Hydroponic Strawberries can not only tasty good as the soil grown strawberries, but they are more efficient gardening technique of growing. One of the main advantages of using hydroponics is a decrease in water usage for agriculture.
Hydroponic systems uses nutrients that can come from many different sources, including (but not limited to) duck manure, fish excrement, artificial nutrient solutions or purchased chemical fertilizers.
As many other plants growing using hydroponic systems, strawberries can be also healthy and organic. It depends on how they are grown. Let’s get into more details about how you grow hydroponic strawberries.
How to Grow Hydroponic Strawberries?
In general, hydroponic is a method of growing plant without the use of any soil. In this so called soil-less method the plants are grown in water which is mixed with minerals and nutrients. If you are not familiar with hydroponic, you can learn more about the basics of hydroponic farming here.
Hydroponic farming as type of controlled environment agriculture (CEA) can provide opportunities to produce strawberry fruit in a sustainable manner.
Controlled in CEA can be both, root and aerial zone environments and maximize the productivity of strawberry plants by maintained in the optimum range. In order to reduce fertilizer use and save water, the nutrient solution can be recycled. This makes the use of resource even more efficient.
Use of hydroponics eliminates insect pests, which leads to eliminating or reducing the necessity of pesticide application. This type of sustainable growing strawberries are produced commercially in places like Europe and Japan. In United States this type of growing strawberry, mainly due to lack of appropriate education, or practical information, and technology to support this type of greenhouse hydroponic strawberry production, has been left behind.
What are the Pros & Cons of Growing Strawberries in a Hydroponic System?
Advantages of Using Hydroponics Strawberry
One of the main benefit of growing hydroponic strawberries is because there is no soil this eliminates all sorts of parasites, pests, mites that have a negative effect on the growing strawberry. All of these destructive factors are eliminated by using strawberry hydroponics.
Secondly, growing hydroponic strawberries don’t require pesticide solutions. While grown strawberries on soil, in order to get rid of the parasites and pests, you would have to use chemicals that are toxic to humans and you don’t need to fumigate them with all sorts of poisons.
Another major advantage for hydroponic strawberries is that they’re very cost effective. The initial investment in front will be higher compare to soil grown, since here you have to get in consideration the nutrient solutions, hydroponic devices, and other factors. But after that, you won’t really have any major costly additions to your hydroponics strawberries system anymore.
Hydroponic strawberries can be grown and harvested off season and they can be picked several times during a year. You can get a hydroponic gardening system that reuses it and recycles the nutrient solution automatically, if you want to cut down costs even further. Example of those type of systems are drip-based, aeroponic or flood and drain systems.
Disadvantages of Using Hydroponics Strawberry
There is nothing perfect so even growing strawberries hydroponics has a few downsides. Getting rid of soil pests by removing the soil away from your strawberries solve half of the problem. You’ll get rid of the soil pests, but foliage pests will still be a problem.
Examples for those pests include insects, spiders, and powdery mildew that can cause some serious damage to your strawberries. You can fight most of these pests by altering the temperature and humidity levels of the hydroponics environment, but that is not always guaranteed.
Another disadvantage is that strawberries grown in hydroponic environments require a lot more attention and there are more environmental factors that comes into consideration if you want the best crops.
Also you can get slightly fewer berries compare to soil systems but since you can grow much more efficiently and have multiple crops per year, that lost can easily be recouped.
Tip: If you want to grow your own hydroponic strawberries but you have no experience with hydroponic, start with another type of fruit or vegetable first.
Best Hydroponic Systems for Growing Strawberries
There are a couple of different hydroponic systems that would work well for strawberries.
- NFT or nutrient film technique – the most widely used technique for growing strawberries hydroponically. The plants sit in a net pot with their roots hanging freely in the root zone.
- Ebb and Flow – method is similar to N.F.T, except the plant roots are submerged in a growing medium.
Good margins and high demand make strawberries a great crop for farmers using hydroponics or aquaponics.
When it comes to how plants obtain their nutrient content, Dr. Merle Jensen, a founder of Controlled Environment Agriculture Center, and a Professor Emeritus at the University of Arizona, says:
We have to go with the side of science. The nutrient goes into the plant in the same ionic form, [whether it’s from the soil or from soilless media], period.
Dr Jensen says, that a plant roots are unable to absorb the product unaided and it is a challenge for hydroponic growers using organic products. To break down the organic compounds for the plants, there needs to be an added step.
According to a study by Treftz, 2015 [Chenin Treftz, Researcher at the University of Nevada, Reno] showed that the ‘healthy’ antioxidant compounds (e.g., total polyphenolic compounds, Vitamin C, tocopherol) were significantly higher in hydroponically grown strawberries compared to the soil-grown.