Thursday, October 18, 2007

Horticulture Program Purchases Aeroponics Growing System

The horticulture program recently applied for and received a mini-grant to fund an alternative production system known as aeroponics. Aeroponics is defined by the International Society for Soilless Culture as "a system where roots are maintained in an environment saturated with fine drops of nutrient solution". In other words, instead of planting crops directly into the soil or media or growing them in a nutrient rich liquid solution, aeroponics relies upon applying a fine mist of nutrients and water directly onto the roots themselves. The plant is typically suspended or supported in some manner and the roots allowed to grow freely in the air inside a closed chamber without contact with any substrate.

A number of benefits are derived from using this production method: 1) no media/soil results in maximum root aeration, 2) no soil results in reduced soil-borne diseases, 3) the foliage remains dry, again reducing disease potential, 4) harvesting is easier, especially for root crops, 5) quicker production cycles are possible due to increased growth rates and 6) water and nutrient runoff is reduced due to recycling.

As you can see from the picture, we are currently growing Iceburg lettuce and ornamental kale. Eventually we hope to expand the system and grow a larger quantity of crops including warm season herbs and vegetables.

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