Hydroponics or Organic? Know the key difference!

Hello Readers! From our previous blogs, we discussed the basics of hydroponics, different types of hydroponic systems, as well as the key advantages and disadvantages of hydroponics farming. By now, you must be left with a question – Hydroponics or Organic? Which is better? Is hydroponic produce is considered Organic? Well, let’s discuss these questions in detail.

The argument over the crop growing practices has never been more fierce, with the majority of the world’s population becoming increasingly worried about what they eat and the real ingredients of the food that ends up on their plates. Even when dining out, people prefer to consume more nutritious vegetables, prompting a wave of eateries to claim ‘organically grown’ food products on their menus. Hydroponic farming methods have grown in popularity in recent years, and they are frequently compared to organic farming to determine which is the more feasible and sustainable form of agriculture. To answer the above questions, it’s important to understand the basic principles of both techniques.

What is Organic Farming?

In organic farming, inorganic fertilisers or chemical/synthetic fertilizers are avoided in order to grow plants using natural resources. Traditional farming approaches based on naturally occurring biological processes are combined with scientific knowledge of ecology and some modern technology in organic farming systems. Certified Organic farmers are required by law to use natural pesticides and fertilisers, whereas conventional or traditional agriculture uses synthetic pesticides and water-soluble synthetically refined fertilisers. Crop rotation, green manures and compost, biological pest management, and mechanical cultivation are all important aspects of organic farming. Organic farming relies more heavily on microorganisms like mycorrhiza to break down organic matter naturally. To improve soil health, manage weeds and pests, and boost biodiversity, organic farmers employ a variety of cultural and biological approaches. The NATIONAL CENTRE OF ORGANIC FARMING regulates organic farming in India under the National Organic Production Program (NPOP) or PGS-India Organic programme. An organic grower must follow an Organic System Plan and be certified by an Accredited Certifying Body that has been recognised and audited by the National Agricultural Bureau or the PGS-India Regional Council.

What is Organic and Inorganic Fertilizer?

Let’s understand the basic difference between organic and inorganic fertilizer. If you compare them chemically, both organic and inorganic are made of elements such as Nitrogen, Carbon, Potassium, etc. Organic fertilizers consist of elements in a natural state, while inorganic fertilizers are chemically synthesized in a factory. Plants can not directly utilize organic fertilizers, thus they need a strong microbial community present in the soil to break down these nutrients into ionic form. Meanwhile, the inorganic fertilizers do not require any microbial assistance and are able to provide the nutrients directly to plants. To summarize, both organic and inorganic fertilizers are made of the same elements that plant require, the only difference is how they are made available to plants for growth. Organic fertilizers offer various advantages over synthetic fertilizers such as low fuel consumption during the manufacturing process, slow release of nutrients in the soil, and increase overall soil quality. On the other hand, inorganic fertilizers are cheap, quickly increase the nutrient requirement of the soil and are easily available.

Hydroponics or Organic? Which is better?

The primary principle of organic farming, according to soil organic farmers, is – “feed the soil, not the plant.” How can it be organic if there is no soil to feed? On the hydroponic side, growers argue that if they use only organic materials, isn’t the resulting plant and produce organic?  Traditional farming techniques are not very environmentally friendly when compared to hydroponic and organic farming. Both organic and hydroponic farming share a commitment to preserving the fragile ecosystem of our world. Harmful chemical insecticides and pesticides are avoided in both systems. Both aim to put an end to irresponsible water and soil pollution. So, what are the differences between the two “do no harm” philosophies?

Organic farming permits the use of manure as a natural fertiliser, which has previously resulted in E. coli and salmonella epidemics, posing a health risk. Hydroponics plants, on the other hand, are grown in nutrient solutions, usually under a controlled environment, and are fully pesticide-free, making them far safer. When it comes to pest management, hydroponic gardeners have the option of using natural or non-toxic chemicals. Precision controls are used in hydroponics to promote optimum development, longer growing seasons, and maximum nutrition. In organic farming, plants can be left on their own for a few days, and they still survive in that short time. That’s not the case in hydroponics, plants will die out more quickly without proper care and adequate knowledge, thus requiring more commitment. 

Because hydroponic producers employ highly refined minerals in their nutrient solutions, no trace of substances on the dangerous pollutant list is normally discovered when hydroponic crops are evaluated. Plants cannot be nourished with mineral salts or other refined substances, even if they are purer than most organic fertilisers, in order to be considered organic. Organic farming and hydroponics have a lot in common because they both attempt to safeguard the environment. However, there are some areas where hydroponics outperforms organic agriculture in terms of environmental preservation. It utilises 90% less water than traditional agriculture, preventing the depletion of the world’s most valuable resource. It’s no surprise that hydroponically farmed produce is gaining popularity due to its environmental benefits, improved nutrition, and lower consumer cost.

Is Hydroponic Produce can be termed Organic?

In the above discussion, we understood that organic fertilizers require a microbial community that is mostly present in the soil. In hydroponics, the major nutrient carrier is water and most of these soil microbes can’t survive in it. Thus, if we use organic fertilizers in a hydroponic system, plants won’t be getting a sufficient quantity of the nutrients and we will have to use an additional quantity of synthetic fertilizers. While hydroponics does not require soil, a system that relies on microbial activity to provide plant nutrients can be certified as organic. Aquaponics, a hybrid of nutrient film technique and aquaculture, has been created as one such system. This system is made of only permitted organic materials and runs on a nutritional solution created by a fish’s organic digesting system. Though there is now no regulatory agency in India that certifies this as an organic system, this may change in the future.

We hope that this article has shed some light on the controversy between hydroponics and organic farming. And, whether we like it or not, we have to admit that hydroponics has always been a part of modern agriculture and has the potential to be the farming of the future, with a demonstrated competitive advantage over traditional methods.

If you have some points to share, feel free to comment or reach out to us!