system
These are high valued crops with high returns. These crops include
- Hydroponic fodder.
- Vegetables like spinach, kales, lettuce, and e.t.c.
- Seed propagation .i.e. Irish potato seeds.
Advantages of hydroponic farming
Excellent water utilization
Plants grown hydroponically use little water as compared to open field grown plants. This is due to recycling of the used water that have gone through the system and collected as the runoff water.
Faster growth of plants
Since the diluted nutrients are readily available, the energy that could be used by plants to garner in nutrients are converted into growth stimulation thus enhancing faster growth
Since plants are not in contact with soil as the medium, there will be no any weed.
Pest and diseases control
Plants are less vulnerable to soil-borne pests and diseases. This will lead to less use of insecticides and herbicides thus growing cleaner and healthier crops.
Applicable in space limited areas.
Plants nutrients requirements are provided and maintained in a portable system in your apartment, balcony, backyard or space rooms.
Hydroponic methods in Kenya
These are the systems that ensure the availability of water into the hydroponic farming system and they may include;
- Drip system
- Aeroponics system
- Wick system
- Overhead (low or high pressure impulse sprinklers)
Aeroponics is a modern system which involves growing plants in an air or mist environment without the use of soil or any aggregate medium.
In this type of farming, the plants are place in stem holding structure to suspend the plants in a closed or semi-closed environment. In this suspension state, the daggling roots are sprayed with water rich with nutrients.
The plant canopy (leaves and the crown) and the roots are separated by the plant support structure. Most of these support structure are either seed trays or foam compressed around the lower and inserted into an opening in the hydroponic chamber
In this type of hydroponic farming system which involves the use of high capillary material like traditional wick for lantern to supply water to plant roots which are located just above the water container. This method majorly reduces the amount of evaporation rate brought by direct heating by the sun.
Types of impulse sprinklers and their flow rates
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