Working with Hydroponic Systems

The first week of Ag school centered around the study of soil and its relevance to the growth of living organisms. Being a kid from Northern Virginia, I at first did not see this as a relevant topic to my agricultural endeavors. My agricultural experiences don’t center around cultivating the ground at all; NOVA isn’t the environment for that. Instead, I spend most of my time in agriculture working on hydroponic systems that don’t use any soil. These systems mainly grow in clay, pebbles, rockwool.

In my school, we use these materials to grow vertically and experiment with various types of urban agriculture. I soon realized the slightly ironic truth was that soil class revolved around much more than just soil; it was instead about any type of grounding where plants can grow.

Whether it’s soil or coir (another name for coconut fiber), the material is just a filler, while the nutrients they hold are what the plants need. Dr. Tim Durham flipped through pictures of plants growing in every material imaginable, from metal cans to gravel, or even aeroponic systems, where the roots hang freely. These materials do not provide any nutrients to plants. However, with the right care, plants can grow in any ground. Systems of misting and calculated nutrient solutions can make up for any lack of soil.


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