Hydroponics

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Hydroponics (water culture) involves the growing of plants in water. The term often includes the growing of plants in solid rooting medium watered with a complete nutrient solution, which is more accurately called 'aggregate culture'. Plants can be grown in nutrient solutions with no solid material so long as the roots receive oxygen and suitable anchorage and support is provided. The advantages of hydroponics, compared with soil, in temperate areas includes accurate control of the nutrition of the plant and hence better growth and yield. There is a constant supply of available water to the roots. Evaporation is greatly reduced and loss of water and nutrients through drainage is minimal in recirculating systems. There can be a reduction in labour and growing medium costs and a quicker 'turn round' time between crops in protected culture. The disadvantages include the high initial costs of construction and the controls of the more elaborate automated systems. Active roots require a constant supply of oxygen, but oxygen only moves slowly through water. This can be resolved by pumping air through the water that the plants are grown in, but it is usually achieved on a large scale by growing in thin films of water as created in the nutrient film technique (NFT) or a variation on the very much older aggregate culture methods.

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