Hydroponic plant project leaves the dirt behind

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 Canal Winchester agriculture students (from left to right) Jennifer Reed, Justin Brenner, Ralph Dials and Seth Schacht have been growing hydroponic tomatoes and peppers in a greenhouse in order to determine the impact of organic compost. Hydroponics is a method of growing plants in a nutrient solution so that no soil is required.

So who says farmers need dirt?

Certainly not a group of agriculture students in Canal Winchester who are wrapping up an experiment using hydroponically grown plants.

Students enrolled in Canal Winchester High School’s agriculture plant and physiology class had a first-hand look at advanced aquaponics and hydroponics systems. These units and the research produced from the lab experiments were developed by the students. Through the students’ investigations, knowledge was gained about vertical gardening and other futuristic gardening possibilities.

Hydroponics is the process of growing plants in a nutrient solution (without soil). A hydroponics unit is constructed by using plastic pipes, wood, fluorescent lamps, aquarium tanks and simple tools. The program uses the Nutrient Drip Flow Technique (NDFT) to feed plants and vegetables, and the vegetation grows at a rate five to 10 times faster than using the traditional "in the soil" method.

Agriculture students also developed two homemade aeroponic cloning chambers to raise seedlings of native Ohio plants. These cloned plants will then be planted in the school’s 10 acre land lab in the spring by the Canal Winchester FFA alumni and agriculture students studying agronomy.

"This collaboration with the FFA alumni is special and again represents an example of students performing real-life science with our community partners," said Shae Ward, a junior at Canal Winchester High School and FFA secretary.

"What we really wanted the students to see is if the organic by products from the aquaponics makes a difference," said class instructor Cyndi Brill, adding that a secondary aim is to expose students to the hydroponic techniques themselves.

"This certainly has commercial applications," Brill said of growing plants in a soilless environment. "There are all the issues surrounding E. coli and so forth, but here you have roots that are not exposed to any kind of contaminant. There are no pests, no rain and no dust."

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