The following is from the environmental themed advice column EarthTalk®, by the Editors of the non-profit publication E/The Environmental Magazine, that we regularly featuring here on CLs Green Community.
Dear EarthTalk: What are the environmental benefits of the hydroponic growing of lettuce and other crops? — Bruce Keeler, Oakland, CA
While organic agriculture is all the rage, growing by leaps and bounds to meet increased consumer demand for healthier food, another option thats less well known but just as healthy is hydroponics, whereby plants are grown in nutrient-fortified water-based solutions without a soil substrate whatsoever. Besides not needing chemical fertilizers or pesticides (most of which are toxic as well as derived from petroleum), hydroponics also take up much less space than traditional agriculture, meaning that even an apartment window can yield impressive amounts of food throughout the calendar year.
In traditional forms of agriculture, soil facilitates the process of providing the mineral nutrients that plants need to grow. Organisms in the soil break down the nutrients into inorganic basic forms that the plants can then take up accordingly and put to use photosynthesizing. Of course, some of the organisms the soil attracts are unwelcome, and not every speck of soil is ideal as a growth medium, so we have come up with ways to kill off unwanted pests (pesticides) and pump up the grounds productivity (fertilizers).