Advantages and Disadvantages of Hydroponics
A nutrient film technique or NFT hydroponics system is the image that comes to mind when people hear the word “hydroponics”. Plants growing without soil are suspended over a tank of water, and water trickles continuously over the roots by a pump inside the tank.
Advantages of Nutrient Film Technique
There are many advantages to using this type of a hydroponic system. The first is the start up cost of the components. These components are a tank or reservoir to hold the nutrient rich water, a submersible water pump, a tray for water return and Styrofoam or other containers to hold the plants.
This type of system produces healthy, hardy plants in a few weeks. Lettuce, culinary herbs and vine type tomatoes grow well in this type of system. Many commercial lettuce growers use NFT hydroponics as root rot is decreased due to the exposure of the roots to the air.
Replacing the growing medium is not necessary as none is used, which also reduces the cost of operating this type of system.
Disadvantages of Nutrient Film Technique
There are some disadvantages as NFT systems are dependent upon electricity, which means additional costs and the threat of loss of power. Should a power outage occur the potential exists for the loss of your crop. Pumps can also fail, which will cause you to lose your crop.
Another drawback is that the NFT system does not offer any root protection. Hydroponic plant roots must be kept moist at all times, otherwise the plants can die in a few hours if their roots dry out.
The space required for an NFT system can be quite small. A 20-inch by 14-inch by 12-inch container or a 20-gallon long fish tank is large enough to grow about eight plants. Using Styrofoam, which is suspended above the nutrient delivery tray, the pump provides a continuous trickle of water to the roots.
Creative planting allows you to grow a few vine type plants on the edge that will cover the outside of the tank and produce vegetables for your table. Imagine a bumper crop of butter crunch lettuce with grape tomatoes picked from the hydroponic garden on your kitchen counter.
If you want to grow hydroponic food year round, you will need special grow lights to ensure that they receive adequate amounts of light especially during the winter. Lighting can be the most expensive component of NFT hydroponics.
The fluorescent bulb systems have reflecting housing that focus the light downwards onto your plants. Incandescent bulbs also have reflecting hoods, but this type can also be used with heat bulbs if necessary.
Both types can be suspended from the ceiling or greenhouse supports. The cost for each type of lighting varies, but the wattage of your bulbs and how many fixtures you use will affect the final cost.
People who enjoy doing things themselves will find NFT hydroponic systems easy to construct. The low start up cost combined with efficiency and low maintenance makes this system the perfect choice for the beginning hydroponic gardener.