The Earth is composed of approximately 72 percent water in both the saltwater and freshwater bodies, thus, earning it the moniker of the Water Planet.
With such a pervasive presence in our lives, it is no surprise then that hydroponics may have well preceded soil-based agriculture.
- Browsing through history books related to agriculture, we see many examples of hydroponics as practiced in ancient civilizations.
- Many historians believe that hydroponics started with the ancient Babylonians via their hanging gardens, which supposedly required 8,200 gallons of water per day to be fully operational.
- The Aztecs are also said to have grown plants using hydroponic principles with their water gardens, so to speak, floating on the marshy shores of Lake Tenochtitlan.
- Rafts made from rushes and reeds were planted with various crops, made to float on the lake, and allowed to thrive from the lake’s rich organic debris.
The earliest published reference related to hydroponics, however, was made by Francis Bacon in his book titled Sylva Sylvarum published in 1627.
From said reference sprouted many water culture researches by other scientists the most notable of which was that of John Woodward’s work with spearmints in 1699.
By 1842, scientists have compiled a list of nine elements deemed essential to hydroponics gardening.
It was not until 1929 when soilless agriculture was publicly promoted for agricultural crop production on a commercial level.
We credit William Frederick Gericke of the University of California at Berkeley for the breakthrough of viable hydroponics when he grew 25-feet high tomato vines in his backyard using only mineral nutrient solutions.
He was also the one who coined the term hydroponics, which is a combination of the Greek words for water (hydro) and labor (ponos).
Although Gericke refused to divulge his secrets in soilless gardening, which led to his resignation from the university, he eventually wrote a book about the subject in 1940 – the Complete Guide to Soilless Gardening.
It is still in use today as well albeit with a few changes borne of the advancements in hydroponic gardening.
Before the publication of Gericke’s book, Dennis R. Hoagland and Daniel I. Arnon, both plant nutritionists from the University of California, were tasked to verify the claims made by Gericke.
Their findings were published in the now-classic 1938 bulletin titled The Water Culture Method for Growing Plants Without Soil.
Today, hydroponics gardeners still use the so-called Hoagland solutions as their mineral nutrient solutions.
It was a small step from theoretical studies to practical applications, which is to be expected in something as important to human life as food cultivation.
One of the earliest and most successful practical applications of hydroponics was in Wake Island, a rocky atoll located in the Pacific Ocean.
Since there was no soil to be found in the atoll, hydroponics was a logical step.
Other commercial applications of hydroponics soon followed. Today, the techniques are widely used to cultivate flowers and vegetables, all of which are considered organically-grown.
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