Hydroponics are systems set up as an exercise for planting plants by using an inert medium, water, and nutrients. Hydroponic systems have offered the most creative ways of planting plants.
This modern way of growing plants simply depends on a continually flowing stream of liquid to nourish the plants with only the roots submerged in the liquid.
The idea behind hydroponics is to permit the plants’ roots to be directly in contact with the solution with access to oxygen for proper plant growth and development.
Nutrient film technique (NFT) has recently been embraced due to the domain using the soilless culture with just a simple design as compared to the other types of hydroponics.
The technique is mostly used to grow quick and small growing plants, for example, hydroponic potatoes, lettuce, strawberries, and herbs baby greens.
NFT is very versatile and easy to use; however, it can be compared to Ebb and Flow but in a different structure.
Hydroponics systems are the best choices for all types of plants. The systems give the growers the capacity to control the environmental variables that impact the plants as they grow.
A modified system can outshine a soil-based method in terms of the plant yield and quality.
For farmers who intend to produce the best quality of plants all year round, they are advised to try the hydroponic systems.
At first, the process might be tedious and time-consuming, but once the equipment is laid and plants grown, the rest becomes easy.
Here is more about the hydroponic technique:
What does Nutrient Film Technique mean in hydroponics?
Nutrient film technique (NFT) is a soilless technique of planting plants, with the plant roots immersed in continuous stream flow of nutrient solution that provides the roots with water.
The main components include water, oxygen, and nutrients. Oxygen and nutrients are essential to sustain fast and healthy plant development.
The main idea for this technique is having a continuous flow of nutrient solution over the plant roots; this ensures that the plant roots are fully immersed in the solution, while the upper part of the plant (shoot) is exposed to the moist surrounding provided in the growth chamber.
The technique ensures that the roots are supplied with a sufficient amount of oxygen.
In science, plants require carbon (iv) oxide for the photosynthesis process to take place.
However, in the NFT system, an adequate supply of oxygen to the plants is essential; this is because the roots require oxygen to enable the absorption of nutrients to the shoots.
Hence, when their plenty of supply of oxygen in the roots, plants tend to grow fast.
How does Nutrient Film Technique hydroponic system work?
The nutrient film technique system comprises;
- Growth chamber to grow the plants
- Nutrient pump
- Nutrient reservoir
- Tubes to transport water from the nutrient pump to the growth chamber
- Net pots
In the system, the growth chamber for plant the plants/ crops, is in the form of tubes.
The channel is placed in a slant position to permit the nutrient solution to flow continuously through the chamber.
In the system, there are several growing channels, mainly because there is a limit on how long the tube should be for easy management and monitoring.
Short tubes are necessary to ensure that nutrients are distributed equally in the growing chamber; with long tubes, nutrients might get depleted before they reach the other side of the tube.
The plants are positioned in the growing channel’s holes to allow the roots to suspend above the nutrient’s solution in the growth chamber while the shoots get exposed to the environment.
The pump pumps the nutrient solution from the reservoir to the upper side of the growing channel and flows through the channel to the lower side and back to the reservoir.
Therefore, it can be concluded that the NFT hydroponics system is a closed system that reuses the nutrient solution hence permitting the growers to save on water and nutrients.
This makes it a cost-effective method when it comes to water and nutrients.
Which plants are grown in an NFT system?
The nutrient film technique system is suitable for lightweight and fast-growing plants; for example, the different types of tomatoes, lettuces and perennial plants like strawberries for commercial use.
For massive plants and fruits, NFT is not suitable for plants that require much support.
Why choose nutrient film technique hydroponics?
There are different reasons why one can choose the nutrient film technique hydroponic system over the other hydroponic systems like Ebb and Flow, Aeroponics, and drip system.
Here is a list of its advantages and disadvantages;
- Easy to use
- Does not require any growth media
- It is cheap
- Easy to maintain
- It can adapt to any space or plant requirement
- Low consumption rate of water and nutrient
- Easy to disinfect the roots and the setup
- It is modular and expandable
- It prevents salt buildup due to continuous flow
- Less need for aeration
For every system with advantages, it must have its downside, because roots grown in restricted chambers can clog the channels.
The disadvantages include;
- The system is not the perfect choice for the plants that require a lot of support
- NFT system depends on electricity to run the pump smoothly at all times. In case of power or electricity outrage or a failed pump, the roots could dry up within a few hours. This is likely to cause severe damage to plants leading to losses for a problem within a short period.
- Plants with a more extensive and deeper root network pose a significant problem to the system; this because the system is purely made for small plants that grow very fast, such as leafy herbs, the strawberry plant, and lettuce. More extensive root networks tend to produce more hence clogging the channel, thus blocking the flow of nutrient solution.
- Lastly, the fruit-bearing plants also cause challenges; they belong to the heavy feeders’ category that impacts the nutrient levels and pH of the nutrient solution. Hence, each time the plants are in the fruiting phase, the growers are required to be more alert about the monitoring process of the solution to avoid nutrient deficiencies. Also, during the fruiting stage, plants do well when they are permitted to dry out between the watering cycles, so the humid exposure in the NFT is not appropriate for the fruiting plants.
What are the components of an NFT?
The essential components of a nutrient film technique include;
- Nutrient solution reservoir
- Growing channels
- Net pots
- Air pump
- Airline tubes
- Nutrient solution reservoir
With the NFT hydroponic system, the reservoir is made of an opaque-like material, which ensures that the growth of bacteria and algae is not permitted in the system.
In the NFT system, the position of the nutrient solution reservoir matters.
When placed on the lower side of the system, then an additional air pump would not be required to enrich the solution with oxygen.
As the solution flows during the recycling process, constant aeration is experienced.
Finally, growers are advised by hydroponic experts to monitor the nutrient solution, nutrient levels, and pH to make alterations when required.
- Growing channels
NFT hydroponics’ growing channels are in the form of long thin channels that are placed in an inclined position to allow free flow of the nutrient solution.
The PVC pipes can be used as growth channels even though they are not appropriate because their curved contour does not enable sufficient air-to-nutrient proportion for encouraging growth and development of plants.
It is also important to note that if you decide to use pipes for hydroponics pick the PVC pipes that are safe for plant growth.
The suitable material for a nutrient film technique growth chambers is flat channels at the bottom.
With this, there is a larger surface area for the roots to feed hence exposing the roots to more oxygen supply with the growth chamber.
The growing channels have holes at the top for shoots’ exposure.
The tops are removable to monitor the nutrient solution, any clogging in the system, and roots’ health inspection.
The suitable length for growing channels is about 10 meters; this allows easy monitoring and even distribution of the nutrient solution within the channels.
Shorter channels ensure less space is used hence accommodating the simple system designs and allows less sagging.
Experts advise growers to be careful when setting up a NFT system by correctly aligning them to the correct slope.
- Net pots
Net pots in NFT system are used for holding plants.
The net pots do not require any growth media for new plants.
The pots hold the plants at the stem base and permit the roots to grow and expand unrestrained in the growth chamber.
With cuttings or starting plants, the net pots in the NFT do not contain medium due to the fear of stem rot.
With matching sizes of the net containers and the holes, it is easier to transfer large plants to large growth channels or a different hydroponic system as they grow.
- Air pump
- Super silent with multi-level muffler
- Special artificial rubber to keep a steady air flow output and pressure that can...
- Low power consumption
With NFT, a submersible pump is a significant factor.
The pump would continuously pump to keep the nutrient solution flowing through the system.
At times the pump does not require to be of high power because it only needed to provide a thin layer of the solution throughout the growth channels.
The power needed to pump nutrient solution from the reservoir to the opening of the growth in a flow to the highest point of the system.
The nutrient solution will flow by force of gravity to the lower side of the system and back to the reservoir.
Additional pump concern is one with an adjustable flow rate that can easily be altered to fit the necessary needs.
- Airline tubes
The airline tubes used in the NFT hydroponics purely depends on the design of the system.
A system with a single growth chamber requires the least number of tubes.
The tubes needed are to deliver the nutrient solution from the nutrient solution reservoir to the upper end of the growing channel to the lower side and back to the reservoir.
What are the starting plants in an NFT system?
Growers can alter the flow rate of the growth channels.
For starting cuttings or seeds, a growth medium might be required to provide support of the plants and guarantee they get enough nutrients and moisture.
Experts recommend a medium that can less waterlog such perlite.
To support the rooting system, growers are also advised to raise the volume of the nutrient solution flowing in the channels while decreasing its flow rate.
What are the growing tips for Nutrient Film Technique?
- A controlled environment. For the nutrient film technique system, the environment should be controlled. This is significant because the plant roots are more exposed as compared to other systems.
- Controlled temperature. Temperatures in the NFT should be controlled at all times; this ensures the roots are healthy and optimum dissolved oxygen and nutrient absorption are achieved.
- The nutrient solution should be calibrated. Plants tend to flourish well in the nutrient film technique as compared to other systems. With an increase in growth in the NFT means more water and nutrients are required.
- PH monitoring. The optimum pH value for plants in the NFT system ranges from 5.8 to 6.3. Growers are required to be extra careful fluctuations tend to happen to affect the plants. The pH and nutrient levels should be monitored regularly.
- Ensure the environment is clean. The NFT system should always be kept clean. Before any deep transplanting happens, thorough cleaning should be done; this ensures no bacteria is transferred to the plants.
- For start plants, a 50% concentration of the nutrient solution should be used. The concentration rates can gradually increase as plants grow. The first solution should be changed after seven to ten days.
- Root health. Always check the root heath. Experts advise growers to the root health regularly. They should ensure they are bright white and thriving.
- Keep the nutrient solution reservoir away from light. For the roots to thrive, they should be kept in the dark place. If the roots are exposed to light, they are likely to be exposed to algae growth hence affecting the growth rate.
Now you can start your very own hydroponic garden at your condo or backyard or on your balcony.
Last update on 2023-03-26 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API