There are many reasons why gardeners choose to grow their crops using soil-less hydroponic methods instead of traditional soil-based methods. Some of hydroponics key advantages include more space-saving, more energy/water efficient, less weeding, and fewer pests to contend with. Hydroponics also allows the grower more control and creativity their crops so that they may provide the most ideal conditions for plants. However, the single most compelling reason for gardeners to switch to soil-less gardening is its ability to significantly increase crop yield. Let’s review the factors that influence hydroponics yield in order to demonstrate why this type of gardening is better than soil in nearly every respect.
Some people are under the impression that hydroponics will produce much larger plants than soil. This isn’t necessarily the case. Each seed has its own genetic code which determines the plant’s size, flavor, and yield potential. In other words, you can’t transform a cherry tomato into a Roma tomato, but you can turn a cherry tomato seed into the genetically best possible cherry tomato plant if you provide the perfect growing conditions. Hydroponics gardening gives plants the best opportunity to reach their full genetic potential. More often than not, this translates into healthier, larger, and more flavorful crops.
It can be difficult for plants to reach their highest genetic potential in common soil. This is because there are hundreds of variables in soil’s makeup that can influence a plant’s growth. Hydroponics, on the other hand, gives the grower the ability to micromanage and control the growing conditions so there are no surprises from Mother Nature. Soil-based plants use a lot of energy to seek out their food source, while hydroponics plants are given exactly what they need when they need it. Thus, hydroponically-grown plants can direct all their energy into producing higher yields, denser vegetation, faster growth, and more flavorful crops. It is more likely that hydroponic crops reach their genetic potential, and thus, is often considered a superior form of agriculture.
In his book “Hydroponic Food Production,” hydroponics pioneer Dr. Howard M. Resh makes a compelling case for ditching the dirt and going soil-less. He discusses the main advantages of hydroponics over soil culture, especially for regions of the world which have non-arable land. Resh outlines the efficiency of regulating the nutrients and water, the low cost and ease-of-use to sterilize the medium, as well as how hydroponics allows for higher density planting and – ultimately – increased yields per acre.
In the table below, Resh compares the yields per acre in soil vs. soil-less culture:
|Soya||600 lbs||1550 lbs|
|Beans||5 tons||21 tons|
|Peas||1 ton||9 tons|
|Wheat||600 lbs||4100 lbs|
|Rice||1000 lbs||5000 lbs|
|Oats||1000 lbs||2500 lbs|
|Beets||4 tons||12 tons|
|Potatoes||8 tons||70 tons|
|Cabbage||13000 lbs||18 lbs|
|Lettuce||9000 lbs||21000 lbs|
|Tomatoes||5-10 tons||60-300 tons|
|Cucumbers||7000 lbs||28000 lbs|
Source: Hydroponic Food Production by Howard M Resh
As you can see, his findings are quite dramatic. It is no surprise that urban planners and policymakers are often proponents of hydroponic gardening. Hydroponic gardening has wide implications for the future of practical, efficient, and cost-effective farming across the world. Because crop yields of hydroponically-grown plants can be up to an astounding 100 times higher than crops grown in the field, hydroponics yield is the clear winner.
So why exactly are the crop yields so much greater for hydroponics? Let’s look at the most important factors of hydroponics yield.
When you multiply all of these factors together, the crop yields of hydroponically-grown plants can be up to an astounding 100 times higher than crops grown in the field. The benefit of controlled-environment agriculture and vertical systems have wide implications for not only at-home gardeners and commercial growers, but also for global hunger advocates, policy makers, and urban planners. Since hydroponic farms can be built on low-cost and/or non-arable land, greenhouses and hydroponic farms can be built in areas where conventional soil farming is not possible. Urban hydroponic farms can provide jobs for city residents, a source of healthy, locally-grown produce, and minimize the environmental costs associated with shipping produce around the world.
Hydroponic grown-crops nearly eliminates the problems associated with soil-based agriculture – it is not weather dependent, it’s more space-saving and water/energy efficient, and there are fewer pests to deal with. And most compelling, hydroponics provides higher yields and a more reliable food source due to its year-round growing and frequent harvesting. Make the switch to hydroponics!