Hydroponics – What is it?

Hydroponics is a subset of hydroculture, the method of growing plants without soil, using mineral nutrient solutions in a water solvent. The nutrients in hydroponics can come from an array of different sources; including byproduct from fish waste, duck manure, or normal nutrients. - wikipedia

A Brief history of Hydroponics

Ancient examples of humans adopting technique of hydroculture

  • Hanging Gardens of Babylon created in  3rd Century BC was the first of the seven ‘wonders’ of the world that used up 8,200 gallons of water a day. There are trees and plants in small man-created fields constructed on top of roofed colonnades which gave an impression of plants suspending in mid-air.

Hanging Garden of Babylon

An illustration of the gardens by the 16th century Dutch artist Martin Heemskerck

  • Aztecs and Chinese developed a similar system of floating gardens. In Aztec, their engineers created “floating” gardens using rafts anchored to the bottom of the lake, or to a strong tree. On these rafts, they piled dirt and muds to plant seeds to grow chilli peppers, corn, tomatoes, beans, and squash. These raft garden became extensive gardens reaching up to 22,000 acres across the surface of the lake. Marco Polo discovered similar floating gardens during his exploration of China in 13th centuries. 

A chinampa used in the Valley of Mexico lake.

  • Modern history
    • Sir Francis Bacon, a British scientist, philosopher and politician established the scientific research on the idea of water culture. Thus begins the research for soil-less gardening in the 1620s.
    • In 1699, John Woodward's conducted tests involving spearmint growth in different types of water mixed with soil and then drained. They were essential to the development of the list of nine essential nutrients for plant growth in 1842.
    • Between 1859 and 1875, German botanists Wilhelm Knop and Julius von Sachs developed a standard technique of research. Known as "Solution Culture", it is credited for the modern design system for hydroponics.
    • While working at the University of California, Berkeley in 1920s, William Frederick Gericke popularised the idea that of "Solution Culture".
    • It was then W.A. Setchell who suggested the term hydroponics in 1937.
    • Two other Berkeley scientists, Dennis Hoagland and Daniel Arnon expanded upon Gericke's research. In 1938, they published "The Water Culture Method for Growing Plants without Soil," still widely considered to be one of the most important texts ever published about hydroponics.
    • Hoagland and Arnon in 1938 developed a nutrient solution known as Hoagland solutions using several minerals. Arnon further revised it in 1950. Today it is one of the most popular solution compositions for growing plants.
    • In 1940s at Wake Island (a soilless island in the Pacific Ocean), hydroponics was used to successfully grow fresh vegetables. In World War II by the U.S. army at Chofu, Japan.
    • By 1950s, many countries including England, France, Italy, Spain, Sweden, the USSR, and Israel are using hydroponics system.

Next topic, commonly used techniques in the "new age" hydroponics applications.

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