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Scientists around the world are studying hydroponic growing to help commercial growers get the best results. Check out some of the results and see how they can help you grow better crops, too.
Finding: Reducing the temperature of the nutrient solution prevented diseases.
The study: Scientists at Cornell University tested different methods of protecting hydroponic plants from Pythium aphanadermatum, a water-borne mold that thrives in nutrient solution and destroys roots. They tried pasteurization and ultraviolet irradiation, sonication, filtration, and electrochemical treatment and assessed them in a variety of hydroponic systems. The results were mixed for those strategies, but the scientists reported that a temperature reduction to 68 degrees Fahrenheit induced gradual recovery even from a heavily infected state.
To do: Keep your nutrient solution in a cool, dark place so that its temperature remains too low for disease pathogens to proliferate.
Finding: Increasing the space between the nutrient solution and reservoir cover in a non-circulating hydroponic system improved yields.
The study: Tomatoes were raised in a passive hydroponic system in which the nutrient solution was not circulated and aeration was achieved simply by allowing air space between the top of the solution and the cover of the reservoir (no pump was used). When the air space was 5 centimeters (about 2 inches), the yields were lower than when the air space was increased to 17 centimeters (about 6.5 inches).
To do: Leave more than 6 inches between your nutrient solution and reservoir cover if you are not mechanically aerating the fluid.
Finding: Increasing beneficial microbe populations in nutrient solution helped keep damaging microbes at bay and increased both root size and plant size.
The study: “The composition of the microbial community in artificial substrates, such as nutrient films and rock wool, is thought to be less complex than in soil. Therefore, development of a microflora deleterious for plant growth has to be anticipated,” reported two Dutch scientists in the Canadian Journal of Microbiology. They counteracted the destructive microbes by inoculating nutrient solution with bacteria that suppress them. The result: “Increases in root and shoot fresh weight were observed when the nutrient solutions used for the growth of tomato, cucumber, lettuce, and potato plants were treated with plant growth promoting Pseudomonas strains.”
To do: Use nutrient formulas based on ingredients that are rich in beneficial microbes that suppress pathogens and other destructive microbes.