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The word hydroponics is derived from two Greek words – hydro (water) andponos (labor) – literally ‘water working’.  Hydroponics is defined as the science of growing plants without the use of soil, but by use of an inert medium such as gravel, sand, peat, vermiculite, pumice, or sawdust, to which is added a nutrient solution containing the essential elements needed by the plant for its normal growth and development. Since many hydroponic methods employ some type of medium, it is often termed ‘soilless culture,’ while water culture alone would be true hydroponics.

Hydroponics is not a new method of growing plants. Hanging baskets in the gardens of Babylon and the floating gardens of the Aztecs of Mexico are examples of hydroponic agriculture.  There are records of Egyptian hieroglyphics that date back to several hundred years B.C. that describe the growing of plants in water.

In the early-mid 1900’s, W.F. Gericke of the University of California, while doing laboratory experiments in plant nutrition, termed this nutriculture system ‘hydroponics’. This was the beginning of hydroponics on a commercial scale. Gericke’s application of hydroponics proved itself by providing food for the troops stationed on non-arable (not suitable for farming) islands in the Pacific in the early 1940’s.

In the 1950‘s, after the war, commercial use of hydroponics expanded throughout the world to countries such as Italy, Spain, France, England, Germany, Sweden, Australia, Japan, Russia and Israel. Today more countries are using hydroponics as a way of producing quality food.

Hydroponics is viewed as environmentally sustainable for a variety reasons; considerably less water and less land are needed to grow large amounts of high quality food, and as most plant diseases are soil borne, reliance on harmful chemicals to ensure a crop is unnecessary.

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