All About Hydroponic Tomatoes

Hydroponic Tomatoes

Hydroponic Tomatoes
Hydroponic Tomatoes
Hydroponic tomatoes are grown in greenhouse environments. Hydroponics can mean growing plants in just water and fertilizers or it can be what is called an aggregate system, which does have a solid medium for plant support. The advantages to a hydroponic growing system include the ability to grow crops even when the soil is unsuitable and the elimination of diseases and pests which are caused by soil and weather conditions.

The disadvantage of hydroponics is the high cost of buildings and equipment especially if heating and cooling greenhouses is necessary. That is why not many vegetables are grown with hydroponics. Hydroponic tomatoes are one of the major exceptions. That is because consumers have demonstrated that they are willing to pay more, sometimes even double or triple the normal price of tomatoes to have a product that tastes great and doesn’t have the blemishes of tomatoes grown outside in the soil. This can translate into a lot of money when you consider that every year Americans consume 4.3 billion pounds of tomatoes.

There are two systems used to grow hydroponic tomatoes--open and closed. An open system is one where once the nutrients have been delivered to the plant, nothing is reused. A closed system, on the other hand, recovers the liquid and recycles it. Hydroponics is considered a new growing technology with the first real efforts beginning just seventy years ago. Initially all hydroponic growing systems were in glass greenhouses which made the cost even more prohibitive. That changed in the late 1940s with the development of plastic by Professor Emery Myers Emmert at the University of Kentucky. He introduced the first polyethylene greenhouse covering in 1948.

Still, hydroponics progressed at a slow rate and came to another complete standstill with the oil crunch in the early seventies. The first research and development of hydroponic tomatoes began in the mid-1960s at the University of Arizona. It was discovered that locations with the most light in winter such as Arizona were ideal for hydroponics in general and especially hydroponic tomatoes.

Tomato seeds are usually planted in trays with a soil-less mixture such as perlite or peat. Overhead watering as well as flood and drain systems on timers can be used to germinate the seeds. Once leaves appear, plants are transferred to growing cubes. They are moved into a final growing medium before flowers develop. The plants grow continually with hydroponics and a wire needs to be installed high above the beds on which to string the plants. This is critical as hydroponic tomatoes have no ground support. Strong wire must be used as each hanging vine will weigh twenty to thirty pounds when the tomatoes are ripening.

The roots of the hydroponic tomatoes are either hung in the water/nutrient mixture (deep flow hydroponics), sealed roots are misted (aeroponics), or media such as peat and vermiculite are used and watered. Once tomatoes are ready for harvest, they are either picked by hand or in large, commercial operations, canals are used to float tomatoes to packing rooms.

Given the price that hydroponic tomatoes are bringing, the future is considered bright for this form of tomato production.  As a consumer, when you experience the quality and taste of hydroponic tomatoes in winter, you will never want to go back to the any other kind.

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