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JLeslie's avatar

Do hydroponic crops have as many nutrients as crops grown in the soil?

Asked by JLeslie (60734points) May 24th, 2010

I also wonder if hydroponic crops require fewer pesticides?

I really think our fruits and veggies for the most part today do not have the nutrients they once did. I don’t know if there is regulation on crop rotation or fertilizing the soil, but what I do know is many of my friends and myself, even those of us who eat fairly healthy, still are dificient in some vitamins and minerals. This makes me question the food we eat.

It seems with hydroponic crops we might be able to control this better? But, I know very little on the subject.

Also, does the government or farms themselves do any type of regular testing for nutrients in our fruits and vegetables. It would be nice if we could know vitamin content, even if it was just an average, of apples from a particular farm, or broccoli, etc.

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6 Answers

lilikoi's avatar

I think it all depends on how you are farming and what you are growing. There are different approaches to hydroponics and farming in soil.

I don’t think you have greater control with hydroponics. In both cases, you can monitor nutrient levels and take measures to ensure that the appropriate nutrients are there. The soil shouldn’t be going anywhere. If it is, you have an erosion problem that needs to be mitigated. To me, it is just the medium that differs – water vs soil. Hydroponics can be water intensive. Perhaps it is more convenient to maintain control over nutrient levels with hydroponics since you are simply adding stuff to water, whereas with soil you have to test, till, rotate crops, etc.

Pesticides aren’t necessarily required. They are used for efficiency’s sake I think and to save labor costs.

I have also heard this about produce lacking nutrients. I’m not sure that the government monitors this. There may be a few studies done, but I can’t imagine that all farms are monitored closely. There are too many, and a LOT of produce is imported from other countries. Plus, I think nutrient levels in harvested produce change over time….

I hope someone else here knows more about this. Great question.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

Hydroponic and conventional soil grown crops should be about identical in nutrients. As @lilikoi said, the only difference is the growth media. The hydroponically grown crops usually require less pesticide application, as soil-borne pests are not a threat.

Organically grown vegetables have slightly higher amounts of some vitamins and minerals. This may be more due to the fact that we organic farmers tend to plant older, traditional, non-hybrid varieties; these had been selected for nutritional value, rather than market characteristics (appearance, shelf- life, etc). The main advantage of organic, however, is that the plants are not exposed to pesticides, herbicides and the fertilizers are natural.

ETpro's avatar

So long as you provide adequate nutrients for the specific plant, yes, hydroponically grown plants should be just as nutritious and tasty as those grown in soil. Remember, the roots of soil-based plants get all their nutrients from minerals absorbed in ground water, so there is no difference in how the minerals get into the plnat’s circulatory system and get metabolized.

Smashley's avatar

So it’s like: yo, “You could eat your dinner, or we could feed it to you through a tube.”

And I’m like: “Woah! So I’d be getting the same nutrition?”

And they’re all like: “Basically, we just take what we know you eat, mush it up, and deliver the same nutrients into your stomach where they are absorbed.”

So I go: “So, you could also feed me, like, super efficiently with the nutrients I need to live? That dinner I was going to eat was pretty high in saturated fat and low in essential nutrients.”

And they say: “Of course we could! The nutrients you normally consume aren’t always ideal. We are simply feeding the organism, that’s you, in a controlled, efficient, way. So shall we go with the tube?”

“OK yeah, you talked me into it.”

6rant6's avatar

With precious few exceptions (vitamins in some kids foods, I think) food regulation has mostly taken the form of disclosure or exclusion rather than inclusion.

So someone has a mutation of oh, let’s say tomatoes, that grows faster, and lasts longer on the shell. Coincidentally, it has less nutrition and less taste. This is a realistic and common trade off, by the way.

To sell the tomatoes without processing, the food regs would not pertain – they are still tomatoes. People may decide they won’t buy them because of the taste. But no one will notice the nutrient decline, most likely. And if they put them into tomato sauce, they may augment the taste with salt, or sugar, or even oregano. Still the government would not have anything to say about it.

It’s a bad situation isn’t it? Wish I had an answer.

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