DOI: 10.3390/horticulturae9121281 ISSN: 2311-7524

Nutrient Solution from Aqueous Extracts as an Alternative to Fertigation in Hydroponic

María Carmen Salas-Sanjuán, José Luis Ruíz-Zubiate, Juan Luis Valenzuela, Antonio Xavier Campos
  • Horticulture
  • Plant Science

The reintegration of agro-waste into the same agriculture site fulfils the objective of the European Bio-Economy Strategy: to reduce transport costs, waste volume, and the need for mineral fertilizers. One of the fundamental principles in sustainable agriculture is the recycling of crop residues through composting or vermicomposting. From this process, it is possible to obtain organic matter for the production of aqueous extracts (tea) that can be used as a source of nutrients in fertigation as an alternative to mineral fertilizers. The objective of this research was to evaluate the use of an aerated or non-aerated aqueous extract as a recirculating nutrient solution in a hydroponic culture (NFT) of lettuce. For this, the test method was compared to hydroponic cultivation with a conventional nutrient solution. The conventional nutrient solution contained minerals or synthetic fertilizers and the aqueous extracts of vermicompost from vegetal residues of horticultural crops. The evolution of the chemical composition of the nutrient solutions during cultivation was analyzed, obtaining adequate concentrations of NO3−, K+, and Ca2+ and taking possible imbalances in nutrients such as P-H2PO4− into consideration. Plants fertigated with an organic and aerated nutrient solution obtained good yields and improvements in quality by having six times less N-NO3− in edible leaves compared to plants exposed to the mineral treatment. The preparation of aqueous extracts as a source of nutrients opens the door to circular agriculture to make processes in intensive production systems more efficient.

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