Cookie policy: This site uses cookies (small files stored on your computer) to simplify and improve your experience of this website. Cookies are small text files stored on the device you are using to access this website. For more information please take a look at our terms and conditions. Some parts of the site may not work properly if you choose not to accept cookies.

Join

Subscribe or Register

Existing user? Login

Cultivating crops without the use of soil

  • Print
  • Share
  • Comment
  • Save
  • Print Friendly Version of this pagePrint Get a PDF version of this webpagePDF

Recently Merlin undertook a bus journey that happened to pass along a main road through one of the less salubrious areas of a large industrial city not far from my home territory. The district is known to be something of a crime hotspot and is certainly not an area to walk through at night.

As the bus drew up at a traffic light, Merlin was surprised to see a small industrial unit with a freshly painted sign indicating that the company within the unit offered for sale all manner of equipment for hydroponics.  

Hydroponics is a method of soil-less culture for plants, in which the plant roots are anchored in an inert substrate and flooded with a nutrient-rich solution. The principle is ancient. Indeed, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, are reputed to have used an early form of hydroponics to cultivate plants.

In the late 1920s and early 1930s the plant physiologist William F. Gericke of the University of California extended his research into plant nutrition to look at the practicality of growing crops commercially using soil-less culture. He it was who coined the name “hydroponics”.

During the 1939–45 war the shipping of fresh vegetables overseas was not practical. Also, many of the remote islands where troops were stationed were not places where vegetables could be grown in soil.

Hydroponic technology was therefore tested as a means of providing fresh vegetables. In 1945, the US Air Force built one of the first large hydroponic farms on Ascension Island in the South Atlantic This was followed by additional hydroponic farms on the islands of Iwo Jima and Okinawa in the Pacific. Crushed volcanic rock or gravel was used as the growing medium. By 1952 the US Army’s special hydroponics branch was growing more than eight millions pounds of fresh produce each year.

Hydroponics as a method of growing vegetables commercially is relatively rare in the UK. However, this year the UK’s largest ever greenhouse system, Thanet Earth on the Isle of Thanet, started producing salad vegetables using hydroponics. There are five huge greenhouses and the whole site, including the packing station, occupies some 91 hectares.

Thanet Earth currently supplies some 2.5 million tomatoes, 700,000 peppers and half a million cucumbers each week to the major supermarkets.

And why was Merlin surprised to see, in an inner city area, a warehouse selling equipment for hydroponics? Could it have any connection with the practice of growing cannabis in back bedrooms.

Have your say

For commenting, please login or register as a user and agree to our Community Guidelines. You will be re-directed back to this page where you will have the ability to comment.

  • Print
  • Share
  • Comment
  • Save
  • Print Friendly Version of this pagePrint Get a PDF version of this webpagePDF

From: Beyond pharmacy blog

Take a look here for thoughts and musings beyond the pharmacy realm

Newsletter Sign-up

Want to keep up with the latest news, comment and CPD articles in pharmacy and science? Subscribe to our free alerts.