Research Report: The Science of Organic Hydroponics

These three reports on organic methods show how effective they can be for indoor growers.


Bigger Yields

Research says: Organic fertilizers grow bigger plants and produce higher yields than synthetics.

The study: For a master’s degree thesis in horticulture and landscape architecture at Colorado State University, C. Elizabeth Succop compared the results of organic and synthetic fertilizers on hydroponic basil plants. She reported that “during the first half of the study, plant fresh weight productivity (the amount of edible stems and leaves) for both fertilizer treatments was not different. However, productivity was greater for plants with the organic fertilizer compared to the [synthetic] fertilizer for the remainder of the study.”

To do: Be patient—results from organic fertilizers become more noticeable as the plants mature.

More Roots

Research says: Applications of organic fertilizer increased root mass of hydroponic plants.

The study: At the University of Arizona Controlled Environment Agriculture Center, Asher Haug-Baltzell fed one crop of hydroponic lettuce with a synthetic, ammonia-based fertilizer and another with a naturally derived organic fertilizer. In evaluating the plants, Haug-Baltzell observed that the lettuce fed with organic nutrients consistently had bigger roots than the plants given the synthetic fertilizer.

To do: Use only organic plant food, which helps your indoor crop grow bigger roots.

Fungus Fighters

Research says: Organic treatments, including a sulfur-based formulation, controlled destructive gray mold better than chemical fungicides.

The study: At Mississippi State University, researchers treated Botrytis (gray mold) on greenhouse-grown tomato plants with several different products, including three biofungicides and the most widely used chemical solutions. The researchers reported that the sulfur-based product and the other organic treatments were as effective as the chemicals at controlling the fungus and increasing marketable yields of tomatoes.

To do: Use sulfur-based fungicide to protect your grow room and plants from gray mold.