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Preface

This is the third edition of this guidebook; the first edition was published in 1983 and its revision was published in 1997. The two previous editions were primarily devoted to describing various techniques for growing plants without soil. These topics have been revised to reflect advances that have been made in understanding how plants grow and the influence that the rooting and atmospheric environments have on plant performance. In this edition, two new chapters have been added, one on the design and function of a hydroponic greenhouse and the other on hydroponic methods for crop production and management. These two new chapters provide the reader with essential information on greenhouse design and function and then give detailed instructions on how to grow various crops hydroponically, both in the greenhouse and outdoors. Although most hydroponic crops are grown commercially in environmentally controlled greenhouses, hydroponic methods and procedures suited for the hobby grower and techniques for outdoor hydroponics are also included. Organic hydroponics is also one of the new topics included.

Accurate statistics on the acreage of greenhouses devoted to vegetable production are not easily obtainable as no official accounting is made by any governmental or private organization(s). Estimates have been made based on information gathered from various sources suggesting that the acreage of greenhouse vegetable production is approximately 100,000 acres. From best estimates at this time, the acreage of hydroponic vegetable greenhouses probably ranges between 50,000 and 70,000 acres. In a recent Hydroponic Merchants Association (HMA) publication1, they report that there are 3,000 to 4,000 acres of greenhouse vegetable in production in the United States and Canada, 2,000 to 3,000 acres in Mexico, 30,000 acres in Israel, 10,000 acres in Holland, 4,200 acres in England. Australia, New Zealand and other northern European countries have approxiamately 8,000 acres in greenhouse vegetable production. The HMA also reported that in North America, 95 percent of greenhouse vegetables are grown hydroponically and that the monetary value of produced vegetables is over $2.4 billion dollars today which is increasing at an annual rate of 10%. HMA reports that the largest acreages of hydroponic vegetable production in the United States are in four western states, Arizona (240 acres), California (157 acres), Colorado (86 acres), and Nevada (40 acres), with substantial acreages (from 10 to 40 acres at each location) in Pennsylvania, upstate New York, Virginia, Illinois, Nebraska, and Florida. The primary crop grown is tomato, with herbs, lettuce, and peppers being also grown at some of these locations. The hydroponic growing of flowers and other nonveg-etable crops utilizing the same techniques and procedures applied to vegetables is also on the increase. Significant advances continue to be made in the application of hydro-ponic/soilless culture methods of growing and will continue to be made for controlling the environment within the greenhouse as well as the introduction of plant cultivars better

1 HMA Media Kit, 2004, Hydroponic Merchants Association (HMA), 10210 Leatherleaf Court, Manassas, VA 20111.

adapted to greenhouse conditions. In order to take full advantage of these advances, growers will need to better control the rooting environment and the nutrient element supply to plants, and adopt those cultural practices that will maximize plant performance. Some of the systems initially devised for growing plants hydroponically are either no longer suitable for use in this developing technology or have been modified to adapt to these advances, making them more efficient in water and nutrient element use. Devising hydro-ponic growing systems for space application, in confined inhospitable environments, and outdoor growing are the new challenges that are changing our concepts of how best to utilize limited water resources, fully utilize both essential and beneficial elements, and provide for an ideal rooting environment. For many of these new applications, hydro-ponic/soilless systems must function efficiently without the possibility of failure — a challenge that borders on our current concepts of how plants function under varying environmental conditions.

As with the previous editions, this book begins with the concepts of how plants grow and then describes the requirements necessary for success when using various hydroponic and soilless growing methods. The major focus is on the nutritional requirements of plants and how best to prepare and use nutrient solutions to satisfy the nutrient element requirement of plants using various growing systems and under a wide range of environmental conditions. Many nutrient solution formulas are given, and numerous tables and illustrations included. Various hydroponic/soilless systems of growing are described in detail, and their crop adaptation and advantages and disadvantages are discussed. Included are those procedures required to establish and maintain a healthy rooting environment. Past and current sources of information on hydroponics are listed, including reference books, bulletins, magazine articles, and Internet sites as well as a detailed glossary of key terms.

This book provides valuable information for the commercial grower, the researcher, the hobbyist, and the student — all those interested in hydroponics and how this method of plant production works as applied to a wide range of growing conditions. Students interested in experimenting with various hydroponic/soilless growing systems as well as how to produce nutrient element deficiencies in plants are given the needed instructions. This topic has been expanded considerably with new methods and procedures that will arouse the interests of the curious minded.

The hydroponic literature can be confusing to readers due to the variety of words and terms used as well as the mix of British and metric units. In this book, when required to clarify the text, both British and metric units are given. The words "hydroponic" and "soilless" grower are sometimes combined to give "hydroponic/soilless grower," a combined word that is used when the topic being discussed relates to both, but when specific topics are discussed, then either the word hydroponic or soilless is used. The word "hydroponic" is used when growing systems are purely hydroponic, that is the rooting medium does not specifically interact with the plant, while the word "soilless" is used when systems of growing relate to plant production in which the medium can interact with the plant.

The use of trade names and mention of particular products in this book do not imply endorsement of the products named or criticism of similar ones not named, but rather such products are used as examples for illustration purposes.

J. Benton Jones, Jr.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1 Introduction 1

Hydroponic Definitions 1

Historical Past 3

Hydroponics in Space 3

Hydroponics/Soilless Culture 3

Advantages and Disadvantages 4

Advantages 4

Disadvantages 5

The Hydroponic Techniques 5

The Future of Hydroponics 7

Elemental Compound and Ion Symbol Designation 9

Chapter 2 How Plants Grow 11

Chapter 3 Soil and Hydroponics 15

Chapter 4 The Plant Root: Its Roles and Functions 19

Water Content and Uptake 19

Ion Uptake 21

Physical Characteristics 24

Aeration 25

Root Surface Chemistry 27

Temperature 27

Root Growth and Plant Performance 28

Chapter 5 The Essential Elements 29

Explanation of Terms 33

Content in Plants 33

Function 34

Deficiency Symptoms 35

Excess Symptoms 35

Forms of Utilization 36

Effects on Roots and Elemental Uptake 36

Accumulation in the Rooting Medium 36

Concentration in a Nutrient Solution 37

Nutrient Solution Reagents 37

The Major Elements 37

Nitrogen (N) 38

Content in Plants 38

Function 38

Deficiency Symptoms 38

Excess Symptoms 39

Forms of Utilization 39

Ammonium versus Nitrate 39

Ammonium Toxicity 40

Effect on Roots and Elemental Uptake 40

Concentration in a Nutrient Solution 41

Control of the Concentration 41

Nutrient Solution Reagents 41

Phosphorus (P) 41

Content in Plants 41

Function 42

Deficiency Symptoms 42

Excess Symptoms 42

Concentration in a Nutrient Solution 42

Accumulation in the Rooting Medium 43

Nutrient Solution Reagents 43

Potassium (K) 43

Content in Plants 43

Function 44

Deficiency Symptoms 44

Balance among Cations 44

Excess Accumulation 45

Concentration in a Nutrient Solution 45

Nutrient Solution Reagents 45

Calcium (Ca) 45

Content in Plants 45

Function 46

Deficiency Symptoms 46

Excess Symptoms 46

Accumulation in the Rooting Medium 46

Concentration in a Nutrient Solution 47

Nutrient Solution Reagents 47

Magnesium (Mg) 47

Content in Plants 47

Function 48

Deficiency Symptoms 48

Excess Symptoms 48

Accumulation in the Rooting Medium 48

Concentration in a Nutrient Solution 49

Nutrient Solution Reagents 49

Content in Plants 49

Function 49

Deficiency Symptoms 50

Accumulation in the Rooting Medium 50

Concentration in a Nutrient Solution 50

Nutrient Solution Reagents 51

The Micronutrients 51

Content in Plants 52

Function 52

Deficiency Symptoms 52

Excess Symptoms 52

Concentration in a Nutrient Solution 53

Nutrient Solution Reagents 53

Chlorine (Cl) 53

Content in Plants 53

Function 53

Deficiency/Excess 53

Concentration in a Nutrient Solution 53

Copper (Cu) 54

Content in Plants 54

Function 54

Deficiency Symptoms 54

Excess Symptoms 54

Concentration in a Nutrient Solution 54

Nutrient Solution Reagents 55

Content in Plants 55

Function 55

Deficiency Symptoms 55

Concentration in a Nutrient Solution 56

Forms of Utilization 57

Nutrient Solution Reagents 57

Manganese (Mn) 57

Content in Plants 57

Function 57

Deficiency Symptoms 58

Excess Symptoms 58

Concentration in a Nutrient Solution 58

Nutrient Solution Reagents 58

Molybdenum (Mo) 59

Content in Plants 59

Function 59

Deficiency Symptoms 59

Concentration in a Nutrient Solution 59

Nutrient Solution Reagents 59

Content in Plants 59

Function 60

Deficiency Symptoms 60

Excess Symptoms 60

Concentration in a Nutrient Solution 60

Nutrient Solution Reagents 61

Summary 61

Chapter 6 The Beneficial Elements 63

Cobalt (Co) 65

Silicon (Si) 66

Nickel (Ni) 66

Vanadium (V) 67

Element Substitution 67

New Beneficial Elements 67

Summary 67

Humic Acid 69

Chapter 7 The Nutrient Solution 71

Water Quality 72

pH 76

Water and Nutrient Solution Filtering 77

Weights and Measures 78

Reagents 79

Nutrient Solution Formulations 80

Elemental Concentrations in Nutrient Solutions 84

General Purpose/Use Formulations 89

Crop Requirement Adjustments of the Nutrient Solution 89

Nutrient Solution Control 89

pH 101

Temperature 105

Electrical Conductivity (EC) 106

Oxygenation 106

Methods and Timing of Nutrient Solution Delivery 107

Constancy 112

Programmable Controllers 112

Summary 113

Chapter 8 Systems of Hydroponic/Soilless Culture 117

Container Growing 117

Media Hydroponic/Soilless Culture 119

Regulating Water and Nutrient Element Requirements 120

Active and Passive Systems of Nutrient Solution Distribution 121

Chapter 9 Systems of Hydroponic Culture 123

Mediumless Hydroponic Systems 123

Standing Aerated Nutrient Solution 123

Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) 127

Aeroponics 142

Medium Hydroponic Systems 143

Ebb-and-Flow Nutrient Solution Systems 143

Drip/Pass-Through Inorganic Medium Systems 145

Inorganic Rooting Medium in Bags or Pots/Buckets 146

Rockwool Slab Medium 148

Chapter 10 Organic Media Soilless Culture 153

Physical and Chemical Properties 153

Organic Soilless Mix Formulas 156

Limestone and Fertilizer Additions 159

Growing Techniques 161

Unique Application 162

Chapter 11 Hydroponic Cropping 167

Introduction 167

Progressive Developments 172

Nutrient Solution Formulations and Their Use 175

Cultivar/Variety Availability and Selection 175

Grower Skill and Competence 176

Home Gardener/Hobby Hydroponic Grower 177

Outdoor Hydroponics 180

Hydroponic Crops 181

Factors for Success 182

Tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill) 187

Introduction 187

Transplant Seedlings 191

Grafting 192

Crop Scheduling 193

Growing Containers and Medium 193

Plant Spacing 198

Cultural Plant Practices 200

Environmental Conditions 202

Water Requirement 204

Flower Pollination 206

Fruit Development and Yield 209

Fruit Quality and Flavor 210

Plant Nutrition 213

Varieties (Cultivars) 219

Nutrient Solution 220

pH 220

Electrical Conductivity (EC) 221

Formulations 223

Nutrient Element Accumulation in the Rooting Substrates 223

Organic Production 225

Outdoor Hydroponics 226

Disease and Insect Control 228

Summary 231

Cucumber (Cucumis sativus L.) 232

Pepper, Bell Types (Capsicum annum L.) 240

Pepper, Chiles 243

Lettuce (Lacturia) 245

Herbs 252

Microgreens 256

Strawberry (Fragaria x ananassa) 256

Green Bean (Snap Bean) (Phaseolus vulgaris L.) 261

Sweet Corn (Zea mays L. subsp. mays) 263

Okra [Abelmoschus esculentus (L.) Moench] 264

Melons 264

Other Types of Plants 265

Summary for Hydroponically Grown Crops 267

Commonly Used Growing Systems 269

Perlite Bag Culture System 269

Perlite Bucket Culture System 270

Rockwool Slab Culture System 270

The Ideal Hydroponic Growing System 271

Commonly Used Nutrient Solutions 272

Chapter 12 The Hydroponic Greenhouse 275

Greenhouse Defined 276

Location Factors 278

Basic Structural Design 280

Flooring 282

Glazing Materials 284

Heating and Cooling 286

Heating 286

Cooling 289

Air Movement 295

Plant Support System 295

Supplemental Lighting 295

Carbon Dioxide Enrichment 298

Climatic Control 303

Backup Systems 303

Sanitation 304

Proactive Management 305

Winter Greenhouse Preparation 305

Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) 305

The Hobby Greenhouse 308

Solar Greenhouse 309

The Solviva Greenhouse 311

The Ideal Greenhouse 311

Common Errors Made in the Design and Operation of a Greenhouse 312

Chapter 13 Diagnostic Testing Procedures 313

Water Analysis 314

Nutrient Solution Analysis 314

Water and Nutrient Solution Analysis Methods 315

Sampling Procedures 318

Elemental Analysis of the Growth Medium 318

Plant Analysis 319

Tissue Testing 324

Other Analytical Devices 325

The Internet 327

Being a Diagnostician 328

Summary 328

Best Management Practices (BMP) 329

Chapter 14 Pest Control 33l

How to Control Pests 332

Insects 333

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) 334

Sanitation 334

Prevention Procedures 334

Cultivar Selection 335

Environmental Conditions and Cultural Practices 335

The Nutrient Solution 336

Chemical Use Regulations 337

Chapter 15 Educational Role for Hydroponics 339

Demonstration Project 344

Required Items 344

Growing Requirements 345

Light 345

Plant Species Selection 345

Temperature 345

Moisture 346

Pest Control 346

Procedure 346

Nutrient Element Deficiency Experiments 348

Introduction 348

Procedure 348

Photographic Record 349

Plant Growth Record 351

References 353

Appendix A Definitions 377

Appendix B Characteristics of the Essential Elements 387

Nitrogen (N) 387

Phosphorus (P) 389

Potassium (K) 390

Calcium (Ca) 392

Magnesium (Mg) 393

Sulfur (S) 394

Chlorine (Cl) 396

Copper (Cu) 397

Manganese (Mn) 399

Molybdenum (Mo) 400

Appendix C Reference Books 403

Bulletins and Miscellaneous Publications 407

Appendix D Conversion Factors 411

Common Prefixes 411

Metric Conversion Factors (Approximate) 412

Useful Information and Conversion Factors 413

Comparison of Commonly Used Concentration Units for the Major

Elements and Micronutrients in the Dry Matter of Plant Tissue 416

To Convert Molar Units to Parts per Million 416

To Convert lb/acre to Milliequivalents/100 g 417

Conversion Values Useful for Completing Nutrient Solution Calculations 417

Index 419

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Growing Soilless

Growing Soilless

This is an easy-to-follow, step-by-step guide to growing organic, healthy vegetable, herbs and house plants without soil. Clearly illustrated with black and white line drawings, the book covers every aspect of home hydroponic gardening.

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