A hotly contested debate has persisted for a while on what exactly is organic. When it comes to crops, the question often asked is, “Is it only food grown on soil, or can soilless food fit the organic criteria?”
While some individuals are open to the flexibility of the organic certification criteria stretching out to include hydroponics or water-grown produce, others are adamant about restricting certification to soil-grown food only.
In contribution to this debate and to determine whether hydroponics produce can be organic or not, it is essential first to understand hydroponics farming and organic farming. As highlighted in a previous article, hydroponic farming is a farming system that replaces soil with water as a medium for growing
plants to only water.
With that said…
What is Organic Farming?
Organic farming is a type of agriculture that relies on natural processes, devoid of the use of synthetic chemicals. This means that organic farmers only use natural techniques like crop rotation, cover crops, and natural compost to improve soil health, rather than relying on chemical fertilizers.
When it comes to pest control, organic farmers avoid using pesticides and herbicides, instead relying on natural methods like beneficial insects and hand-weeding to keep their crops healthy.
As a result of the methods used, organic farms are typically more environmentally sustainable than conventional farms. They also tend to produce food that is richer in nutrients and flavor, making it a popular choice among foodies. However, organic farms are often more labor-intensive and less
productive than their conventional counterparts, making them more expensive. The benefits of organic farming, nonetheless, far outweigh the costs.
Given this understanding, can hydroponics produce be regarded as organic? First, before answering that, it is essential to understand where the disagreement comes from by looking at hydroponic produce vis-a-vis organic produce.
4 Differences Between Hydroponics and Organic Farming?
Since organic farming is done in soil, the crops require more root space in search of nutrients, which means the plants take longer to grow. However, as a water-based system, hydroponics helps plants grow quicker as nutrients are delivered directly to the root system.
As much as hydroponic plants are less susceptible to pests, some farmers use pesticides in the rare cases that they are attacked, unlike organic farming, which diligently uses ecologically based pest control methods.
Organic farming uses biological fertilizers derived from plant and animal wastes and nitrogen-fixing cover crops. On the other hand, hydroponics is not opposed to using artificial minerals to help with plant growth. However, most hydroponics farmers lean on sources of nutrients that are chemical-free and natural.
Unlike organic farming, which relies on natural lighting for plant growth, hydroponics farming has been proven to be better at taste, acidity, and vitamins, having grown in controlled light and temperature environments.
But Are These Two Systems Similar? Let’s See.
Yes! In more ways than one, organic farming and hydroponics farming share the same goals. Both systems consider our planet’s ecosystem, steering clear of harmful chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Additionally, organic and hydroponic farmers are trying to grow nutritious food and feed the world healthy foods.
More interesting, however, is the term organic hydroponics, which has recently risen and gained popularity in the hydroponics farming culture. This means that hydroponics are adopting concepts from organic farming that do not use synthetic inputs such as fertilizers and pesticides, thus making them organic.
So to Answer the Hot Question…
Hydroponic produce can also be considered organic, but not all of it. Like in soil-farming, where there’s conventional and organic farming, some hydroponic produce can fit the organic produce criteria.
Already, some hydroponics systems have been certified as organic, whereas most are still not in the clear. To be certified as organic, a farmer must meet the guidelines set by the certifying body, such as the National Organic Program in the United States. The guidelines ensure crops are grown with minimal negative environmental impact and mostly use natural processes and materials. Some organic hydroponics farmers adhere to these guidelines. This means that the nutrients used in both farming methods must be obtained naturally.
Therefore, hydroponic produce can be organic if it meets the relevant guidelines and uses only natural materials and methods rather than synthetic products.