Soilless cultures

In 2050 the world population will be around 10 billion inhabitants, of which the majority will live in urban areas.

The production of food in urban areas, using conventional forms, is not easy. There is a huge need to create alternatives that allow the production of food in these places, in a safe, fair, accessible and environmentally friendly way.

Crops grown without soil, such as hydroponics, are a sustainable way of producing food, requiring less use of space, being suitable for the production of food in urban environments.

In these systems, inorganic nutrients are supplied to crops through irrigation water, with the nutrients dissolved in standardized concentrations. The roots of the plants can grow on a substrate irrigated with the nutrient solution or else be in direct contact with the nutrient solution without any solid phase.

Nowadays, systems for growing food without soil are closed, in which the irrigation water is reused.

The advantages of a cultivation system without soil are:

. Greater control of the nutritive process of crops, due to the use of specific concentrations of nutrients and the regulation of the oxygenation process;

. Reduction of plant cultivation time (there is no need for soil preparation);

. During the cold season, it is possible to have good yields because the roots are subject to higher temperatures than in the soil, during the day;

. Reduction of water pollution by nitrates and phosphates, as there is no leakage of water from the soil to aquifers or water courses;

. Food production, with quality and quantity, in places where food production is not a simple process;

. Safe alternative to soil disinfection;

. The crops are free of pathogens from soil, weeds and pesticides.

The disadvantages of this type of systems are:

. The need for specialized technical support;

. High installation costs;

. In the European Union, production technologies that do not use soil cannot be certified as organic, even if they use certified raw materials.

 

References:

Food and Agriculture Organization, International Society for Horticultural Science, National Center for Agricultural Research and Extension, Jordan. 2013. Good Agricultural Practices for greenhouse vegetable crops – Principles for Mediterranean climate areas. ISBN 978-92-5-107649-1.

Food and Agriculture Organization. Home Gardens/VerticalFarming, Hydroponics and Aquaponics. www.fao.org/land-water/overview/covid19/homegardens/en/. 05/09/2020.

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