CASE uses hydroponics to beat drought
MAY PEN, Clarendon:
As the drought conditions intensify and the price of agricultural produces is increasing almost daily across the island, the College of Agriculture, Science and Education (CASE) is pushing for farmers to adopt and employ the hydroponics method of farming, which is a cheaper and easier way to grow crops to supply the local markets.
Paul Campbell, who is currently pursuing a bachelor of arts degree in agriculture education at CASE, explained the concept. "Hydroponics is a method of growing plants using mineral nutrient solutions in water without soil. The basis of the system incorporates the nutrients that the plants need in water so that it is readily available to the plants because, for the plant to absorb the nutrients it needs, it needs to be in a liquid solution."
Campbell explained the aero-static hydroponic system set up in the CASE booth at the Denbigh Agricultural, Industrial and Food Show. "The water is aerated and circulated by a pump from a reservoir. Because the water is recycled through the system, no water or nutrients is lost. So that is a major advantage of the system." He noted that it is a cost-effective method of growing crops, especially vegetables such as cucumber, tomatoes and pak choi.
He said the mineral solution is purchased in liquid form and is then dissolved into the water which is recycled through the system. "The roots of the plant are in constant contact with the water, so there will be quicker absorption for healthier growth."
Campbell said one of the advantages of hydroponics is that it is not stationary. So it can be easily picked up and moved to another location if the conditions are not favourable in one area without disrupting any form of growth.
"What this aims to target is agriculture in the urban areas. For the busy people who don't have a lot of land space, hydroponics is a good way to grow what you eat. There is no need for hoes and machetes to clear the lands to plant. It needs very little time to tend or monitor the system after construction, and the likelihood for pests to contaminate the crop is far less than those crops exposed to soil.
Hydroponics is the way to go to beat the drought because approximately three gallons of water can be mixed with the nutrients to grow several heads of pak choi from the time it germinates until it is ready for reaping.
However, Campbell is urging farmers who want to switch to hydroponics not to neglect the past. "If you don't know where you are coming from, you won't know where you are going. When we know where we are coming from, we can look back and see the downfalls and then improve on those best practices so we can derive solutions to solve these problems going forward."