DOES HYDROPONICS "USE CHEMICALS"?

We have often heard, especially from farmers dedicated to Organic Agriculture, that “Hydroponics uses chemicals”.

These comments demonstrate many farmers’ lack of  knowledge of plant nutrition, and even of the kind of agriculture that they practice.

Let us see:- Chemicals or Chemical Products, are industrialized and even natural products, and Hydroponics is an Agricultural Technique, and we don't know how one can place a chemical within a technique, as if this one could be bought in a shop and mixed with those ones in the most convenient way.

Hydroponics is a technique which one learns and researches, and is based on scientific knowledges often pertaining to the Science of Chemistry.

It is often mentioned that for a plant to be healthy and to have quality it has to be fed with Organic Matter.

Perhaps, whosoever affirms this, may be following the theory on the Principle of Vegetation put forward by Rudolph Glauber c.1635, but corrected  in 1840 by Justus Von Liebig, the father of Organic Chemistry.

We do not know of any plant, not even carnivorous ones,  that can feed off organic matter or from the majority of organic compounds.

Nature constitutes the biggest chemical and biochemical lab known, and in it, all activities are processed through chemical, biochemical and photochemical reactions, in addition other types of reactions.

Plants are autotrophic beings, that is, they produce their own food by using 16 elements of the approximately 100 known to exist.

Some of these elements they retrieve from the air, whilst the rest is extracted from the Growing Medium in which their roots are submerged, which in the case of conventional agriculture would be the soil.

The chemical elements contained in the soil are retrieved by the root system, and in order to do so, it is necessary that these elements be in the form of very small molecules, dissolved and ionised in water.

Inorganic salts are the only molecules that present such characteristics.

Organic compound molecules or organic salt molecules are too big and are unable to cross the roots’ cells walls or move through their intercellular spaces.

However, today, we know that there do exist some very small molecules of organic compounds that can be absorbed by plants.

On the other hand, these particular compounds are normally produced by the plants themselves for their own use, and up to this date it has not been proven that plants use those compounds absorbed by the root system, although one would expect such a thing to occur.

What has been described above are some of the basic concepts of Plant Nutrition.

So, how can one explain how plants survive and develop fully as happens in Nature by fertilising soils with organic matter?

It so happens that organic matter, along with mineral salts and other compounds in air provide the food for the bacteria that live in the same soil.

These bacteria, while feeding, breakdown these compounds and emit excess or unused mineral and organic salts and or elements that have already been used in their metabolic functions.

These salts, once dissolved and ionised in the soil’s water are then absorbed by the plants.

Thus, Organic Agriculture which nowadays receives so much attention by the media, is in reality Inorganic Agriculture, or as they say about Hydroponics, “Uses Chemicals”.

Furthermore, it must be emphasized that plants produced in soil in Organic Agriculture present very serious sanitary risks which are not commonly mentioned by those who practice it.

Organic matter is a huge deposit of patogenic bacteria which cause inumerous diseases in humans, such as cholera, and many others.

In order to be used as fertilizer, organic matter has to be turned into a compost, wich is the result of the decomposition of organic matter by the action of a series of bacteria.

This decomposition occurs in two phases, where during the first, fermentation takes place, raising the organic matter’s temperature to a maximum of 70ºC.

After this, the organic matter cools off and the final phase known as humification begins.

It is a common belief among many farmers and technicians that all patogenic bacteria are destroyed in the high temperatures obtained in the first phase of decomposition.

This is not true.

There are patogenic bacteria that when submitted to temperatures exceeding 150ºC mutate and do not die, simply remaining inactive because of unfavourable conditions, awaiting a return to a less hostile environment, to resume normal functions, thus posing an iminent threat.

Thus, humifying organic matter does not sterilise it neither does it destroy patogenic bacteria.

It is advisable therefore to “chemically” sterilise or at least cook agricultural produce, for example vegetables, before they are consumed.

The end result is that all plants, be they hydroponically or organically produced, feed and develop in the same manner or, a term frequently used, they “have Chemicals” in them.

What truly differentiates them, is the degree of healthy and asseptic qualities, which are far superior in hydroponic plants.

SETA