By Alexander Villafania
QUEZON CITY, METRO MANILA – Prices of food has been steadily increasing compounded by natural calamities such as drought and floods that have dire effects on the country’s agricultural industries.
In fact, agricultural losses in the Philippines due to the El Niño phenomenon is estimated to reach P8 billion this year. It could reach P20 billion if there is a severe dry spell.
With this major concern, people are advised to be more proactive in helping alleviate environmental problems and join in ensuring food security. One way people can do is to have their own mini-farming projects. The major drawback to this is lack of space. In places with very little space and soil, this can be problematic.
But what if there is no need for soil? Common sense dictates that plants require food, water and soil. One solution is hydroponics, a unique agricultural technique that only requires mineral-enriched water and sun to grow plants.
Hydroponic farming has many advantages, apart from the need for only a small space for plants to grow.
In many cases, plants grown from hydroponics can be harvested sooner, are more resistant to diseases, and produce more in shorter periods. In hydroponics, plants directly get their nutrients from the water. Soil is basically a medium where minerals are stored and drained through the roots of plants.
Few would believe that hydroponics can be done in small places, especially as hydroponics is thought to be a space-age technique that only applies to large-scale farming. In reality, many homeowners have tried and succeeded in implementing hydroponics. Some projects, such as the one done in Payatas, Quezon City, have also proven that a simplified hydroponics project can provide jobs for the poor.
Filipino hydroponics expert Eladio Guevarra wrote in OFW-Connect that home-based hydroponics can be done even with the simplest of equipment and a green thumb. Most, if not all equipment, can be bought from hardware stores.
Simple equipment for a basic hydroponic farm include PVC pipies, styrofoam boxes to contain the mineral-enriched water solution, houses for water supply, and plastic cups where the plants will be placed. Plant seeds can also be bought from hardware shops but some specialized seeds, specifically for hydroponic farming, are available in farming shops found in malls.
For those who have even smaller places, especially condominum or apartment dwellers, a newly developed technique allows them to start a hydroponics farm literally from out of the box. The Simple Nutrient Addition Program (SNAP) kit is composed of a liquid solution mix that has been enriched with nutrients essential to the growth of plants. It also comes with a styrofoam box with holes on the top cover, big enough to hold styrofoam cups, where the plants are placed. Meanwhile, the holes underneath the cups allow the roots to reach the nutrients in the water.
SNAP was developed by the University of the Philippines Los Baños agricultural researchers, Primitivo Jose Santos and Eureka Teresa Ocampo. It has already been implemented in several areas in Metro Manila which are primarily community-based farming projects.
The SNAP kit is also cheap; a complete set (excluding the seeds) costs around P300. The SNAP mixture, which is around 500 ml, is mixed in about 10 liters of water and can stay for two weeks or so. The SNAP box can hold up to six plants. Remember, however, that the plants have to be grown in a seeding box (a few styrofoam cups would do) before being transferred to the SNAP box. There is no need for soil in the seeding box as only cocopeat, sold in hardware shops, is required.
SNAP is not sold in markets or malls. It is currently available only at the Bureau of Agriculture Research of the Department of Agriculture, Visayas Avenue, Diliman Quezon City. They can be contacted at telephone numbers (63-2) 928-8505 loc. 3026-3027, (63-2) 927-5691 or 927-0227.
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