Soil farming has been around for centuries and is still the most common way food is grown. However, new methods like hydroponics offer better promise and look to be the best way to grow food in the coming years.
Each option comes with a range of pros and cons that you would have to look out for before making your choice on the best growing system for your farming operation.
In this article, we will compare both growing systems to help you choose which one is best for you.
What is Soil Farming?
Soil farming is the main way food is grown worldwide. You choose a great location, prepare the land, plant the seedlings in the ground, and take up of them up until they’re ready to be harvested.
What is Hydroponics?
A hydroponic system refers to a growing method that involves growing plants without soil. Instead of soil, the roots of the plants grow in mineral nutrient solutions in a water solvent.
Hydroponics vs. Soil: Taste
Growing your plants in soil tends to be a better option when it comes to the taste and flavor of the product. Plants grown in soil are said to retain more natural flavors, especially valuable for fruits and vegetables.
Hydroponics plants, on the other hand, are said to contain less of the natural flavors. Overall, soil-grown plants will taste better than hydroponic plants.
Hydroponics vs. Soil: Cost
The cost of a soil garden depends on the size of the garden. You would have to spend to purchase the land if you do not have space. Soil farming also requires labor and equipment to get ready, grow the plants, and manage the plants.
There are also pre-planting preparation costs. There are also costs towards purchasing seedlings and nutrients. You will also have to save up for pesticides and herbicides to ensure your production is not ruined by diseases.
Meanwhile, with a hydroponics system, you will need to get specific equipment that supports the technology. You will have to spend on the equipment, though you won’t have to get plants.
There would also be expenses on nutrients for the plants. In the end, the startup cost for hydroponics might be higher than that of soil farming. However, the running costs tend to be on the lower side.
Overall, hydroponics might be a better option considering you have a higher chance of better yield at the end of the day which does make up for the startup and running costs. You get a better return on investment, so definitely hydroponics is a better option.
Hydroponics vs. Soil: Nutrition
In hydroponics, plants make use of the same nutrients as they would if they were placed in soil. The difference in both systems is the absorption of nutrients. Research shows that plants in hydroponics will absorb nutrients better than they would if there were in the soil.
- Nitrogen: 2.13% better nutrient absorption than soil
- Phosphorus: 0.82% better nutrient absorption than soil
- Potassium: 1.81% better nutrient absorption than soil
- Calcium: 0.32% better nutrient absorption than soil
- Magnesium: 0.40% better nutrient absorption than soil
This explains why hydroponics plants tend to grow faster than soil. This will also help in terms of reducing farming costs. With the plants absorbing more nutrients and growing faster, you will have less nutrient waste and save up on the cost of acquiring nutrients.
Hydroponics vs. Soil: Growth Rate
Plants in hydroponics tend to grow faster and bigger. In some cases, the plants would grow 30-50% faster than they would if there were kept in soil.
The plants also grow almost disease free and won’t require the use of pesticides or herbicides. Research has shown that hydroponics plants grow very fast in the early stages which makes the growing method a lot better than soil when it comes to growing plants with a short cycle.
An experiment on sunflowers shows that hydroponic plants will establish their roots quickly and grow faster. If you’re planning on growing simple plants with hydroponics, you will get much better results than when you go for soil.
Hydroponics vs. Soil: Pros & Cons
Pros of growing in soil
- Soil provides some nutrients (such as nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus) to the plants so you won’t have to spend on them. You can add supplements if necessary.
- Soil self-regulates by gauging its environment, and adjusting accordingly.
- Soil provides oxygen naturally, saving you the cost of a pump in a hydroponics system.
- soil provides a rich community of useful microorganisms to aid the plant’s growth
- Soil provides structural support to hold plants in place.
- Plants grown in soil tend to taste better and retain natural flavors than that grown using hydroponics.
- Soil is best for a wide range of plants
Cons of growing in soil
- Soil-based gardens require a lot of upkeep
- Plants are subject to the elements in the soil but are usually protected by hydroponics
- Pests tend to be a problem with soil-based plants and could lead to huge losses
- Plants take longer to grow and mature in soil-based farming.
- Defects take longer to identify and treat in soil-based farming
- Soil farming takes up a lot more space than hydroponics.
- Soil farming wastes more water and nutrients as most of it is not absorbed by the plant,
Pros of Hydroponics
- Hydroponics plants grow up to 30% faster than soil-based plants
- Hydroponics is known to save water and nutrient waste which will save you some production costs
- Hydroponics plants tend to produce a better yield than crops
- With hydroponics, you won’t have to bother with pesticides and herbicides.
- Weeds are not a problem with hydroponics
Cons of Hydroponics
- Hydroponic startup costs are very expensive
- Hydroponic systems won’t be able to grow all kinds of plants
- To get started, you will require some technical knowledge of the system
Hydroponics vs. Soil: Which is Better?
Hydroponics has many benefits over soil-based farming. If done right and with the right plants, you will enjoy more benefits from hydroponics than you would from growing plants in the soil.