Hydroponics vs Aeroponics
Since Hydroponics and Aeroponics appear similar in techniques, distinguishing the difference between them becomes difficult for those who are new to the subject. Hydroponics is an emerging method of growing plants in soilless conditions. There are various types of hydroponic systems according to the grower’s needs and environmental conditions available. Aeroponics is also a method derived from basic hydroponics. Below is a brief account of both of these systems and the difference between them.
What is Hydroponics (Hydroculture)?
Hydroponics is a technique of growing plants in nutrient solutions that contain water and fertilizers with or without using an artificial medium such as sand, gravel, coir etc. Since hydroponically grown plants are not embedded into a soil medium they absorb required nutrients from the provided nutrient solution. Artificial medium provide mechanical support, aid moisture, and retain nutrients.
There are six basic types of hydroponics systems depending on the nutrient supplying method. They are as follows:
• Wick system
• Water culture system
• Ebb and flow (flood and drain) system
• Drip systems (recovery/ non- recovery)
• Nutrient film technique (NFT)
• Aeroponic system
Except for NFT and aeroponic system, all the other systems use growing substrates such as coarse sand, sawdust, perlite, vermiculite, Rockwool, expanded clay pellets, coir (coconut fibers).
In wick system, nutrient solution is drawn into the growing medium from a reservoir with a wick. In water culture system, a platform made of Styrofoam holds the plant and floats on a nutrient solution containing reservoir. In ebb and flow method, first plant holding tray/platform is temporarily flooded with the nutrient solution and then solution is drained off to the reservoir. This is performed using a submerged pump connected to a timer. In drip systems, nutrient solution is dripped onto the base of each plant with the help of a pump and a timer. In NFT, continuous flow of nutrient solution is supplied into the plant containing platform so that solution flows over the roots continuously.
Crops that can be grown using hydroponic systems are, tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, basil, mint, strawberries, etc.
What is Aeroponics (Air culture)?
Aeroponics is a form of hydroponics where plants roots are suspended in a chamber and nutrient solution is sprayed from below. The main difference of air culture is that it does not require a growing medium like in other hydroponic systems (except for NFT). This method of spraying nutrient solution allows roots to absorb more oxygen than it is in the soil (geoponic) system. It has been reported that, in air culture, plant growth and metabolism rate increased ten times than that of soil. Through aeroponic systems, root growth, nutrient, water, and environment conditions around the roots can be monitored and controlled than other hydroponics or geoponic system. NASA experiments are also been carried out using this experiment as it is easier to handle mist in zero gravity conditions.
Crops grown using aeroponic systems mainly include lettuce.
Similarities between Hydroponics and Aeroponics
• Both systems are suitable as indoor horticulture systems and require less land area than geoponics.
• Compared to geoponics, hydroponics allow direct control of rhizosphere.
• Compared to geoponics, hydroponics have less vulnerability to soil born diseases or pest attacks.
• In soil cultures, the root system can be easily damaged, but roots are less damaged when hydroponically grown plants are transplanted.
• Both systems, hydroponics and aeroponics use nutrients dissolved in water as the medium.
What is the difference between Hydroponics and Aeroponics?
• In aeroponic system, no artificial media are used, but in other hydroponic systems, except for NFT, growing substrates are used.
• In other hydroponics systems, liquid form of water has contact with root systems while, in aeroponic system, moisture has contact with the root system.
• Plant growth in aeroponic system is more efficient than in other hydroponic systems since plants receive more oxygen, and nutrients efficiently.