Even though that the whole hydroponic scene can be dated years ago, some things are still relatively new. As time goes by, the processes and practices in a hydroponic garden evolve and transforms itself with the goal of being better and efficient. With that being said, let’s talk about measuring the concentration of the nutrient solution that you use in your hydroponic garden.
As you may know, to measure the concentration of any of your nutrient solutions, you will need to find its EC or electrical conductivity. This practice has always been applied to gardens by growers and the results are used to adjust the nutrient solution accordingly. However, what if we tell you that this practice is actually somewhat out-dated? Yes, you read is correct! The practice of getting the EC of a solution to solely determine its concentration is slowly becoming a thing of the past!
According to Dr. J Benton Jones, Jr. measuring the EC of the plant is no longer enough and further analysis is actually required to have a more reliable and accurate data. Not only was it a complicated task (because of the trial and error part) before, it does not give you all the data that you need to determine the concentration of the solution correctly. Even though that determining the EC got easier over time, it still does not give all the data that you need. The reason for this is that the EC meter provides the growers with ALL the concentration levels of the elements present in a solution, which means the data that is gathered can actually be “contaminated” in a way. Therefore, acting on this data can actually destroy your plant even more rather than to heal it.
A common way that EC meters are used today is for monitoring purposes. Knowing how much salts have accumulated in a solution in a growing medium is usually done by determining the EC of the solution present in the medium. Usually, the growers are instructed to get a sample of the remaining nutrient solution to read its EC. When the EC of the solution reaches a certain point, the nutrient is either cured or water-leached to fix any anomalies in the retained salts. Growers are usually warned that if the salts are not washed and removed, it will damage the plants heavily because it reduces the water intake of the plant. However, this can actually be very misleading. Given that the effects may be true, washing and water-leaching the medium is not necessarily the only solution. In fact, doing so is actually quite wasteful of the resources that you are currently using. The reason behind this is that it is possible to minimize and even totally avoid the accumulation of salt in the solution. All you need to do is to make sure that the relationship of these three stays relevant with each other: the elemental concentration in the solution, the frequency of application and the actual volume of nutrients being used.
Being consistent is key to success in this situation. If you are able to maintain the consistency of the elemental concentration in the solution together with the actual volume and frequency of usage (applied per plant), then you should have no worries regarding the accumulation of salts in the nutrient reservoir in the medium. This actually means that a solution that has a low EC (due to having a low elemental concentration) can be enough to sustain a plant if and only if the volume and the frequency of the nutrient solution applied are big enough in the medium where it is located.
In today’s time and age, using just the EC meter to determine the concentration of the solution is no longer enough. The main reason behind this is that two nutrient solutions with very different elemental content and concentration can actually have the same EC. This simply tells us that simply relying on the EC reading is not enough as it does not paint for you the whole picture.