Hydroponics is a modern form of agriculture that has taken the world by storm. Everyone interested in gardening is trying out this new mode of planting.
In hydroponics agriculture setup, plants are grown in water instead of being buried in the soil.
The water used to grow plants is mixed with all the macro and micronutrients that a plant will need while growing.
Plants, therefore, have their every need sufficiently provided for them. Hydroponics gardening is a famous model of planting.
This is because it has one great advantage: Plants grown hydroponically, are less susceptible to the dangers and hazards of pests. The crops are planted in water and placed within greenhouses and grow tents.
This extra protection keeps plants from being attacked by pests and hence farmers are ensured of healthy yields after every planting season.
Nevertheless, pests are sneaky creatures. One might even say that they are minions of the devil, sent to destroy a farmer’s hard work.
Despite the protection a hydroponics system may offer a plant, pests will still, one way or another, find their way to the plants.
It is therefore very prudent for anyone dabbling in the art of hydroponics, to arm themselves with knowledge about pests and work hard to keep them far away from their plants.
Detecting pest infestation in your hydroponics
The first and most important weapon to have in the war against pests is having the ability to detect their presence early enough and then act accordingly.
The process of detection is easy. Most pests leave a trail of spots or tears on the plant leaves they attack. Therefore, to be always ten steps ahead of pests, it is best to look out for the following;
Discoloration of leaves
Leaves should have a healthy dark green pigmentation. The green color is a result of chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is the substance plants use to make their own color.
A healthy plant should have a healthy amount of chlorophyll. Pests have a knack for sucking away plant juices, nutrients, and attacking the chlorophyll in plants.
A plant suffering from a pest infestation will have an unhealthy yellow or brown pigment. Therefore, it is best to be vigilant and look out for such colors.
Spots on your plants
Pests leave marks and spots on plants after they have eaten or pinched into them. Some pests like aphids prefer to live in small clusters under plant leaves, in a formation akin to something that looks a lot like a small dot.
Small noticeable spots on or under leaves and around the stem are signs that pest is present and must be dealt with promptly.
Tears, burns, holes, and lesions on leaves and stem
Pests like aphids, spider mites, and whiteflies are known to chew holes into the leaves and suck juices out of healthy plants.
They leave behind holes and lesions on plants. Such spots are signs that they are present and need to be dealt with.
Most common pests found on hydroponic plants
Certain pests will be commonly found in hydroponic systems. They are small enough to creep in undetected and cause colossal damage to plant health.
They are as follows;
Aphids pose the highest threat for any green herbaceous plants. This pest is a very tiny, round insect that can fly.
It comes in green, gray, or black color and prefers living in small colonies on the underside of leaves.
The pest attacks the leaves and stems of green plants, sucking all the nutrients out of the plant. After suffering such an assault, plants are usually discolored.
They change their pigmentation to a yellow or brown pigment and shortly afterward die.
Not only do aphids devour plants but it has also been observed that they are vectors for plant diseases.
They are therefore dangerous on two fronts. If not controlled, they will devour and sicken your crop.
These pests look a lot like the moth. They are small powdery, white insect-like creatures with wings. They spell disaster for the welfare of plants.
Like the aphid, the whitefly is known to attack the leaves and stems of plants. They suck nutrients out of the plants leaving brown or yellow spots behind.
- Spider mites
Just like their name suggests, the spider mite looks a lot like the spider, save for the fact that it is the size of a pinhead.
Its tiny size, however, should not fool you. Though small, this pest causes a lot of damage to plants. It sucks away at the nutrients from a plant leaving it to die.
- Fungus gnats
These are arguably the most dangerous pests to exists. Adult fungus gnats pose no threat to plants. Their larvae, however, are the most vicious creatures to ever exist. They are cutters.
The larvae normally feed on plant roots. It cuts away at the tender roots of a plant, killing it instantly. The larvae feed non-stop for the entirety of its life.
They can, therefore, destroy an entire crop in a matter of days. They leave lesions on the roots which can easily cause the plant to suffer from bacterial infections.
The best way of dealing with them is to get rid of adult fungus gnats as soon as their presence is detected.
These are yellow, brown, or black pests that destroy plants as soon as they find them. They attack the leaves, stems, and flowers of a plant. Thrips also bore into plant stems and legs their eggs within.
Avoiding pests altogether
The whole idea behind hydroponic farming is to encourage organic production of crops. A hydroponic system is designed to be unbreachable by pests and thus reduce reliance on herbicides and pesticides.
However, since pests are still a problem, it does not hurt to take extra care of your plants. To avoid pests ever getting near your hydroponic plants:
Never enter a grow tent or greenhouse with dirty clothes or equipment.
Pests are tiny creatures that can easily cling on your body without you even realizing it.
It is therefore important to ensure that your clothing and hands are sanitized before entering the grow tent.
If sanitization is not possible, it is best to ensure that the clothing is at least clean. The same goes for any equipment that one may wish to use within the tent.
Having the hydroponic system sterilized before being set up
There are countless places where pests may hide. The hydroponics equipment is one location that is not spared from the infestation.
It is therefore not a paranoid or excessive behavior to insist on cleaning and sterilizing all hydroponic kits before setting it up.
This is one key safeguard to eliminate any traces of pests or their eggs. One can never be too safe.
Eliminate any weeds growing in or around the grow tent.
Weeds provide the perfect habitat for pests. They grow in clusters and can provide shelter, food and safe spaces to lay eggs. It is imperative to wipe them all out. Any weeds in the grow tent must be uprooted and burned if possible.
The humidity in the grow tent must never be too low
Having a low amount of humidity within the grow tent provides the best environment for the growth, reproduction, and eventual multiplication of pests. Spider mites are especially attracted to areas with a humidity content of less than 50 perfect.
To ensure that they do not infest your plants, keep the humidity within a 50-60 percent range. This you can achieve by installing grow lights that can be regulated to produce the right heat intensity. Such an environment is deadly to pests. Plants are however comfortable at such humidity and will successfully survive.
Keep one eye on any outside equipment introduced in the grow tent
To keep plants safe, the grow room/tent must be kept closely monitored. Everything inside must be properly cleaned and sterilized. Any new equipment must go through the same process before being placed inside the grow tent with the plants.
Organic growing media such as wood shavings, coconut, or rice husks must be treated with extreme care. These types of growing substrate, provide a very good habitat for pest and insect eggs. They must, therefore, be thoroughly sterilized before use.
Dealing with pests in your hydroponic garden
It might so happen that even though adequate measures have been taken to avoid pests, they still infiltrate the grow tent or greenhouse and attack the plants.
Upon their detection, it is best to deal with the pest as early as possible to stem the chances of loss. There are three ways of dealing with pests; using pesticides, using organic natural solutions, and using water.
Using pesticides in your hydroponic system
Pesticides are the go-to solution when it comes to exterminating pests. One need only spray the crops with the chemicals and the pests come falling off. Using pesticides, in modern times, has however been discouraged. There are many reasons why this is so.
It has been discovered that very minute traces of the chemicals are lest attached to the plants and are ingested by human beings. The chemicals have the same effect on a human being as they do in pests.
They cause health complications such as chronic stomach aches. With regard to this phenomenon more and more people prefer using organic methods to deal with pests.
Using hydroponics organic natural solutions
Since pesticides may end up harming human beings, many farmers now opt to do away with pests using natural methods. At the top of this list, is ensuring that pests never get the chance to attack plants. Keeping pests away eliminates the need of getting rid of them.
Predator bugs are another useful method of naturally dealing with pests. Insects such as ladybugs are known to feed on aphids. Wasps are known to feed on whiteflies. Both ladybugs and wasps pose no threat to plants.
They are therefore very advantageous. Introducing them into the hydroponic structure ensures that no pests can survive and that all plants are protected. Plants can also be sprayed with natural pesticides. Mother nature is the mother of all solutions relating to agriculture.
Apart from providing predator bugs, she has also provided organic insecticides. Pyrethrin and neem oil are natural insecticides that are as effective as their synthetic counterparts.
Pyrethrin is extracted from yellow chrysanthemums while neem oil is extracted from the neem tree. These two substances are potent enough to kill all pests. They are affordable and also ensure that plants can be grown organically without the spraying of any synthetic materials.
Spraying your plants with water
This may sound like a far-fetched idea but proves very useful in dealing with pests. Most pests are very small. They tend to live in clusters on and around leaves and stems of plants.
They lay their eggs on these areas as well. Spraying these clusters with water will get rid of most of them and disrupt their reproduction cycle.
The spray of water, will flush them and their eggs out and off of plant surfaces. They will fall to the floor and eventually die since they can no longer access plants for their daily nutrients.
Growing plants in a hydroponics structure is a guaranteed way of protecting them from vicious pests. This however does not mean that the possibility of an infestation is eliminated. Far from it.
Pests will still be a problem and it is best to be well equipped to handle them. It is imperative to keep the grow tent very sterile. Everything within the tent must be cleaned ever so often and sanitized to reduce the chances of pest infiltration.
Monitoring your plants and checking for those significant tell-tale signs of an infestation is also a very key weapon against pests. Check for spots, tears, burns, lesions, yellowing, or browning leaves.
If pests have attacked your crop take early measures to stifle their progress. Taking all of these measures ensures that the crop remains healthy and the yields are always high.
Don’t you think it is the high time you start your own hydroponic garden today?