Hydroponic Lettuce Background: Systems & Techniques
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Hydroponic lettuce is a rapidly developing subset of hydroculture due to higher plant yields and safer production process. This however comes at a higher price and requires more knowledge and technical skill. Lettuce grown hydroponically requires a premium price to offset higher costs thus the correct market must be assessed prior to entering into such an enterprise.
Although billions of plants are produced in containers (ie not naturally in soil) annually not all are hydroponically grown in the technical sense. This is because the soilless medium commonly will supply mineral nutrients through slow release fertilizers, cation exchange and decomposition of the organic medium itself. However most container plants are grown without soil, which includes fruit, shade, trees, shrubs, seedlings (forest, vegetable), bedding plants, perennials and vines.
Reason For Soilless Plant Popularity
A large reason that hydroponic lettuce and other plant production continues to grow is the promise of plant growth in a nontraditional climate. This dates back to WWII when hydroponics was used in the Pacific Islands to feed Pam-Am Airways crew. This was one of the first times that hydroponics was used commercially on a large scale to actually feed people. This is promising for development of food sources in harsh environments such as Polar Ice Caps, Antarctica, glaciers, deserts and space. NASA and other space organizations have long invested in hydroponics as a source for developing food sources in space and on other planets and moons.
Advantages of Hydroponic Lettuce
The following are pros for growing lettuce hydroponically
- Higher Stable Yields
- No Pollution Released Into Environment
- Reusable Water
- Better Control of Nutrition Levels
- Expedited Harvesting
- No Pesticide Damage
- High Mobility
Problems With Hydroponic Lettuce Production
Without soil as a buffer, plant death due to system failure, disease or other issue leads to much faster plant death. Other problems include pathogen attacks caused by high moisture and over watering. Another disadvantage is large setup costs associated with growing systems along with unique minerals and nutrients that are more costly.
Lettuce Grow Systems
There are various types of grow systems and techniques used to grow lettuce without soil. The two main types are solution culture and medium culture with solution using only nutrient solution and medium using a solid medium. The main variations for each medium include sub-irrigation and top irrigation. The main types of solution culture are static solution, continuous-flow solution culture, aeroponics, passive-sub-irrigation, ebb and flow or flood and drain sub-irrigation, run to waste, deep water culture, bubbleponics, fogponics and rotary hydroponics. The main types of medium (substrate) culture include expanded clay aggregate, growstones, coir, rice hulls, perlite, pumice, vermiculite, sand, gravel, wood fibre, rock wool, brick shards and polystyrene packing peanuts.
Growing Lettuce at Home
While commercial hydroponics is in full force, more people are taking to growing eatable plants at home for both personal consumption and as a business venture. It is common for city farmers to grow lettuce hydroponically and sell crop at local farmers markets for substantial profits. As in all business ventures, the amount of money that can be made from home depends on numerous factors including, scalability, yields, market conditions, production costs and product outlet.
Hydroponic Lettuce Prices
A premium price is demanded for hydroponically grown lettuce and other plants. This is due to the implied cleaner or organic growth of the crop. Higher pricing is more tolerable in places such as farmers markets, organic food stores and health shops.