GROW YOUR CROPS BETTER WITHOUT SOIL – HYDROPONICS
BY JOSEPH OKPAIRE
With climate change, desertification is threatening Nigeria’s north, and shorter rainy seasons are making it more difficult to grow food. In contrast, near the coast in southern Nigeria and the country’s rainforests, rainy seasons are getting longer and more intense. River settlements are flooding, rendering much of the land unfit for farming, and destroying stored food.
Nigeria’s population, nearly 200 million people today, is expected to grow to 400 million by 2050. The country must have adequate conditions for crop growth in order to sustain its citizens. “With hydroponics, we use at least 80% less water and 90% less land, and there’s less deforestation,” Onafowora (2013)
Hydroponics is about growing crops without soil. In the place of soil, other medium (nutrient-rich solutions) is used. Plants grow through a process called photosynthesis, in which they use sunlight and a chemical inside their leaves called chlorophyll to convert carbon dioxide (a gas in the air) and water into glucose (a type of sugar) and oxygen. Write that out chemically and you get this equation:
6CO2 + 6H2O → C6H12O6 + 6O2 (photosynthesis)
There's no mention of "soil" anywhere in there—and that's all the proof you need that plants can grow without soil. What plants need is water and nutrients, both easily obtained from soil. But if they can get these things somewhere else—say, by standing with their roots in a nutrient-rich solution—they can do without soil altogether. That's the basic principle behind hydroponics.
In theory, the word "hydroponics" means growing plants in water (from two Greek words meaning "water" and "toil"), but because you can grow plants without actually standing them in water, most people define the word to mean growing plants without using soil.
TYPES OF HYDROPONICS
There are four different alternatives to soilless farming.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CONVENTIONAL PLANTING AND HYDROPONICS
When a crop is grown on the soil, the roots of the plant need to look for nutrients, but in hydroponics, the required quantity of nutrient is given to the plant. With hydroponics, the farmer can determine the taste, thus, he can make the tomato to be sweeter, the pepper to be hotter, and the cucumber to be more nutritious.
BENEFITS OF HYDROPONICS