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Former Extension Educator, Horticulture
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Thursday, August 14, 2014
Hydroponic is a term used to describe several types of growing systems. One such system is called a nutrient film technique (NFT). This system relies on recirculating water with nutrient solution in it to deliver nutrients to the roots of plants.
NFT can be done on large and small scales. The main components are as follows: a reservoir to hold water and nutrient solution, a pump and plumbing to recirculate water, gutters or piping to serve as crop rows, a medium to contain the plant (i.e. rockwool, coco coir, clay pebble in baskets, etc.), and a light source. They may also include filtration systems and air pumps.
The reservoir holds a supply of water. The pump pushes the water up and into the gutters or pipes containing plants. The plants are positioned in such a way that their roots are suspended in the trickle of water flowing on the inside of the gutter or pipe. Care is taken to ensure the stem or crown the the plant is not constantly wet to avoid rot. The gutters or pipes are slightly pitched so that gravity can bring the water back down into the reservoir.
When growing in NFT systems PH and nutrient levels should be monitored daily. PH can be controlled using phosphoric acid solution.
Sanitation is important when using any hydroponics system. The entire system should be flushed every 7 to 10 days to prevent pathogens from entering the system. Nutrient solution can be purchased premixed or in its raw form. The type of required lighting, PH level, and Nutrient level will be dependent on the crops being grown. There are many different types of meters available for monitoring these variables.
NFT systems can offer growers the benefit of a very firm control over what goes into their crops. They can also be more conservative with water than other types of systems because the water recirculates.
It is even possible to build a small system that fit in a kitchen in order to enjoy home grown produce year round!