While root growth and health commonly go ignored by many indoor gardeners, the healthy functioning of roots is vital to plant productivity. Hydroponic methods enable specific demands on the root systems' physiology.
In most soil systems, plant roots have the freedom to grow and stretch out far as they need to. Most plants will send tap roots deep into the soil in search of nutrients and water, while other species develop shallow but highly branched root systems. This is due to the fact that root morphology depends not only on genetics but also on the soil and water constraints from the root zone.
In hydroponics, the available root volume is highly restricted. This results in root density being considerably higher than in most soil-based systems. However, with water, nutrients, and oxygen delivered directly to the root surface on a frequent basis, hydroponic plants don't need to expend as much energy on growing roots for long-distance foraging.
While we may feel secure in the fact that our plants are being provided plentiful supplies of root-essential oxygen, moisture, and nutrient ions, there are other root physiology factors in soilless systems that need some consideration. Root function is dependent on a wide range of interrelated factors.
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