nutritional quality of hydroponics vs. soil grown veggies and fruit
Nutrients/trace elements from the soil do contribute to the nutritional make up of soil grown fruits and vegetables. In the case of hydroponically grown foods, in theory they do not have access to these trace elements – they rely on water to grow. However in order to combat this, hydroponic growers supplement the water supply with trace elements and compounds.
If done correctly, hydroponics can have the same nutritional benefit, or even more (if the water supply is “spiked” so to speak). However if done incorrectly, or not done at all, this may affect the nutritional properties of the edible plant negatively (however without adequate sunlight and access to nutrients, the plant won’t be able to produce much edible flesh, it at all).
Soil grown vegetables and fruit need nutrients added to the soil as well – so the same issues with hydroponics could happen with soil if done incorrectly.
The one major difference with soil and hydroponics is that you can grow organic produce in soil. Hydroponics, by nature are not organic – they require added nutrients to make them grown.
The disadvantages of hydroponics are:
1)The hydroponic conditions (presence of fertilizer and high humidity) create an environment that stimulates salmonella growth – therefore must be carefully controlled;
2)Prone to pathogenic attacks including damp-off due to Verticillium wilt caused by the high moisture levels associated with hydroponics (but this is also associated with overwatering of soil based plants – so no difference there);
3)From a practical perspective, many hydroponic plants require different fertilizers and containment system – so it can be quite complex.
On the upside, the benefits are:
1)No soil is needed (you could do it anywhere – on top of an apartment building, in an arid environment etc. – just as long as you have a good water supply);
2)The water stays in the system and can be reused- thus, lower water costs;
3)It is possible to control the nutrition levels in their entirety- thus, lower nutrition costs – i.e. by constantly maintaining a controlled nutrient water supply (soil is prone to fluctuations – so it’s nutrient needs constantly change);
4)Environmentally friendly as nutrition pollution is not released into the environment because of the controlled system;
5)Stable and high yields;
6)Pests and diseases are easier to get rid of than in soil because of the container’s mobility.
A study in 2000, published in the “Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses” compared hydroponics to conventionally produced vegetables and found that hydroponic produce can be superior in nutrition and taste – but this is dependent on the nutrient content of the hydroponic solutions. Stronger nutrient solutions can ensure a better product than conventionally produced vegetables.
However it must be remembered that hydroponics and soil-plants both require proper control.
Vegetables and fruit should always be a staple in anyone’s healthy diet – whether hydroponically or soil grown. They are not completely devoid of nutritional benefit – you won’t be consuming empty calories :-)! Regardless of how it is grown, it is ALWAYS going to be superior to a chocolate bar or serve of deep-fried something.