NFT systems are ideal for growing species of plants with a short life cycle and reduced root system, growing with this technique annual species with a large root system is difficult if not impossible.
Vine crops like tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, cucumbers, melon, marrows and many others need extra space for the root system compared to the leaf crop. For vine crops idrolab® can offer different solutions:
Coconut fiber…using coconut fiber as a substrate for soilless growing is more and more common, the systems are easy to maintain, economic to set up and very productive. The plants are planted in coconut fiber slabs and are drip irrigated with
a water based solution enriched with nutrients. The drain-to- waste system are the most commonly used for their extremely simple set up and low cost.
Besides the coconut fiber being a vegetable substrate it is eco- friendly, reusable and above all very easy to dispose of. It does not require any specific disposal and at the end of it’s life it can be easily buried.
An advantage that over a long period of time and on big volumes can have an important economic weight.
Rockwool…soilless crop in rockwool slabs are the most widely used. They have been around for decades in Europe and represent a growth model which has been totally proven. Rockwool is low cost, light and relatively easy to maintain; however, compared to coconut fiber growing, the systems that use the rockwool as a substrate need extra attention during the irrigation process. The irrigation systems are similar to those used for coconut but when working with rockwool it is absolutely necessary not to allow the substrate to dry completely. When rockwool dries completely it is extremely difficult to rehydrate and the water retention qualities are compromised. The solution is to always ensure that the nutrient solution is never missing from substrates as well as crops. Emergency electric equipment must be foreseen in case a problem arises in any of the system fallible parts in order to quickly intervene. The most popular systems are still the drain-to-waste ones as in the case of coconut fiber.
Dutch Bucket…Dutch Buckets soilless growing crops are a valid alternative to growing techniques that use slabs. Dutch Buckets are 11 litre or 16 litre containers made from polypropylene filled with inert substrate. Their particular design has been studied to favour installation and draining. They are set up in rows one following the other or staggered on the drainpipe which is along the entire row. The bottom of the bucket has been designed to favour the syphon joint into the drainpipe. The Dutch Bucket systems can be ideally suited to recirculating crops. They are a little less economic compared to coconut fiber slabs or rockwool slabs but they are very flexible and can be used with many types of substrate that are much longer lasting. Often they are filled with perlite, expanded clay or gravel that are long-lasting substrates and do not have the problem of annual disposal as with rockwool.