Constant Water Table: A New Technique for Hydroponic Lettuce Production

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  • 1 Dept. of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, Univ. of Kentucky, Lexington, KY 40546-0091.

Lettuce was produced using a new concept of hydroponics. The system is based on maintaining a constant water table (CWT). Plants grew on a flat surface and obtained the nutrient solution from capillary matting. One end of the mat was suspended in a trough containing the nutrient solution. The distance between the nutrient solution in the trough and the bench top was kept constant with a water level controller. The nutrient solution was resupplied from a larger reservoir. A ground cover on top of the capillary mat provided nutrient movement to the roots but prevented root penetration. Lettuce seedlings, germinated in small plug trays, were placed in holes cut in a 2.5-cm-thick styrofoam sheet. The styrofoam provided seedling support as well as protected the roots. Roots grew on the surface of the ground cover and were easily removed at harvest. The CWT could be adjusted by changing the height of the water level controller. The CWT concept of hydroponic production does not require pumps nor large storage reservoirs. No runoff occurs; the only nutrient solution used is that required by plants and a minimum amount of evaporation from the ground cover surface. Disease potential should be less than in other systems.

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