Monday, June 9, 2008

Disney's Hydroponic Approach to Gardening

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Hydroponics is the practice of using nutrient-enriched water rather than soil to grow plants.

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Figure A

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Figure B

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Figure C

Paul James, host of HGTV's Gardening by the Yard, explores Disney's approach to growing plants hydroponically--in water, not soil.

This space-saving agricultural approach allows crops to be grown in areas where they can't be grown by traditional methods. Hydroponics would be the food-production method of choice on space stations.

Epcot Center's The Land exhibit has taken hydroponics to a whole new level with its exploration of three different methods of hydroponic gardening. The first, used for Epcot's pepper plants, utilizes plastic bags filled with rock wool, a material similar to perlite, which holds the roots of the plants steady while they grow (figure A). A second method, which works well for salad crops, is to place small seedlings in a foam "raft" that floats on the surface of a tank of nutrient-enriched water (figure B). The third technique is called "aeroponics" because airborne plants receive a spray of nutrient-laden water every few minutes (figure C).

Although hydroponics can provide all the light, water and nutrients required to grow plants, species that require pollination to produce fruit and vegetables must be hand-pollinated in this controlled, insect-free indoor environment. Foods grown hydroponically have the same nutritional value and flavor as those grown in more traditional ways.

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