Although farming is an industry that may have begun as early as 23,000 years ago, it has largely remained the same until the last few decades. The green revolution did improve several processes, but technology hasn’t managed to update this important industry as much as expected until the recent past.
Today, nearly every aspect of cultivation and farming is being closely examined in order to fine-tune these processes and maximize efficiency. Hydroponic seed germination is one such process that looks to improve the quality of the seeds from the nascent stages itself. In this article, we examine the brand new method of seed germination, and discuss its benefits, drawbacks, dos, and don'ts.
This novel farming method is the process of germinating seeds without the use of soil whatsoever. This method is known to be more expensive at the start when compared to traditional seed germination techniques, but it can also be hugely beneficial to the plants in the long term as well.
Technically speaking, germination is one of the stages of plant development. It is the phase at which the plant begins to break out of their shells and transforms into a seedling. This only happens when the ideal conditions for the plant are met, and germination ends by the time the external cotyledons begin to develop. As soon as a farmer sees the plant emerge from the seed, it is removed from the germination system.
When using the hydroponics technique for seed germination, a growing medium is required initially. Most amateurs to this method prefer using a hydroponic germination sponge as it is known to be the best seed germination medium The sponge helps to minimize the damage caused to the roots during the transplant process. It’s also easy to cut the sponge in order to let the seeds grow with greater freedom during germination.
Some of the materials used in the process includes:
Before we discuss the differences between germination, propagation, and transplants, we need to observe the definition of these processes first.
As previously mentioned, germination is the phase of plant development where the plants first begin to emerge from their shells. This is the period where a seedling is first formed. It is possible to recognize the germination phase when we see the plant protrude out of the seed.
In this stage of the plant development process, the seedling begins to further its overall development by becoming stronger and developing roots. It even grows true leaves for the first time. Propagation starts as soon as the plant breaks out of the seed and ends when the roots have been planted firmly into the ground. The ideal transplant period for plants occurs when at least two to three sets of the first leaves are fully developed on the plant.
The transplant phase occurs immediately after the propagation. This is the perfect time to move a seedling out of the existing growing system and to its final home where it can develop into a full-grown plant.
As we understand the definition of these three distinct processes, we can see that there are plenty of differences between germination, propagation, and transplant. Germination is the first of the three processes to occur within the life cycle of a plant. Once the germination occurs successfully and the seedling emerges out of the seed, it can move onto propagation.
Here, the roots begin to strengthen, as do the remainder of the plants’ internal systems. The first set of leaves emerge at this point and the plant begins to wholeheartedly absorb nutrition from all surrounding elements. Once the propagation period has occurred, a plant will be ready for its transplant. This means that the seedling can now be shifted from the growing system to a location where it can be allowed to bloom thoroughly.
In this section, we provide a handful of useful pointers that allow for successful hydroponic germination.
During the germination period, it is crucial that you keep an eye on the temperatures within the germination chamber at all points. If temperatures get too high or too low, then it drastically affects the germination rates of almost all plants.
It is vital that the newly germinating seeds attain the right levels of warmth and moisture. Allowing seeds to get too dry or too moist will most likely kill the sapling, so fine tuning the moisture levels is a must at this stage.
A humidity dome can be an important tool to help keep a check on the humidity levels and allows the growing chamber to produce its own humidity over time. Maintaining high levels of humidity in the chamber is also always a good rule of thumb as it eliminates the possibility of the plants drying out entirely.
There is, however, a fine line that needs to be drawn when it comes to the moisture levels. If there is too much moisture in the air, it causes the roots to rot even before they have a chance to fully develop. It’s possible to check on the growing medium by using touch to see if it's too soggy.
The ideal levels here is moisture in the growing medium without causing any pooling of water.
When plants are at the seedling portion of their growth, they tend to be the most sensitive during this phase. Any exposure to light, nutrition, and chemicals should be carefully monitored at this stage as excessive amounts of any of these elements could alter the development of these plants.
Using a seedling heat mat is a great idea when plants are going through their germination. These mats are extremely handy in keeping a check on the temperatures within the growing chamber. A steady level of consistency in terms of heat can work wonders on the growth of saplings.
Damping off is a side effect of allowing your growing medium to remain excessively moist for extended periods of time. When this happens, a lot of molds and fungi can develop in the chamber. This can lead to plants becoming flaccid and growing flat. You can avoid this by keeping a close eye on the moisture levels of the growing medium.
You will need to supplement your plants with the right chemicals even during the germination phase. However, as previously mentioned, plants are a lot more sensitive to chemicals at this stage. This is why it’s recommended that you dilute your nutrients and have only an EC that ranges between 0.8-1.2 at this stage.
It's crucial to remember that a majority of the nutritional requirements of plants are met with their natural systems, mainly the cotyledons at this point. Additional supplements should only be provided when the true leaves have properly emerged from the seedling and are completely stable.
Once the true leaves are out, the plants will begin to crave for external nutrition from fertilizers and the growing medium. This is when you can look to normalize the nutritional levels.
When you look to purchase seeds from your nearby nursery, you are limited in terms of choices based on what's available in your locality. These choices are usually limited to native or localized fruits and vegetables unless you visit a specialty nursery. When you look to take on the germination process using the hydroponic method, your choices open up dramatically.
You can pretty much look to grow any fruit or vegetable in your garden with this method. This allows you to grow exotic fruits and non-local alternatives as well, thereby greatly improving the diversity within your garden.
In general, it is seen that the seed germination process is a lot cleaner and more efficient than traditional methods. This is because every step of the process is carefully monitored and controlled by the farmer. As there is so much precision involved in the process, the plants that arise from this setup end up being a lot healthier in the long run as well.
Plants that are germinated hydroponically are also seen to be less prone to rotting or diseases in the long run when compared to traditional methods. This is because the condition of the roots is carefully monitored from the start, as is the nutritional levels of the plant over time.
When the intake of chemicals is monitored with precision, it allows the plant to become extremely healthy over time, and this shows in the final results of a hydroponic farm.
As we have seen in this article, a farmer will need to invest in a handful of materials and technologies in order to maximize the potential of their hydroponic farm. This includes lighting equipment, growing materials, heating systems, and so on. The initial cost of setting up a hydroponic seed germination system is on the higher end, but the costs do even out once the yield comes through.
Much like the costs incurred in the initial phases, the time required to set up a hydroponic seed germination plant is on the higher end of the scale as well. This is because all the tools and equipment need to be perfectly established in order to allow the system to become automated over time. Once the initial setup is complete, however, the time taken going forward will be greatly reduced.
Seed germination is one of the most important stages of a plant’s life cycle, and we now have a unique opportunity to perfect this stage. Thanks to the hydroponic system’s seed germination techniques, we can create better yields over time, and this will have a tremendous impact on the agriculture industry as a whole.
More on hydroponics: What is Deep Water Culture in Hydroponics?