Soil degradation as a consequence of unsustainable management and inappropriate practices have positioned hydroponics and substrate cultivation as alternative techniques for vegetable production.
In Argentina, these cultivation techniques have been gaining more and more ground. "The system began to be implemented in the country's ornamental sector more than 20 years ago. In the last 5 years it has grown considerably and has spread to other sectors, such as horticulture, citrus production, and even in the production of green forage," stated Analia Puerta, the national coordinator of the Tierra Sana Project carried out by INTA and UNIDO (United Nations Organization for Industrial Development), within the framework of the Montreal Protocol. "Hydroponics increases productivity and profitability by 30 to 50% thanks to the greater efficiency in the use of the surface and natural resources needed. In addition, it reduces the use of agrochemicals," she stressed.
The most relevant hydroponic productions correspond to leafy vegetables, such as lettuce, arugula, and chard. The most outstanding products in the substrate system are the cultivation of tomatoes, strawberries, and, to a lesser extent, peppers.
Both techniques allow producing fresh vegetables in places where the soil is not suitable for production or where there is no soil, such as in patios, terraces, and landfills, Puerta highlighted. In addition, they promote the production and marketing of locally grown products. "It's important to highlight that this production alternative can be adapted to different levels of production, from family farming to small, medium, and large companies," Puerta stated.
This production system has been consolidated as a technology of recognized efficiency and massive implementation in developed and highly technical countries, such as Japan, Holland, Spain, and the US.
Nowadays, there are commercial and self-consumption productions all over the country. There also are promising experiences for the supply of Argentina's Antarctica. "In this sense, INTA has been contributing to the consolidation of this production alternative, through numerous research and extension activities carried out by the agents of the country's different units," Puerta said.
This will be one of the topics that will be addressed on March 30 and April 6 and 8, 2021, at the International Symposium on Substrate Culture and Hydroponics virtual meeting. The event is part of the 41st Argentine Congress of Horticulture, organized by the Argentine Association of Horticulture (ASAHO).