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Soil-Based vs. Soilless Agriculture

Gardening Tips

Through the years, the agriculture industry improves as technology gets better and better. Planting on soil has always existed and once upon a time it was the only method for growing crops. During the industrial revolution, innovative solutions manifested and ultimately helped in speeding up the whole process of agriculture. This started the industrial agriculture as methods such as using fossil fuel and crop genetics were being used. This technological change ultimately helped shape the industry that we have today.

However, throughout the years after the industrial revolution, soil-dependence increased and over-farming happened. This lead to using fertilizers and agrichemicals and was branded as crucial ingredients because it can help sustain the need that the farmers are facing. In reality, however, these things are actually the cause of huge overhead costs. This, together with climate change and drought, has changed the course of the whole industry.

The challenges faced by soil-based agriculture created the use of soilless mediums in the industry. This is what is commonly referred to as hydroponics. The method of using soilless medium and nutrient solutions to grow crops helped in reducing the overhead cost and helped in the maintenance cost of soil-based agriculture as it was easier to watch out for pests, unwanted plants, and diseases.

As a grower today, it may make you think which method is actually better. The truth is, one method is not necessarily better than the other as both have pros and cons which can outweigh the other. This article aims to the reader to have a better understanding on the matter, so if you’re interested to know more (for the sake of your plants and yourself), then keep on reading!

Soil-based Agriculture

Either by growing on arable land or in pots, soil-based agriculture, from the name itself, uses soil as a medium to grow crops. There are actually a lot of different soils to grow different crops. For example, fine soils are often used in root crops as fine soil encourages better root growth compared to other types of soil. Nowadays, there is less agricultural space, so if a grower wants better yields, he or she will have to use agrochemicals on the available arable lands to enhance the fertility of the soil.

Here are some of the advantages of soil-based agriculture:

-          Can be fully natural as you want your plants to be.

-          Soil can retain nutrients better but would require the plant to have a good root structure to be able to tap the source.

-          No need to buy extra materials such as light since you can use the sun as the source.

Here are some of the disadvantages of soil-based agriculture:

-          It will require you to find arable land or soil to grow crops in.

-          Using pots can hinder growth as the plant has limited space for growth.

-          You will need to use fertilizers and pesticides in order to achieve the yield that you want.

-          Your crops will be heavily dictated by the weather which means a change can really harm your plants.

Soilless Agriculture

Soilless Agriculture or hydroponics makes use of other mediums aside from soil to grow crops. A popular use of hydroponics is indoor growing and urban planting. In general, soilless agriculture can be divided into two, broad categories namely medium culture and solution culture. Medium culture is using “substitutes” for soil such as sand, stonewool, clay pebbles, cocopeat etc. while solution culture refers to using nutrient solutions to grow the plants. Examples of solution culture are aeroponics, continuous flow solution, and static flow solution.

Here are some of the advantages of hydroponics:

-          Growers do not need to employ practices like using dangerous pesticides and fertilizers to grow crops.

-          Hydroponics is the ideal way to go for growing in urban spaces.

-          Proper planning can reduce unnecessary and wasted costs used in nutrients as these things are mostly planned ahead of time.

-          Growers are able to grow continuously as the weather has less impact on the plants.

Here are some of the disadvantages of hydroponics:

-          Proper maintenance is a must for every hydroponic garden as a simple mistake can ruin the whole lot.

-          Lower buffering capacity can lead to rapid death for the plants.

-          Understanding how to manipulate the environment of the plant can be tough and a mistake can decrease the overall yield.

Knowing the pros and cons of each method can definitely paint a better picture as to which is better for certain situations. To help you decide, you should review your own situation as to which is the more practical one for you to employ. However, whether you choose to plant on soil or in different mediums, we’re sure that growing your own crops will definitely be a priceless experience!

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