The Hydroponic System Past and Present
The hydroponic system has been around since the late 19th century when researchers discovered that plants could be cultivated more efficiently by introducing nutrients through water and that soil was not necessary. Plants may be grown with their roots in a mineral solution in an inert substance such vermiculite or mineral wool. It was discovered that plants are capable of absorbing essential mineral nutrients as inorganic ions in water. While soil acts as nutrient reservoir, nutrients are not actually present in the soil and can therefore be delivered through water. When this water is introduced artificially the need for soil is no longer there and thus water can be strained through the growth medium in order to bring nutrients to the plants.
In 1929 a Professor at the University of California at Berkeley began to announce publicly that solution based cultures can be used for plant production. Originally it was referred to aquaculture but this did not stick due to the fact that aquaculture was already a term applied to aquatic organisms. Professor Gericke began to gain notoriety by growing extremely large tomato plants with his hydroponic techniques utilizing very potent nutrient solutions. Professor Gericke is the first person to coin the term “hydroponics” and that is what this style of growing has been referred to ever since. Gericke was approached by the University of California about his findings and he claimed that all of his discoveries were made at home and thus his exclusive property. In order to better safeguard his claims he left the University to promote his findings full time.
Gericke originally defined hydroponics as anything to do with crop growth occurred in conjunction mineral nutrient solutions and no solid solution for the roots. He denied any application of hydroponics in regard to sand and gravel mediums being utilized. He reasoned that the difference between hydroponics and soil-less medium is that the soil-less medium had a water solution passed through it that carried nutrients to the plants through their roots.
Among the first successful implementations of hydroponics happened on Wake Island where hydroponics was used to grow vegetables for Pan American Airlines passengers. This was necessary because there was no suitable soil on Wake Island to grow vegetables with and the cost of airlifting fresh vegetables was far too high at the time. This type of pioneering with regard to food production has translated to many different industries and needs over the years.
Among these new applications have been the developments of hydroponic systems by NASA that enable astronauts to grow their own food in space. These developments and many others demonstrate the huge universe of application for hydroponic growth systems and prove that it is the technology of the future for many different types of cultivation. Any type of terrestrial plant can be grown in a hydroponic apparatus making this technology very important not only in today’s world but very much so in the future as well, there is virtually no limit to what a hydroponic system can produce!
In the 1960s, Allen Cooper of England developed the Nutrient film technique. The Land Pavilion at Walt Disney World’s EPCOT Center opened in 1982 and prominently features a variety of hydroponic techniques. In recent decades,NASA has done extensive hydroponic research for their Controlled Ecological Life Support System or CELSS. Hydroponics intended to take place on Mars are using LED grow light to grow in different color spectrum with much less heat.
In 1978, hydroponics pioneer Dr. Howard Resh published the first edition of his book “Hydroponics Food Production.” This book (now updated) spurred what has become known as the 3-part base nutrients formula that is still a major component of today’s hydroponics gardening. Resh later went on to publish other books, and is currently in charge of a highly advanced hydroponic systems research and production facility in the Caribbean.