Historians have found Egyptian hieroglyphics depicting the cultivation of plants in water that can be dated as far back as several thousand years, BC!
The word "Hydroponics" was coined by Dr. W.F. Gericke in 1936 to describe the cultivation of both edible and ornamental plants in a solution of water and dissolved nutrients. The simple meaning is derived from the Greek "Hydro," meaning water, and "Ponos," meaning labor. In this method of cultivation, plants are provided with the nutrients required for growth by a "nutrient solution," which is simply water that's been enriched with dissolved essential elements. In a hydroponic garden, this nutrient solution can be circulated around the roots by either the passive force of gravity, or by the active force of an electromechanical pump. Some systems bathe the roots in nutrient solution and use an air pump to oxygenate the solution from below, this helps to prevent stagnation and provides roots with much needed oxygen.
Plants grown hydroponically are generally healthier than their soil-grown counterparts. They receive a near-perfectly balanced diet, and rarely come in contact with soil borne pests and diseases. Super-efficient hydroponic systems, like the ones I'll show you how to build later in the book, conserve water and nutrients by preventing evaporation and runoff. Arid regions where water is scarce can now grow crops using hydroponics. Since hydroponic systems deliver water and nutrients directly to the plants, crops can be grown closer together without starving each other, and healthier plants also contribute to higher yields. By growing crops in a clean environment, under ideal conditions, hydroponics saves the costs of soil preparation, insecticides, fungicides and losses due to drought and ground flooding. When grown outdoors in soil, plants expend a tremendous amount of energy developing a large root system to search for moisture and nutrients. When grown hydroponically, their roots are directly bathed or sprayed with nutrients dissolved in water. Since they no longer need to search for food, most of their energy can be redirected into the production of foliage, flowers, fruits and vegetables. Plants grown hydroponically are healthier because they receive a well-balanced "diet." They are more vigorous because little energy is diverted into searching for water and nutrients. As a result, hydroponically grown produce is usually larger, tastier, and more nutritious than the same produce grown in soil. In order to give the physical support that soil would normally provide, a clean, sterile medium such as sand, gravel, rocks, coco fiber or rockwool (or combination of each) may be used. In the case of aeroponics, there is no medium, plants receive physical support from baskets and even wires suspended from the roof (see Disney's Epcot Center photo). At Epcot, plants are rotated through a chamber that supplies their roots with a fine mist of water and nutrients. The extra Oxygen that reaches the roots substantially increases the plant's metabolism.
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