The Agriculture Research Centre, Salalah is all set to launch hydroponic system of farming and promote it among the farmers after successful trial run to be held under the supervision of agriculture scientists.
In hydroponic farming, water is used as only medium to supply necessary nutrients to the plants
The infrastructure for the same is ready at the Research Centre compound. Around 800 foam pots have already been installed in a greenhouse measuring 270 square meters. In-charge of the project and Vegetable Crop Researcher, Basim Bashir Abiudoon, is beaming with confidence that the project would be successful and would offer a nice and more productive way of farming to the residents of Dhofar.
The farming technique, according to Basim, has great potential in Oman due to its geographical location and climate
The farming technique, according to Basim, has great potential in Oman due to its geographical location and climate. Scarce water supplies have also led the Ministry of Agriculture to adopt policies that support the reduction of agriculture practices that require a high use of water or do not make the most efficient use of water.
Part of the ministry's policy involves either refurbishing and modernizing existing operations or relocating both green houses and high water use field crops to other regions of the country. Basim (pictured) termed this to be a high technique with simple structure. "In hydroponic way of farming we do not have to face problems of soil like fungus, salinity, etc, as in this technique we do not use soil at all. In place of soil we use materials like vermiculate, barite or simple husk. We plant the seedling and all the nutrients needed for the plant are supplied through water," he said.
Vermiculite is ideal for the germination of seeds, because its aeration properties combined with its water holding capacity make it a very suitable medium for direct contact with the seeds
Vermiculite is the mineralogical name given to hydrated laminar magnesium-aluminum-iron silicate, which resembles mica in appearance. Vermiculite is ideal for the germination of seeds, because its aeration properties combined with its water holding capacity make it a very suitable medium for direct contact with the seeds.
"When vermiculite is used alone, without compost, seedlings should be fed with a fertilizer solution for week when the first true seeds appear. Large seeds can be mixed with vermiculite in a small polythene bag closed at the neck, and kept in a warm place until the seeds just start to germinate. Then plant them singly in small pots or trays of potting compost. Vermiculite can also be applied to the outdoor seed bed where it will give improved emergence and less risk of capping."
The Salalah Agriculture Research Centre is planning to start this project with lettuce and cucumber
Barite and husk work as substitute to vermiculite and serve the same purpose of transferring useful nutrients to plants in the hydroponic system of farming. The Salalah Agriculture Research Centre is planning to start this project with lettuce and cucumber.
Commenting on the feasibility of the system, Basim said: "In countries having scarce water and good quality soil, this system is very useful and tested and this has been successfully experimented at our Rumaish centre in Muscat. Due to it being a water efficient technique, it is generally called 'close system' in which water is reused many times.
The planning is done in such a manner that the nutrition mixed water runs from a big tank to the pots and then drains out and comes again to the tank. The same water can be used several times in the 'closed system' of irrigation."
Contrary to it, in the open irrigation system, water can be used only once and consumption here is far more than the closed system, said Basim. In terms of expenditure, the initial expenditure is slightly more in the hydroponic system, but the yield here is far more, said Basim when asked about the advantages of the hydroponic farming over greenhouse farming.
The product difference between hydroponic and greenhouse varies from 3.5-4 tons to 2.5 tons respectively in the same area
"The infrastructure cost for 270-square meter greenhouse farming comes at RO 3500, while same area in hydroponic system needs an investment of RO 5000. But the benefit lies in output. The product difference between hydroponic and greenhouse varies from 3.5-4 tons to 2.5 tons respectively in the same area," said Basim Plus the hydroponic is labour, soil and water efficient system, he said and added it is likely to suit Salalah and adjoining areas due to some soil related problems being faced by the farmers.
Oman Daily Observer