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The History Of Hydroponics Throughout The Ages

May 7, 2008
Hydroponics has its beginnings alongside the formation of the first major civilizations. Hieroglyphic records show that the ancient Egyptians were probably the first people to attempt to grow plants in a soil-less environment. Some suspect that the hanging Gardens of Babylon may have used primitive hydroponic technology. The Roman Emperor Tiberius is believed to have used hydroponic techniques to grow cucumbers out of season. But after these early experiments, there is little evidence that any major civilization attempted hydroponic growing for over a thousand years.

The next major development in hydroponics occurred in the 17th century in Europe, where greenhouses began to be regularly used to grow plants and vegetables. During this time, a British naturalist by the name of John Woodward began experimenting with growing spearmint without soil. He discovered that these plants managed to grow larger and stronger than those which grew through more traditional means. In the mid-nineteenth century the laboratory techniques needed to grow plants hydroponically were further developed in Germany.

Growers in the United States began examining the possibility of using hydroponic techniques in the early part the twentieth century. Typical greenhouses require a great deal of costly maintenance because the soil had to be regularly replaced and many saw hydroponics as a possible way to get the benefits of greenhouse growing without the expense. Between the years of 1925 and 1935, many American organizations made significant strides in the technology of hydroponics. Various agricultural experiment stations developed the methods necessary for large scale hydroponic growing and replacing the soil entirely in favor of a nutrient solution. It was during this time that William Frederick Gericke, a professor a the University of California Berkeley, coined the term "hydroponics." Gericke also became famous for using hydroponic techniques to grow incredibly sized tomatoes in his backyard.

The U.S. began exploring and experimenting with practical applications of hydroponics during World War Two. The Pentagon faced the challenge of supplying food to servicemen stationed in the Pacific Theatre, where it was difficult to ship food and impossible to grow on the rocky islands. The government solved this by applying hydroponic techniques to grow food for the soldiers and sailors.

Because hydroponic systems proved to be expensive at the time, most large-scale plans were abandoned. However, in the sixties and seventies, interest was renewed when advances in commercial plastics promised to cut down on the cost of hydroponics significantly. Plastics were used in greenhouses and growing beds and allowed for the creation of plastic drippers. It was during this time that functional larger scale hydroponic gardens became a reality, with hydroponic greenhouses appearing in California deserts, Arizona, and the Middle East.

Today, hydroponics is popular not just as a way to produce larger, healthier, and more flavorful foods on a large scale, but also as a household hobby. Simple hydroponic systems can help people grow herbs, flowers, or vegetables in their basement, in a large closet or even on their kitchen counter.

Many people look to hydroponics as the way the most food may be grown in the future. As the amount of arable land diminishes each year, hydroponics may be the answer to sustaining the world's food supply because of its ability to produce larger yields using a smaller amount of space. NASA has experimented with hydroponics as a means of growing vegetables in space.
About the Author
Michael Straumietis is co-founder of Advanced Nutrients, an international marketer and manufacturer of agricultural, home & garden, hydroponics and soil less fertilizers and plant nutrients. Discover 20 years of hydroponics expertise and knowledge compiled in articles, journals and products at http://www.advancednutrients.com.
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