Hydroponic and organic produce offer shoppers alternative choices for purchasing fresh vegetables. The philosophy of either growing method recognizes the importance of nutritional value and safe foods. Both methods minimize the environmental impact of farming, giving you an additional reason to consider using these types of vegetables.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, there are more than 14,000 organic farming operations in the United States. The industry generated over $3 billion in 2008, showing promise for continued growth. The agricultural industry as a whole has experienced tremendous growth from 2002 to 2007, according to the USDA. Agricultural sales reached nearly $300 billion in 2007, with vegetable sales accounting for almost $20 billion.
What Is Hydroponic?
Hydroponic vegetables are grown in a nutrient solution, foregoing the use of soil. The advantage is the control you have over the growing conditions. If outdoor space is limited, it offers a viable alternative. A hydroponic set up will require growing lamps, a filtration system for both the water and the air and a means of climate control. The controlled settings provide the ideal environment for research and testing, explains the University of Wisconsin-Madison. It can also result in higher yields.
What Is Organic?
The Organic Trade Association defines organic agriculture as a means of growing produce with minimal impact on the land. The vegetables, therefore, are free of residues associated with synthetic pesticide and fertilizer use. These methods may impact the quality and nutrient content of organic produce by reducing the negative environmental effects of chemicals used in farming practices. Hydroponic produce can be considered organic if production follows organic farming best management practices.
The nutritional value of organic versus hydroponic vegetables may rest on the presence of micro-organisms. These micro-organisms ensure the availability of nutrients to the growing plants. A 2008 study by the Organic Center found that nutritional value of organic produce outpaced conventional produce nearly two to one. When compared to hydroponic vegetables, a 2000 study in the journal, "Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses" confirmed that hydroponic produce can be superior in nutrition and taste, depending upon the hydroponic solutions. Stronger nutrient solutions can ensure a better product than conventionally produced vegetables.
The research findings indicate that nutritional value is subject to farming practices whether done with soil or without. While a soil environment may leave organic plants open to pests, likewise hydroponic set ups must take precautions to ensure that the solution the vegetables are in stays bacteria free. The warm, moist environment sets up ideal conditions for bacteria growth which can impact yield and nutritional value. In either case, both hydroponic and organic vegetables offer nutritious, delicious ways to enjoy fresh produce.
- Organic Center: New Evidence Confirms the Nutritional Superiority of Plant-Based Organic Foods
- "Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses"; Nutrition and Hydroponics; P. Johnson; November 2000