Aeroponics and Deep Water Culture (DWC) are two modern farming techniques that won’t require soil to grow plants.
These planting techniques just like traditional farming come with their range of perks. Both promise higher yields, reduce the need for pesticides and make use of nutrients more efficiently.
Aeroponics vs. DWC: Detailed Comparison
While there are lots of promises, they are not without disadvantages. In this article, we’d compare both farming methods in all aspects to see which one is best for home growers and commercial growers alike.
What is Aeroponics?
Aeroponics is just as the name sounds; it doesn’t require soil or land. The roots of plants will be suspended in the air, and nutrients and water will be delivered to the plants through a fine mist.
In a standard Aeroponic system, plants are placed on top of a tank or reservoir. This is then secured and sealed in a container. The container features a pump and a sprinkler from where the mist is sprayed.
The mist contains nutrients required by the plant including water and fertilizers. The mist surrounds the plant roots from the sprinkler system allowing plants to take up nutrients.
What is Deep Water Culture? (DWC)
Deep Water Culture (DWC) is a type of deep water culture system. In this system, plants are grown with their roots submerged in water which contains nutrients or fertilizer. Deep Water Culture (DWC) System is the easiest kind of deep water culture, making it a great choice for beginners.
It requires low maintenance after it is setup and has a fast growing time. Plant absorption and aeration is also well improved.
Aeroponics vs. DWC: Plant Growth
Plants grow faster with DWC and aeroponics than with traditional soil farming. This is one of the biggest benefits of soil-less farming. According to NASA, plants grow up to three times faster in aeroponics than in soil.
However, deep water culture does have an upper hand in some cases when same seedlings are used. An experiment using sunflowers showed that;
- At first, DWC plants grow faster due to the fact that they establish their roots quickly.
- The aeroponic plants grew slowly in their early stages, as they need to devolve lots of energy into growing their root system.
- A few weeks later, when aeroponic plants establish their root system, they grow even faster to catch up with DWC plants.
- By the time they’ve grown to young adults, aeroponic plants tend to be bigger than DWC plants.
- In the case of the sunflowers, which are fast-growing plants, the aeroponic plants were about 30% bigger than DWC plants after 6 weeks of growth. The DWC sunflowers measured 30 cm tall (12 inches) on average, while aeroponic plants measured 40 cm tall (almost 16 inches).
- At six weeks, the growth of aeroponic plants drops and leveled out with that of hydroponic plants, and the two-level out.
- Depending on the plants you want to grow, you can get faster and bigger growth using DWC or aeroponics. In this case, aeroponics gets you bigger plants that grow faster.
Aeroponics vs. DWC: Nutrient Absorption
Plants need nutrients to grow and survive. When it comes to DWC and aeroponics, research shows that plants absorb nutrients better with the latter.
A study on lettuce revealed a percent uptake of macro-nutrients where aeroponics performed better.
- Nitrogen: 2.13% with deep water culture, 3.29% with aeroponics
- Phosphorus: 0.82% with deep water culture, 1.25% with aeroponics
- Potassium: 1.81% with deep water culture, 2.46% with aeroponics
- Calcium: 0.32% with deep water culture, 0.43% with aeroponics
- Magnesium: 0.40% with deep water culture, 0.44% with aeroponics
The better uptake of nutrients easily explains why plants grow faster with aeroponics. It also reduces nutrient waste and reduces your running costs in the long run.
Aeroponics vs. DWC: Yield Comparison
Bigger and fast-growing plants don’t always mean high-quality crops, especially fruit vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers.
When it comes to DWC and aeroponics, the chances of a bigger yield depend on the crop.
Aeroponics tend to be more productive compared with DWC systems. For some plants, especially short-life leaf vegetables like cress, lettuce, and spinach, aeroponics could give a bigger yield. These vegetables are usually harvested in just about after 6 weeks, which is the peak of aeroponic growth.
A small study on cherry tomatoes, lettuce, and beets showed that aeroponics provides higher crop compared with DWC systems
In terms of yield, the answer is that it depends on the methods used and the plants being grown.
Aeroponics vs. DWC: Setup Costs
When it comes to setup costs, this is where aeroponics becomes less attractive. Aeroponics requires a bigger investment than DWC. With DWC, you can get started even if you’re a DIY enthusiast.
With DWC, you can get started without worrying about high starting costs when setting up the garden.
All you need is basic plumbing skills and cheap and easy-to-buy pumps. For aeroponics, it is much harder to DIY a simple garden. A ready-made kit is how most people get started, however, they’re not the cheapest to purchase.
When it comes to starting costs, DWC is the clear winner. It is affordable and low maintenance.
Aeroponics vs. DWC: Which is Better?
Both aeroponics and DWC give better results and yield than soil farming. However, aeroponic systems provide bigger yields, healthier plants, and a better outlook for future developments.
Aeroponics is also best for indoor gardening, in a greenhouse, or in a shed. DWC is easier to set up and manage for DIY enthusiasts both indoors and outdoors.
But which one is better? Well, if you’re looking for a cheaper system that is easier to manage then you would want to try DWC, but if you’re looking for a high-tech system that delivers impressive yield and faster-growing plants then aeroponics is the best option to get started with. One of the biggest drawbacks of aeroponics is the starting costs, so you would need to budget properly to get the best results.