In the previous article, we discussed the issue of the preservation and germination of cannabis seeds, placing special emphasis on the importance of optimal preservation conditions to maintain viability. In this we will do a brief review on certain fundamental aspects of hydroponics, focusing on the multiple advantages of this form of cultivation, but also the possible disadvantages that it can present for those who are not familiar with it. Therefore, it is not a guide where we are going to discuss the subject in depth, but rather a very general approach that aims to be useful for those who are considering getting started in hydroponic cultivation.
Although hydroponics is not the most common practice in self-cultivation of cannabis (either due to ignorance of the growers or due to the initial cost of the required equipment), this form of cultivation is preceded by its fame. Many are those who have tried or heard of a high quality hydroponic marijuana even if they have not had the opportunity to grow it.
In general, hydroponics is called any type of crop that grows without soil (soil), regardless of the support used. It can be synthetic, such as rock wool, or organic, such as coconut fiber, and have a variable cation exchange capacity. However, for practical purposes and in general, hydroponic cultivation systems are considered those that are developed in a nutrient solution or in totally inert substrates, and other types of systems such as cultivation without soil 1 This consideration is also the most widely accepted in the cannabis field.
Advantages of hydroponic cultivation
One of the main advantages of hydroponics is usually convenience in relation to efficiency. In other words, this form of cultivation produces more, requiring less effort and expense than traditional cultivation in substrate. On the one hand, since you don’t have to take care of watering, you only have to worry about changing the nutrient solution once every ten days or so, it saves considerable time and work. On the other hand, the use of nutrients and water is maximized, so plants grown with this system tend to grow and produce a lot. For the cultivation of hydroponic marijuana, closed systems are normally used, that is, those in which water is constantly reused, this being one of the ways in which its consumption is optimized and the subscriber is rationalized. You can also make an open hydroponic, using a tank for irrigation and another for drainage, but efficiency and comfort are reduced, since the container that collects the excess water must be emptied and the one with the irrigation water refilled regularly. It should be clarified that despite the degree of automation of this type of crops, this does not mean that we can completely ignore them, since we have to monitor them with some constancy to ensure that they prosper positively.
The development capacity that these systems provide to cultivated plants is another of the advantages they present. As the root environment is in direct contact with the nutrient solution, it can more easily absorb the elements it needs, so the plants show growth and flowering that are usually lush. In addition, by using substrates that do not intervene in nutrition, we can have greater control of fertilization.
Cleaning and maintaining the grow room is also somewhat easier when we grow in hydroponics, since the water is collected in a tank and there is no waterlogged soil, nor remains of substrate.
The rate of development of plants in this type of cultivation is considerable, so we must control that it is not excessive, since the task could be quite complicated. Therefore, if we intend to grow sativa varieties or hybrids of sativa predominance, we will be especially attentive to the growth of the plants, it is advisable to adjust the photoperiod to 12/12 from the beginning and not start from seed, since these types of varieties tend to grow a lot. If we grow Indica varieties or mostly Indica hybrids and we decide to start from seed, it is also advisable to schedule the cultivation so that it has twelve hours of light and twelve hours of darkness from the beginning. In fact, unless we intend to grow autoflowering, it would be best to start from cuttings whenever we can, to avoid any kind of surprise. Plants grown from seed can show several phenotypes whose morphology could be variable, so if one grows more than another, it could overshadow it. In addition, when they develop a lot they usually touch each other and (taking into account that in hydroponic crops the humidity level can be considerable), if this happens, the spread of fungi would be favored in case of contagion.
Another of the difficulties that we can find if we opt for hydroponics as a form of cultivation are the possible oscillations in pH or EC, which can cause great damage if not detected in time, especially in closed systems. For this reason, it is vital to measure them daily a couple of times, whenever possible. The causes of these alterations can be various. For example, the consumption of nutrients by plants could lower the EC and alter the pH or, conversely, the evaporation of the tank water would cause the EC to rise, since it would contain the same amount of salts in a lower volume of water. As I have already mentioned in previous paragraphs, the relative humidity of the environment in hydroponic crops is usually high and, being this a factor that favors the development of certain fungi, it is important to control the rest of the conditions that benefit them, such as overfertilization On the one hand, a highly nitrogenous diet can cause a decrease in the resistance of plants to this type of pathogens and, on the other hand, an overfertilized plant will not only be weaker, but may also present certain lesions that facilitate infection by fungus or some kind of rot.
Finally, the main drawback for growers who want to get started in hydroponics is the high price of the equipment. While it is true that growing hydroponic cannabis involves a high initial investment, it is considerably amortized over time. It must be taken into account that, when we grow in substrate, we normally use a much larger volume than that used for hydroponics and that most of them cannot be reused or, if they can be done, they also end up losing their physical properties and resulting inefficient after a certain number of cultures. On the other hand, in hydroponic cultivation, even if we use some type of inert substrate, the volume that we will need will be minimal compared to that required by traditional crops in other types of substrate. In addition, it is also quite likely (depending on the size of the tank you use) that the consumption of water is much lower, as well as that of fertilizer.
In relation to water, it must be taken into account that the ideal is for it to be osmotized, distilled or with a relatively low EC (between 0.4 and 0.6 mS). This means that if we want to grow marijuana in hydroponics anywhere on the Mediterranean slope, we will have to buy the water or get an osmotizer, since in this area its quality is quite low. Although the ability to tolerate a greater or lesser EC by plants depends on genetic factors, the excess of certain nutrients can accumulate in their tissues, varying the taste when smoking and even the level of toxicity in some cases.
Overdevelopment will be counterproductive
Even with these potential drawbacks, hydroponic cultivation offers a number of advantages that far outweigh them. In the first place, it allows us to obtain a higher yield in a smaller space, making it ideal for those indoor growers who only have a small corner to carry out their cultivation. Secondly, certain types of substrate, such as coconut or peat, produce more dirt while we work with them, while in hydroponics inert substrates are usually used that generate little waste. In addition, for those who always forget to water or are too busy to dedicate more than fifteen minutes a day to cultivation, these types of systems are ideal, since, once the plants are transplanted and the nutrient solution prepared, the remaining tasks are to measure pH and EC, check the condition of the crop and the proper functioning of the devices. Therefore, the convenience of hydroponics is not comparable to that of traditional substrate cultivation. In addition, in this type of system we can have greater control of fertilization, since when inert substrates are used (or not used at all) they do not interfere with the nutrition of the plants.