Under modern farming hydroponics plays a major role. Lettuce (Lactuca sativa) is a watery vegetable. It is crisp and versatile. Lettuce use for making salads, top juicy burgers and it is a healthy substitute for bread. Also, it can help to prevent damages caused by unstable molecules because it has lot of antioxidants.
Lettuce is one of the popular crops growing as hydroponic vegetable. In this method, nutrient solution or an inert medium without soil is use to grow plants. Irrigation water is the nutrient supplier of these both systems. Hydroponic is not like other greenhouse systems. High production knowledge, technical skills, financial investment and experience are must to use this method because it is highly demanding system.
There are various hydroponic systems which commercially use for lettuce production. Nutrient film technique and floating raft methods are two of those systems.
Facilities requirements and location: –
For this hydroponic production a green house is necessary. It should have the ability to provide adequate temperature at winter (adequate heat) and summer (shading or chilling for water) seasons. Surface water increase risk of diseases in lettuce. Hence, most of the time well or country water is use for lettuce production. So, growers check their start water from an analytical laboratory. For this process, we want a germination area to seedling production. It should include benches and artificial lighting.
Cultivar and plant section: –
Loose leaf, butter head and romaine are the most common types of lettuce growing in this method. When selecting a type, several qualities should consider. Resistance to diseases, high degree of coloration, resistant to physiological disorders, tip burn and bolting are some of them.
Seeds are placing in a germination medium for plant propagation. Seeds placed in a plug trays without soil. The optimal PH range is 5.5-5.8 and germination temperature is 64-68oF. Germination seeds needs to sub irrigate. For that, uses an ebb and flow bench. Germination is retard by overhead watering. Fertilizer also applies from an ebb and flow bench by periodically pumping. Light levels and temperature may increase after germination and the during the propagation period. Before transplanting, seedlings allowed to grow for two – three weeks.
Production Systems: –
There are several production systems. Some of them are open or close, liquid or aggregate and active or passive. In greenhouse and nursery production, use soilless mixes or artificial soil.
Nutrient solutions: –
Various nutrient solutions recommend for hydroponic system. Growers can prepare nutrient solution as their own product or can get as ready to mix product. Two nutrient tanks are using for this. One is for the remaining nutrients and other one is for supply calcium nitrate. These solutions mixed and inject to the irrigation line. In this process, PH, oxygen levels, temperature and soluble salts should monitor.
Pest Management: –
Water born pathogen are the cause for diseases occur in hydroponic. So, sanitization is must in this system. The spores of molds can easily spread in the system because it is recirculating system. If there is infection it is must to disinfect thoroughly.
Downey mildew, powdery mildew and botrytis gray mold also can occur on greenhouse lettuce.
Thrips, aphids, mites and whiteflies are the common pest damages to lettuce and they can control by preventing the entering paths into the greenhouse.
There are few pesticides for these pests in greenhouse production. Therefore, better method of preventing pests and diseases is early detection and preventative management.
Harvest and Management: –
Normally, hydroponic lettuce harvest with roots. If there are long roots, it should trim before pack. But you can increase the post-harvest storage life by leaving roots. In proper storage conditions, plants can stay fresh for two-four weeks freshly.
There is no requirement of washing before packing because there is no soil in hydroponic system. Packing is doing individually or in bulk.
Labor requirement: –
3000 labors want per square foot for eight turns in greenhouse. The average is about 1500 hrs. per year.
Hydroponic system requires high start-up cost and demanding labor and management. According to the operation and market, production can be varying considerably. But for sure you can have a higher income due to the high cost of the hydroponic produce. Because it believes that hydroponic produces are more taster than the other products. So, better to try this nice growing method in your farm too.