By CSU Linda Langelo, Horticulture Program Associate
Hydroponic systems seem to be cropping up in different locations and in different venues throughout Colorado. In Northeast Colorado, a cooperative venture between Northeastern Junior College (NJC) and Colorado State University (CSU) Extension was designed by Dr. Brent Young to “explore the possibility of using intensive, high value, vegetable production as a means to bring the next generation back to the family farm. In turn, this would also allow for the creation of profitable small farms and provide locally produced, healthy food for our community.” In this greenhouse, in order to keep this hydroponic demonstration operation running smoothly, Dr. Young and Brian Kailey with CSU Extension train and oversee three work study students from NJC.
There are two systems that makeup the fresh food production in this NJC greenhouse hydroponic demonstration. The first system called Nutrient Film Technology (NFT) is a system, where the nutrient solution constantly recirculates through the system. The trays slope slightly allowing a film of liquid to travel down the tray to feed the plants. In the NFT system, they chose to start growing lettuce. Why lettuce? Lettuce is a crop that requires lowlight and low temperatures and for some lettuce types such as Bibb lettuce has a quicker turn around time for fresh food production. The down side is that lettuce is a perishable crop. The best types of lettuce for hydroponic systems are Butterhead, Loose Leaf, Leaf and Cutting. The four varieties of Salanova used in the greenhouse are listed as follows:
- Salanova Red Sweet
- Salanova Green Butter
- Salanova Red Butter
- Salanova Summer Crisp
According to Johnny's Seeds, "Salanova® is higher yielding than traditional salad mix even though it is grown as single heads, the same way that head lettuce is grown. It's unique core structure allows fully mature heads to be easily cut into uniform leaves once harvested, increasing efficiency." There are many different varieties of Salanova which include both red and green, flat (oak) or frilly, crisp or butterleaf. This lettuce has more leaves than a standard head all uniformly sized and growing in a rosette pattern.
At this time, the NJC cafeteria has all their lettuce needs met for their current menu. This NFT system produces 72 heads a week.
NFT system, top left and plant nursery; Photo Credit: Young and Kailey
|NFT system. Photo Credit: Young and Kailey
NFT system with Salanova Lettuce. Photo Credit: Young and Kailey
The second system is called a Bato or "Dutch" Bucket system. Vine crops are grown in these Bato Buckets. It is known as a "feed to drain" system. The delivery of nutrients is set on a timer for several times a day at short three to five minutes. In a Bato Bucket system, cucumbers, tomatoes and peppers are grown. The varieties used are listed below:
- Vertina F1
- Corito F1
- Golden Sweet F1
- Rebelski F1
- Sympathy F1
- Sprinter F1
Currently with a 24 Bato Bucket system, they are projecting 10 lbs of tomatoes, 14 cucumbers and 12 peppers per week of fresh produce.
|Bato buckets ready for planting. Photo credit Young and Kailey.
|Bato bucket system. Photo credit Young and Kailey.
If you would like more information on this project please contact Brent or Brian as listed below:
Dr. Brent Young @ (970)491-4425 firstname.lastname@example.org
Brian Kailey @ (970)522-3200 ext. 3 email@example.com