Yes, you know that hydroponic crops need nutrients to grow; but do you know what are the best 10 base nutrients for hydroponics?
Plants need to absorb different types of nutrients in order to grow and thrive. These nutrients help in the development of plants from germination to ripening.
When plants are in soil, nutrients can be derived from many sources. Natural and artificial fertilizers fortified with the right amount of nutrients are currently being used. These fertilizers are simply spread out and incorporated into the soil, and the plants will absorb the nutrients.
However, things are a little different in a hydroponic system. Hydroponics rely on water for growth without using soil, and this is the reason why you need the right combination of base nutrients for hydroponics. To fortify and support the nutrient intake of plants, we add nutrients to water to nurture them.
Formulating nutrient-rich solutions for hydroponics requires the consideration of the amount a type of plant needs. It can vary for different plants, but all of them require the presence of several important base nutrients.
Among all essential nutrients for hydroponics, nitrogen is the most important component to support plant growth. Healthy soils and fertilizers are rich in nitrogen, and it plays a vital part in the vegetative growth of plants.
Nitrogen is the main component of chlorophyll molecules found in plants, which is basically the main compound involved in the photosynthesis and food production of plants and is responsible for the green colour of leaves.
Lack of nitrogen in plants is evident in the yellow discoloration of plant tissues, signalling the degradation of chlorophyll.
Phosphorus is an essential nutrient for hydroponics and in plants in general. This base nutrient for hydroponics is responsible for a number of different functions for plant growth.
One of the main functions of phosphorus is to stimulate the development of roots. It enhances the growth of roots which in turn makes the plant absorb more needed nutrients. It also strengthens the roots along with the stem.
Phosphorus also plays a key role in crop maturity. It enhances the development of crops and keeps them in good quality once matured.
Lack of phosphorus in plants can be very hard to tell as it doesn’t show any sign, but you can tell when plants fail to grow into their average size and take longer to mature.
Potassium plays an important role in the biochemical reactions in plants. It regulates the plant’s reaction to light by opening and closing of the stomata, controlling the uptake of carbon dioxide.
Potassium also regulates the uptake of water in plants through osmoregulation. This regulation happens both in the uptake of water through the roots and its loss through the stomata, where both are affected by potassium.
Just like nitrogen, lack of phosphorus can be seen through the browning or yellowing of the plant leaves. Poorly developed roots and stems are also a sign of potassium deficiency.
Calcium is an essential part of the cell wall. This nutrient strengthens the cell wall structure by forming calcium pectate compounds, which bind and hold the cells together and stabilizing their form.
It also helps in protecting plants from heat stress by adding an extra layer of protection by improving the functions of the stomata. It also protects the plant against diseases caused by fungi and bacteria.
The lack of calcium can be seen from the curling of young leaves and fruit damages.
Magnesium is basically the central atom in the chlorophyll molecule, making it the basic building block of chlorophylls to carry out photosynthesis. Without it, plants wouldn’t be able to capture the energy from the sun needed for the different biochemical functions in a plant.
The symptoms of magnesium deficiency appear first on the older leaves, where a yellow discoloration can be seen while the leaf veins are still green. This is due to the decline in the number of chlorophyll molecules within the leaves.
The key roles that sulfur plays in plants are quite complex, but they are essential in keeping the plants healthy as they grow.
Sulfur plays a part in the production of the enzymes and proteins that help in the biochemical processes of a plant. It is a major constituent of amino acids, which are building blocks of proteins.
Sulfur is also a major constituent of one of the enzymes required for the production of chlorophyll. It also aids in the metabolism of nitrogen.
The function of iron in plants is generally a lot like its function for the human bloodstream – it aids in the transport of other important elements. It plays an important role for the production of chlorophyll and is a necessary nutrient in many enzyme systems giving life to plants.
Iron deficiency can affect the vegetative growth of plants. It can be easily detected through the presence of chlorosis, which is a visible symptom similar to other nutrient deficiencies.
In the human diet, copper is an indispensable nutrient that is incorporated in food as part of our daily needs. The same thing is true for plants – copper is also necessary to sustain plant respiration.
Aside from its necessary role for plant metabolism and growth, copper is also a factor that affects the flavour and storage life of the fruit.
Copper deficiency can be traced by the necrotic spots that form on leaf margins. Prolonging this symptom will affect further development of the plant and will be prone to premature withering.
Just like copper, zinc plays a vital role of sustaining plant respiration. Good nutrients for hydroponics contain the right amount of zinc. It is essential in crops that are exposed in dynamic temperatures. Zinc strengthens plant tissues so they can withstand abrupt weather changes.
Also, zinc is also responsible for helping the stem grow by forming auxins, which is a plant hormone that stimulates plant growth. Same. zinc deficiency is more common in crops. It appears through lack of leaf growth, necrotic leaf margins and distorted leaf shapes.
Even when plants need manganese in only small amounts, its role in plant growth is crucial. Plants require the right amount of manganese to keep forming plant cells that are necessary for their growth.
Manganese is involved in many cellular functions taking place within plants. It aids in regulating metabolism and the formation of essential enzymes and catalyzing some of the important reactions necessary for plants.
Vegetable crops are more susceptible with manganese deficiency, as they heavily rely on nutrients from fertilizers. The symptoms can be seen in the leaves when it starts to look dry and pale and has slow growth.
Choosing the right ratio – Nutrients for Hydroponics
With the increasing interest in hydroponic gardening, there are many emerging commercial sources for fortified nutrient solutions. Several factors need to be considered like the right nutrient ratio, the right amount to add, and the timing for adding these solutions to plants.
The types vary from the requirement of your plant. Make sure you consult with your supplier and their product guide to help you in selecting the best combination of nutrients that is appropriate for the hydroponic system you are developing.