Hydroponics in Guyana ensuring food security through environmentally friendly agricultural techniques
“One people One nation One destiny”
In their drive to create vibrant housing schemes the Government of Guyana has chosen to use arable agricultural lands along the Low Coastal Plain. As result, the farming of produce has an increased opportunity cost. Thus, for farming to remain a successful venture and a crucial one necessary for population growth and sustenance the use of various agricultural techniques can be ventured / explored.
One agricultural technique is hydroponics which remains a viable alternative as the coastal plains are being “developed” with real estate. In the low coastal plain various agricultural techniques must be pursued to ensure soil conservation of the remaining arable lands. Hydroponics is the answer because it does not require the use of arable land. On the other hand, it requires a saltine mineral solution to support the growth of crops instead of soil (“soiless cultivation”).Thus, it is a good substitute with the demand for housing increasing on the low coastal plain.It is evident that farms can gravitate towards a less developed area which the hydroponic technique can strive and produce fresh produce year round.
Hydroponics should be considered because there exists many factors which adversely affect the production of crop and food production in open field areas:
· Increasing ultraviolet radiation.
· Decreasing fresh water supplies and water quality.
· Increasing top soil erosion and soil degradation.
· Increasing resistance of insect pests and plant diseases to traditional chemical controls.
· A convergence of natural cycles leading to extreme weather conditions.
The need to conserve arable land on the Coast is of utter importance since most crops that are exported must leave via Georgetown therefore it would be more cost effective for farmers to have their farms near the coast to reduce transportation cost. With hydroponics cash crops that were once grown using arable land can now be grown using air and a mineral water solution on any kind of flat surface. Because of this, useful agricultural lands are now available for crops such as rice which cannot be grown using “soilless cultivation”.
Moreover hydroponics has an additional environmental benefit- it reduces the chances of water pollution. The sources of water pollution are usually associated with farming activities originating mainly from fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides with the run-off from these chemicals.As a result water ways surrounding farmlands are contaminated. When hydroponics is used instead this “run-off” is avoided because all the necessary minerals and nutrients needed to support plant growth is administered directly to the plant root. The use of hydroponics in the cultivation of crops eliminates the chances of E-coli contamination since this issue is usually associated with improperly composted manures and irrigation water flowing through nearby cattle farms and hydroponics requires no irrigation and manure given that this method utilizes soilless cultivation.
Although hydroponics may use additional minerals in cultivating crops, a smaller dosage is required because these minerals are applied directly to the root. As a result farmers have cost savings and fewer chemicals are applied producing natural crops. Through this method chemicals such as herbicides are rendered as being superfluous therefore these toxic chemicals are not released into the environment. In addition the use of pesticides is reduced since less pests attack the crops because most pests are found in the soil. If farmers wish to completely eliminate the use of pesticides when using soilless cultivation they may use integrated pest management technique, a method that promotes the use of a balance of beneficial insects that are natural predators to destructive garden pests.
The conservation of the limited amount of fresh water available on Earth is of vital importance because without any fresh water agricultural activities cannot take place and as a result no food will be produced. On the other hand, hydroponics utilizes approximately 10-15% of the water a farmer normally uses for an open field situation to produce a similar amount of crops. The reason for such a high reduction in water usage is due to the recycling of water which is delivered to the roots as opposed to the excess water used in irrigation with the traditional methods.
In Guyana hydroponics is likely to play a pivotal role in ensuring food security since it is allows for the production of cash crops in a cost effective manner.Consequently, guaranteeing affordable access to food for persons living in Guyana. Furthermore, farmers benefit because the yield of their crops are likely to increase significantly when compared to traditional methods .
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The FSN Forum is supported by the project Coherent food security responses: incorporating right to food into global and regional food security initiatives.