If you think only humans and animals suffer from stress, think again: so do plants! Actually, all living things from the smallest to the biggest suffer from stress.
But unlike stress suffered by being that comes from the Animal Kingdom, the stress that plants are familiar with can outright kill them.
That’s right: plant stress can be deadly. And the moment you spot the signs of plant stress, you have to act quickly to save your crops because ignoring the signs will likely cause problems pretty quickly.
Here are seven ways that you can prevent plant stress in your hydroponics system:
This comes as no surprise; hydroponics systems are highly reliant on electricity unless of course you are using a completely passive system and you are refilling your nutrient reservoir manually with water.
But if you are using a recirculating system that returns water to the nutrient reservoir at regular intervals, your system needs to be hooked to an emergency power supply that can continue the re-circulation process despite power failures.
There are two ways to go about this: have a DC power supply ready or a hybrid DC system with solar panels attached, too.
Why the solar panels? The solar panels will be in charge of charging the batteries, and the batteries will be the ones attached to a DC-AC inverter, which will deliver AC current to your equipment, like your pumps and lighting.
By “regularly” we really mean twice a day. Once in the morning, and before evening. The reason for this is nearly all nutrient deficiency cases are caused by fluctuations in the water’s pH level.
By being aware of the trend of your nutrient solution’s pH level, you will be able to predict what could possibly happen to your plants.
Both high and low pH levels can cause plant stress. Yellow of the leaves, wilting, and mass die-offs, these are quite common when there’s poor water management.
Unfortunately, you have to learn how to balance the pH of your system fairly quickly, especially if you’ve already transplanted your seedlings.
No matter what type of grow media you are using, chances are there will be salt build-ups as the growing season progresses.
What are ‘salts,’ anyway? Salts are merely nutrients in crystallized form. What’s wrong with them?
Well, the fact that your nutrients are no longer in dissolved form despite being submerged in water means there’s going to be concentration issues, especially if the crystallization is found in the grow media itself.
Having too much of anything is bad, especially if you are a plant in a hydroponics system.
We recommend that you flush your system with a half-nutrient ratio or use a special flushing solutions that are specifically designed to rid your grow media and equipment of salt buildups.
This may sound excessive at some point, but the flushing really helps reduce the chances of toxicity, which can then lead to plant stress.
Increased salts around the root systems can also cause chemical burns to the roots and can also increase the evaporation rate of nutrients, leading to less absorption of nutrients and plant malnutrition.
The formation of algae in hydroponics setups is fairly common, as the slow water flow and the presence of nutrients are ideal for the growth of algae.
Many commercial growers don’t mind a bit of algae, as long as the growth is controlled and the algae growths do not hamper the normal functioning of the system itself.
Algae presents itself as either green or brown-looking mold, and you will most likely detect an earthy smell in the water, too.
Return lines that deliver spent water back to the nutrient reservoir usually develop lots of algae.
Algae not only compete with your crops for nutrients; it also causes blockages of important inlets and outlets in the system.
Since a hydroponics setup is reliant on good plumbing, algae can be an on-going source of plant stress.
Luckily, there are two ways to control algal growth. The first one, which we recommend, is simply scrubbing away the algae from the surfaces that you can access.
You can use special narrow brushes for pipes to remove algae from those dark spaces. The second option is the application of algaecide.
The problem with algaecide is it poses a threat to young, developing roots. This might be problematic if you have very young plugs that have just been transplanted from growing trays.
Be conservative when applying algaecide and be ready to flush your system if your plants suddenly become sick from it.
In a previous discussion, we talked about the importance of providing sufficient oxygen to the roots of plants in a hydroponics system.
Ponding and slow flow rates can cause insufficient oxygen exchange around the root area and can lead to subsequent root damage, disease, and plant die-off.
Make sure that there is always healthy circulation in your system and also make sure that there is no decomposing debris anywhere.
Fertilizers designed for hydroponics systems have an ideal and/or recommended quantities.
We highly suggest that you stick to the literature and compute up when you are also scaling up your system.
It’s easy to buffer your system when the pH goes up or down; physical insufficiency of nutrients can kill your plants.
Root and leaf diseases can be the result of insufficient nutrients, fungi, and bacteria.
In some cases, insect pests can also contribute to leaf rot and deformities. Be highly observant and check the possible causes of deformities in your plants.
In the event that there are possible fungal infections, remember that fungus spreads fast. The best way to go about it is to sterilize the system.
If there has already been a widespread infection, you may have to sacrifice the current batch of crops so you can start anew.
Never use a system again without cleaning and sterilizing it thoroughly. That’s like laying Russian roulette with your crops.