Glossary of Terms

There are many generic terms in our industry and we interchange them often, such as soilless culture, hydroponics, greenhouse production, controlled environment horticulture, protected cropping, etc, etc.

The term ‘greenhouse and hydroponic’ is used when referring to our industry as a whole and to cover the differential between our diverse production systems that are commonly used. Singular terms should be used when referring to a specific system.
The term ‘Hydroponic’ derives from ancient Greek meaning ‘water working’. Plants require light, nutrients, root / stem support but not soil. Hydroponic systems must have their root zone isolated from soil by a growing container, heavy duty plastic, polystyrene or similar material.
A ‘Greenhouse’ is a generic term that covers everything from hi-tech glasshouses to plastic covered polytunnels.
‘Protected cropping’ (PC) is another generic term to cover all systems under some form of protection, cover, shade cloth, greenhouse or glasshouse.
‘Nutrient Film Technique’ (NFT) is a hydroponic growing method where nutrients dissolved in water flow over the roots maintaining adequate aeration and root light protection, usually in the form of white pipes or gullies.
‘Chemical’ has many broad uses. A distinction should be made between pesticide sprays and individual nutrient components that all plants require as food.
‘Organic’ typically means free of pesticides. Hydroponic greenhouses usually require significantly less pesticides due to being isolated from the soil, elevated off the ground and protected in a closed greenhouse.

Follow this link to read about ‘Can Hydroponics be organic? And does it really matter?!” in PCA’s Soilless Australia magazine Vol 4 / 2015.

Open & Closed Systems – 40% savings on water & fertiliser
The main distinction between open and closed systems is whether or not water or nutrient solution is permitted to leave on a constant basis. Closed or recirculating systems return solution back to the plants, necessitating a balanced nutrient. By doing so, closed systems are environmentally sound & responsible offering 40% savings on both water and fertilisers. It follows that in the future closed systems may become mandatory technology.
A definition of a hydroponic product can provide a point of differentiation from other products. In 1999 the AHGA committee headed by Rick Donnan determined that a hydroponic product is; ‘Produce that is grown in a soilless system or container, isolated from the ground, with all its nutrients in the feed water’.

This definition is important to differentiate our products from others and to identify those that have contributed capital expenditure towards a true hydroponic production system.

It is vital that we continue to promote & market the business of “hydroponics” else we run the risk of being just another fruit, vegetable or flower grower.


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