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Record Droughts Plague US Farmers - Is Hydroponic Agriculture the Solution?

It's time hydroponic systems came to the rescue and solved some of the problems caused by the drought of 2012. It's time hydroponic systems came to the rescue and solved some of the problems caused by the drought of 2012.

 

By all accounts, 2012 has been a very dry year for the US. With the Farm Belt facing its worst disaster since the drought of 1988, farmers are worried, and rightfully so. The crops hardest hit so far have been corn and soybeans, with 38 percent of corn and 30 percent of soybean crops rated as "poor" or "very poor" by the US National Weather Service. With 61 percent of the US mainland in a state of drought, the potential for large-scale crop failure is imminent, with no relief expected as temperatures stay high and rain refuses to fall throughout most of the country.


Corn and soybeans are incredibly important to the US economy and food supply, not only because corn and soy are found in a large variety of fresh and packaged food, but because we rely on corn to feed most of our livestock and subsidize fuel production. Some states, like Kentucky and Indiana, have more than 70 percent of their corn adversely affected by the drought.
Counteracting climate change is certainly a must, but we also need to focus on water conservation and improving the efficiency with which we water our crops.

Even if the rain starts to fall tomorrow (which it won't) the crops have already been stunted. The month of July is critical for growth, and when July is dry the entire food supply suffers, and prices go up. Shoppers can expect to see a rise in their grocery bills, exacerbating the economic crisis that many are facing.

If scientists are correct and the droughts continue to worsen as a result of global warming, we can expect to see similar (and worsening) results in the future.

So, what are we to do? Counteracting climate change is certainly a must, but we also need to focus on water conservation and improving the efficiency with which we water our crops. Because hydroponic gardening can use 70 to 90 percent less water than conventional farming, hydroponics (and related techniques like aeroponics) may be a large part of the solution.

Hydroponics can be used to grow almost any terrestrial plant, utilizing either natural or artificial sunlight. Water is re-collected after use, so there are no issues with runoff and water is used to its maximum efficiency. Rainwater can be collected for irrigation, which has been the only option lately for many farmers dealing with the drought. Irrigation is really the only option for hydroponics as well, because nutrients must be added to the water supply when a soilless method is used, but when a farmer can use only 10 percent of his or her normal amount of water, having to irrigate is much less of a problem.

Of course, some large-scale modifications will be needed to completely convert our traditional agricultural system to hydroponics, but if we start now and the farming industry gets on board, we can certainly make some progress toward augmenting the food supply and cutting our losses.

Hydroponic gardening may be the key to solving a variety of global problems, from drought to soil erosion and degradation, and may help to feed and power a hungry world. But we have to do more than just talk, and soon. If 2012 is any indication of the future, we can look forward to continued heat and drought conditions in the years to come. We have the solutions at our disposal, but we need to start using them before it is completely too late to save ourselves.

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The 2012 drought is more severe than many people realize. Time to grow hydroponically!
Last modified on Monday, 01 October 2012 16:20

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