gulfnews.com; By Binsal Abdul Kader, Staff Reporter; Published: May 20, 2012;Hydroponics is a method of growing plants using mineral nutrient solutions in water, without soil.
Although hydroponic systems do not involve soil, they may involve a wide variety of growing media, such as perlite, gravel, peat, sand, rockwool and others. Most of the plant nutrients are supplied by the nutrient solution, rather than by the media in which the plants are grown.
Al Hameli has used a mixture of perlite and peat as a medium instead of sand to grow tomatoes in his open hydroponics system.
ADFSC is supporting the demonstration of hydroponics farms of two Emirati farmers in the Western Region, which grow vegetables such as tomato, capsicum and cucumber throughout the year, including summer.
“This method will help the growers to produce vegetables in their modified greenhouses throughout the year,” ADFSC officials said.
Al Hameli used to harvest about three tonnes of cucumber from his 1,500 square metre open field farm. “But from the same area of hydroponics farm I harvested four tonnes of cucumber.” He introduced the new system about a year ago.
The ADFSC expects to produce more vegetables using hydroponics in Abu Dhabi farms, said Dr Robert Caudwell, technical development section manager at the centre.
The UAE farms produce vegetables and fruit mostly during winter. Productivity goes down considerably during the summer. The new system is expected to change that and may ensure the presence of local vegetables and fruit throughout the year.
Al Hameli is using ground water from borewells for irrigation. He thinks that in a water-scarce region where ground water is constantly depleting, the new system can save huge amounts of water used for irrigation.
“I used to use 30,000 to 40,000 gallons of water a day in the open fields. But the hydroponics farm needs a few hundred gallons of water a day.”
When he grew vegetables in the open field he used to irrigate it for about three hours a day. “But in hydroponics, the duration of each irrigation is about three minutes — it may go up to three to five times a day, depending on the weather,” Al Hameli said.