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Often time when learning about plants, we stumble unto the basic so called necessities of plants, the big four as some call it, sun, soil, oxygen and water. Three out of the four basic necessities given are true. Plants are autotrophs that make their own food using the sun using a process called photosynthesis. The word photosynthesis means to put together with light and this is exactly what occurs. It occurs in the chloroplasts of plants. This process is limited to the supply of light, water and carbon dioxide. Limiting any one of the factors on the left can greatly impact the amount of photosynthesis produced. During the process of photosynthesis electrons are boosted up by the energy from the sunlight. The chloroplast uses these electrons, along with the carbon dioxide and hydrogen ions, to produce sugar molecules (Campbell et al., 2009). The reaction steps add up to the following photosynthetic equation:
Photosynthesis occurs in two stages, the light dependent reaction and the Calvin cycle, both with their own individual steps. In the light reaction the energy in sunlight is converted to chemical energy. The reaction relies on molecules built in the membranes of thylakoids. First, light energy is captured by the chlorophyll molecules in membranes. Then the captured energy is used by the thylakoid to remove electrons from water. This divides the water into oxygen and hydrogen ions. This are considered waste products and are used to make NADPH. The captured energy is also used to generate ATP. The Calvin cycle makes sugar from the atoms in carbon dioxide including
the hydrogen ions and electrons carried in NADPH. The ATP made in the light reaction provides the energy needed to make to sugar. The Calvin cycle is known as the “light independent reaction” because it does not need light to begin. However, it does need ATP and NADPH which comes from the light cycle (Williamson et al. 2009). It is obvious to see that the sun or light is an important contributor to plant growth and development.
The fact that plants need oxygen is unarguable. This is because all cells not just plant cells need oxygen to perform aerobic respiration. Respiration is the process of breaking down food to get energy. The cells in the green part of plants where photosynthesis is occurring get the oxygen they need from the oxygen produced by photosynthesis. This means that the cells in the leaves and stems of the plants are getting adequate requirements. The problem comes from the cells in the roots of the plants, where there is no photosynthesis occurring due to the lack of light. In the majority of plants this cells get their oxygen from air in the spaces between the dirt particles in the soil. “All living things combine food with oxygen to attain energy. Plants are no exception. They make food and combine it with oxygen in order to release energy for themselves. On the contrary, during day time, plants release lots of oxygen in the air because while making food during photosynthesis, they change carbon dioxide and water into food and oxygen. But, at the night time, just like other living beings, plants absorb oxygen to breath” (Insaan, n.d.). If the plants have no access to oxygen there would not be any respiration and the plant would not be able to function. Due to the lack of oxygen the roots will not be able to grow to take in water, which would cut off the nutrients needed for the plants to grow and survive.
Plants need water to grow. One of the major factors driving water movement in plants is transpiration. Transpiration is the loss of water from plants in the form of vapor (evaporation). Plants use 95% of the water absorbed from soil for transpiration, 5% is used during
photosynthesis for the production of carbohydrates necessary for plant growth (Whiting et al,.). The growth of plants is dramatically affected by the amount and timing of water applied during its production. Different stages of plant growth are more sensitive to water stress than others.
The ability of plants to resist stress from insects and/or disease is influenced by water. If plants do not have water, they would die, because they are missing one of the main components needed to ensure the efficacy of their growth.
While researching the necessities for plant growth, there was no suitable reason given for why plants need soil to grow. The reason for this is because they do not. The purpose of plants is to anchor plant roots and act as a source of water and nutrients needed for healthy growth.
However, couldn’t any medium capable of retaining water and nutrients do the same job as soil? Technically speaking soil is just a glorified medium, and any substance with high absorbency materials could do the same job.
Hydroponic is a method of growing plants using mineral solution, in water, without soil. In the 18th century researchers discovered that plans absorb essential nutrients as inorganic ions in water. The soil acts as a mineral nutrient reservoir but the soil is not essential to the plant growth. When the mineral nutrients in soil are dissolved, plant roots are capable of absorbing them. When the mineral nutrients are artificially introduced into a plants water supply soil is no longer needed for the plant to become successful. This are not just for some plants, almost all terrestrial plants will grow with hydroponics. This is the key. Hydroponics allows the grower several advantages compared to soil. It allows the grower to control the nutrition levels in the reservoir which allows for lower nutrition requirements, the water remains in the system and can be reused, which lower the amount the water required. There is no nutrition pollution being released in the environment because it is in a controlled system. It allows for stable to high
yields, diseases and pest are easier to get rid of than in soil because the system can be mobile, it is easy to harvest and there is no pesticides damage. The most important advantage of hydroponics is that it uses less water than soil and that it can be used in places where in-ground agriculture or gardening are not possible.
This is extremely relevant when applied to current global conditions. 71% of the Earth is made up from water but only 3% is freshwater needed for human use. Places in some parts of the Middle East are dry, desolate places lacking any vegetation because the land is not suitable for agriculture, due to the lack of rainfall and human activities. Hydroponics can help produce crops suitable for human consumption and already have. Countries such as Israel have implemented hydroponic techniques with great success. NASA has been trying to develop hydroponic system that can be used in space. This will allow fresh plants to be grown in space stations. Hydroponics is the perfect solution because it uses less water than soil grown plant and it can be grown virtually everywhere. Regions with poor soil conditions will no longer be dependent on exports from other countries. Not only will hydroponics help reduce the amount of water wasted per year due to poor irrigation of the soil, but it provides a solution to those country who struggle because of the inability to produce their own crops.
It is not that hard to see that plants do perfectly fine without soil and in fact can thrive without it. Plants need oxygen, nutrients, water and sun. The purpose of this lab is to prove that hydroponic horticulture can be just as effective if not better than plants traditionally grown in soil. The hypothesis goes like this if the hydroponic plants and plants grown in soil are given the same germinating and growing conditions, then the hydroponic plants will do as well if not even better than the plants grown in soil.
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
The current approaches to plant cultivation in developing countries’ urban centers are increasingly becoming expensive, unsustainable and insufficient. This has prompted intensive research in planting methods, the use of hydroponic method of planting. Many studies regarding the performance of hydroponic planting have been carried out, with the plants being independently established either hydroponically or in a soil medium, and usually in different settings. Attempts have been made to compare the outputs from such studies. But more conclusive comparative inferences regarding the potentials of soil-based versus hydroponic planting systems can only be drawn if the two systems were to be tested concurrently under similar settings. Information from such researches, if any is available, is quite scanty.
1.3 OBJECTIVES OF STUDY
1. To compare the growth of hydroponics planting method and conventional (soil) planting method
2. To compare the plant vigour of both planting method.
1.4 RESEARCH QUESTION
1. What is the rate of growth of between hydroponics planting method and conventional(soil) planting method
2. What is the difference in plant vigour of both planting method.
1.5 SIGNIFICANCE OF STUDY
The study will be useful to agriculturist and farmers, it will enable them to constrast and compare which method of planting is more useful and reduces cost.
Since there are limited works on the subject, the work will contribute to existing scope of knowledge.
1.6 SCOPE OF STUDY
The study will be to compare the growth rate and plant vigour of hydroponics and conventional way of method with special reference to 10 types of crops namely; basil, kale, carrot, m. spinach, lettuce, s.spinach, pepper, parsley, watermelon and onion.
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