Conventional vs. Organic Hydroponic Nutrients
As I found out after completing a two-year Agricultural Diploma course and from taking courses from Canada’s leading agricultural college, the agricultural school professors maintain that plants can’t tell and don’t care whether the nitrogen they absorb comes from humus composted from old vegetation or animal manure (organic hydroponics), or from ammonium nitrate spray made in a chemical factory (conventional hydroponics).
Conventional hydroponic nutrients are chemically pure and deliver precisely the nutrients that you pay for whereas organic nutrients made from some mixture of bat manure, kelp, and old crab shells are imprecise, full of impurities and impossible to measure the exact nutrient formulation of.
The primary difference between conventional vs organic nutrients (other than the industrial origin of one and the natural origin of the other) is that the chemical nutrients can be immediately absorbed by plants and the organics need a rich, living microflora (many kinds of soil microbes) to break them down into the chemicals that plants can absorb.
Are vegetables grown with conventional hydroponic nutrients as nutritious vs. those grown in soil or with organic nutrients?
The bottom line is it depends on the nutrient solution the vegetables are grown in, but hydroponically grown vegetables can be just as nutritious as those grown in soil.
“Much as I think that soil is just great for growing plants, hydroponics has come a long way,” said Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University. “I’ve seen hydroponic producers who have tested their leafy greens for key nutrients, and the amounts fall well within normal limits for their crop and are sometimes even higher.”
Traditionally, plants obtain nutrients from the soil. With hydroponics, the plants get nutrients from a solution instead. (Aeroponics, in which the plants’ roots are suspended in the air, is similar except fertilizer is misted onto the roots.) Usually found in large warehouses or greenhouses, hydroponic plants are arranged indoors, often in tall shelves, and they rely on artificial light rather than sunlight.
What about Vitamins?
Plants make their own vitamins, so vitamin levels tend to be similar whether a vegetable is grown hydroponically or in soil. It’s the mineral content that can vary in hydroponic crops, depending on the fertilizer used.
“You can enhance” a plant’s nutrient levels “simply by adding nutrients to the solution” they’re grown in, said Allen V. Barker, a professor at the Stockbridge School of Agriculture at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. “You could add whatever you wanted: calcium or magnesium, or minor elements like zinc or iron.” The result is that vegetables grown hydroponically could even be “nutritionally superior” to traditionally grown ones, he said.
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Conclusion – Conventional vs. Organic Hydroponic Nutrients
Keep in mind that nutrient content varies for produce in general, regardless of the growing method. The differences relate to the type of fruit or vegetable, the time of year it is harvested, how long after harvesting the crop gets eaten, and how it is handled and stored from farm to fork. Remember, too, that these differences in nutrient levels are unlikely to have a significant impact on overall health.
I have included only the best and most used nutrients below – all are well respected in the hydroponic world. You can use them with complete confidence! Check out the article HERE on how to mix nutrients – there is a trick to it!
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