NARIE eyeing hydroponics to proliferate large scale cash crop farming

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The National Agricultural Research and Extension Institute (NAREI), has received the support of the Organisation of American State’s (OAS), Development Cooperation Fund (DCF) to promulgate the production of various cash crops utilizing the hydroponics method of farming.

The hydroponic farming method has been proven to be the most cost-effective over the traditional agricultural methods for planting cash crops such as (hot) pepper, sweet pepper, tomato, cucumber, lettuce and cabbage.

Jonathan Melville, Research Assistant, Hydroponics-  (NAREI)
Jonathan Melville, Research Assistant, Hydroponics- (NAREI)

NAREI’s Hydroponics Research Assistant, Jonathan Melville told the Government Information Agency (GINA) that with hydroponics becoming one of the most cost- effective means of planting cash crops, local farmers can expect this system to be implemented on a larger scale.

“We want to promote the use of hydroponics on a wider scale so it’s not just for research, but also for implementation so that the common person can say ‘yes, this is something that looks not just interesting but it actually sounds like a bring money into my operations’ thing,” Melville explained.

Trials of planting tomato and sweet pepper via the hydroponic method have shown good results and have prompted an expansion of the project to include green and leafy vegetables at NAREI.

Melville said, “Not every crop is suitable for hydroponics, but currently we are focusing on fruit type vegetable crops like sweet pepper and tomato. We are also doing some trials now on lettuce and other leaf type crops. We’re looking to see if that can be extended to leaf type vegetables like pak choi (and) lettuce as well.”

The recycling (hydroponics) method in action at the National Agricultural Research and Extension Institute (NAREI)
The recycling (hydroponics) method in action at the National Agricultural Research and Extension Institute (NAREI)

In comparison to traditional agriculture, hydroponics is less costly because it utilizes an enriched liquid medium of planting crops as opposed to the traditional medium of using soil. This eventually decreases the chances of crop losses, which translates into investment savings, in addition to high economic returns. Melville said it will also be less labour intensive because there won’t be any need to weed.

Apart from economic benefit there are a number of other benefits attached to adopting hydroponics farming.

The Research Assistant explained that, “ The main talk these days is about climate change, and recently there was a statement that went out from the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) (which stated) food should change, as well, because climate is changing so it is something that we can use in the near term future. It’s not something for the long-term; it’s something we should use now.”

Objectively, hydroponics farming/gardening targets family nutrition, promotes healthy lifestyle without increasing cost and increase family savings through decreasing expenditures on food. Additionally, it creates income generating opportunities for persons who cannot access employment and create micro-enterprises using low-cost inputs and very little time and to reduce the impact of floods and heavy rain on food production.

In Guyana, the use of the recycling method of hydroponics is utilised. This method referred to as a Nutrient Film Technique or NFT is implemented at NAREI. This is just one type of hydroponic gardening. This method involves the continuous flow of nutrient solutions through a system which is powered by a submerged pump. It is housed in a 50ft by 24ft wooden structure, with a concrete filled base. A shade net is placed around the structure to deter the presence of insect pests.

The shade house at the National Agricultural Research and Extension Institute (NAREI) used for hydroponics farming
The shade house at the National Agricultural Research and Extension Institute (NAREI) used for hydroponics farming

Hydroponics is therefore recognised as an established branch of agronomy. It results in higher crop yields and this method can be utilised to provide a regular supply of fresh vegetables even in areas where traditional gardening is impossible.

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