Roland-Story agriculture biology students were presented with a challenge in their most recent unit of instruction on plant growth and development by instructor Brad Taylor. That challenge was to develop a hydroponics system that would keep plants alive for an extended period of time.

“The purpose was to allow students the opportunity to become problem solvers and to explore alternatives to growing of plants,” Taylor said.

Hydroponic is a Greek word meaning “water labor.” In order to grow, reproduce and stay healthy, plants require basic requirements, such as nutrients, water, light and suitable temperature.

Soil is primarily used to support plant roots and keep the plant vertical and anchored to the earth. However, with man-made systems and environments, soil can be replaced with artificial support mechanisms and plants will grow just fine if all requirements are met.

Hydroponics is a rapidly growing segment of plant production. Growing plants hydroponically in a greenhouse requires less space than traditional growing practices using soil. Production can be yearlong rather than limited to a growing season. Simple hydroponic systems can be designed and built to suit any needs.

In this activity, the basics of hydroponic plant production are explored. Students will take a close look at the various types of systems used and how plant production is managed in a soilless environment.