Environmental Benefits of Soil-Free Hydroponic Gardening
Water, water, everywhere. When we look around our world, it might seem that life on earth has a bountiful and endless supply of water. But look closer, and you'll understand that a scant 1 percent of all the water on Planet Earth is suitable for human consumption. Surprising, but true, 97 percent of the Earth's water is contained in our oceans, and is too salty for most agricultural and consumptive purposes. Our planet's freshwater resources amount to just 3 percent of what is usable by humans and of that, two-thirds is frozen in ice caps and glaciers.
Government research indicates that the wars our children's children and grandchildren will have to fight won't be over oil, they'll be about water. As the world's population grows, our fresh water supply is not only shrinking, but becoming increasingly polluted. While many of us think nothing of paying over a dollar for a small bottle of water, just imagine what life will be like when all the water you use in your home every day is similarly priced. So how can soil-free, hydroponic gardening help conserve water? To begin with, producing a given amount of food in a soil-free hydroponic system uses just 5 to 10 percent of the water the same amount of food would need in an open field, and sometimes less. How?
Primarily because the water used to irrigate the plants in most soil-free gardens is always recycled. Instead of watering a lot of empty land in between crop rows, the water is precisely delivered directly to the root system of the plant, which is then collected in a tank or reservoir to be used again during the next irrigation cycle.
Consider the fact that it takes on average 71 gallons of water to produce a single pound of traditional field-grown lettuce. 71 gallons! In a soil-free growing environment, that same pound of lettuce can be grown using less than 3 gallons of water. Looking at it another way, you could produce over 23 pounds of lettuce in a soil-free garden with the same amount of water it takes to produce one pound in the field. And while the savings amount varies from crop to crop, all plants grown with this method use less water than their field-grown companions.
Equally important to the conservation of water and agriculture's effects on our environment is the fact that soil-free gardening virtually eliminates excess fertilizer, pesticide, and herbicide "run-off" that drains away from crops grown in fields and into our freshwater supplies, whether they be streams, rivers, or groundwater reserves. Of course, these same widely used insecticides and herbicides can have an impact on our food well before they reach our water supplies.
Hydroponics, Food Contamination and Security