All growers are after the same thing:
Optimum crop performance with minimal effort and expense.
Automation helps accomplish this. Amhydro is privileged to have been working with Autogrow Systems of New Zealand for over 16 years. Autogrow specializes in automation for all types of growing environments: large to small greenhouses, propagation rooms, CEA (controlled environment agriculture) growing areas, and all forms of growing from hydroponics, to coco coir, to soil. Amhydro is an exclusive distributor of specific Autogrow controllers in the US and provides unparalleled product support.
Maintaining a perfect nutrient balance at all times is essential to plant vigor and health. Healthy plants grow stronger, produce greater harvests and are less susceptible to pests and disease. Maintaining a nutrient reservoir by hand is very time consuming and prone to errors, with the addition of make-up water and up/down spikes in pH and EC. Plants prefer consistency at the root zone.
Better to Automate
If you automate with the pH Mini Doser, your pH will always stay right where you set it. If you automate with the IntelliDose Nutrient & pH Controller, your pH AND EC will always stay right where you set it... ALL THE TIME! With complete data logging, remote access via PC and an easy-to-use interface, growers of all skill levels can be assured that they can trust these tried and true dosers to keep a perfectly balanced nutrient recipe.
Once automated nutrient balance is achieved, automatic climate control is next. The climate in your growing area must afford superior transpiration levels for vigorous crop performance. When temperature, humidity, light and CO2 levels are working in unison, plant response is optimum. The IntelliClimate Intelligent Climate & Grow Room Controller monitors and controls fans, air conditioners, dehumidifiers, humidifiers, heaters, multiple light banks, CO2, intruder alarms, multiple environment sensors and outside temp sensors. With a PC connected, you will have remote access to scheduling, data logging, and up-to-the-minute status reports on your climate, allowing you to make necessary changes from anywhere!
Learn more about automation, pH, nutrients, lighting and more....
Basics of CEA
In a growroom, you are playing Mother Nature by supplying all the elements of plant growth. 9 times out of 10, if you are having problems achieving optimum plant growth, one of these 5 basics is being ignored or overlooked. It's all about isolating these variables and dialing it in. Let us help you.
The solvent which dissolves minerals, making them available to plant roots. Whether you grow organically (in soil) or hydroponically (with liquid nutrients), plants can only assimilate minerals in inorganic form, as ions. Knowing the elemental composition of your water greatly enhances your ability to achieve optimum performance. The key to optimum growth is transpiration, the moving of water through the vascular system of the plant. Know your water source. Does it have Chlorine, Calcium, Sodium? These all affect plant performance. You can have your water tested and evaluated by American Hydroponics.
Imagine you have a can a tuna with no can opener. pH is the can opener for nutrition. You can provide every element in the perfect proportions and if your pH is too high (7+) or too low (5-), then crucial minerals are "locked out." They are unavailable to your plants. The best pH for most plants is 5.8-6.5. A simple adjustment in pH makes a huge difference in plant growth. What is the pH of your source water, your soil, your nutrient solution?
Whether you go "organic" in soil or "hydro" in inert media, nutrient balance and availability are crucial. You can kill your plants with kindness, as overfeeding is a common problem. Organic amendments must be allowed to integrate with soil because the breakdown of organic compounds by micro organisms is what feeds the plant. In hydro, a well-balanced nutrient is easy to come by. Just be sure the nutrient strength is matched to the specific plant's needs and your nutrient reservoir is refreshed at regular intervals, to avoid accumulation of excess minerals. Remember: higher nutrient strength for tighter growth, fruiting and flowering, lower nutrient strength for vegetative, fast loose growth. For optimum plant performance, nutrient amendments such as Dark Energy, Super Nova and SuperCharger aid in the uptake of nutrients by the plant.
Roots exchange gasses, as do the leaf surfaces. Soils must be loose and friable with plenty of air space among soil particles for roots to breathe. In hydroponics, the media (perlite, gro-rocks, rockwool etc...) are all designed to provide maximum air space for healthy roots. Waterlogged roots spell trouble: no oxygen. Ebb Flow irrigation systems push stale gasses out during flood and pull fresh oxygen in during drain. Your nutrient reservoir must be oxygenated with venturis or aerators to keep the solution fresh and vital. Agitation of the solution with oxygen releases ethylene and CO2 (waste gas by-products from roots) and keeps nutrients aerobic to create a hostile environment for detrimental pathogens. Water temps above 80 degrees do not hold oxygen well. It is extremely important to aerate your reservoir at higher temperatures.
- Temperature, Humidity, Light and Airflow
Below 55 degrees, most plants do not grow. In a controlled environment, if air temp is high (above 80F) and humidity is high (above 80%), then air flow is crucial for plants to take up Calcium (a non-mobile element) and transpire effectively. A rule of thumb is 40 air exchanges per hour to evacuate humidity, keep temps down and take advantage of 375 ppm CO2 in the air. Without adequate CO2, plants will not grow. 90% of the Carbon which makes up the cells of the plant come from the air, in the form of CO2. If you are going to inject CO2, do so in the morning hours, up to 800 ppm. Research has found that during the first 4 hours of daylight, plants take up as much CO2 as they will be able to process for the rest of the day. If you have a few growing cycles under your belt, it will be easier to tell the difference by supplying CO2. Remember, if you are using a gas burner for CO2, you will generate heat. If heat is what you need to evacuate from your room, use bottled CO2. There are sophisticated controls available for this gas. Light is key and is often times the "critical limiting factor" to plant growth. Turning watts into plant growth is the name of the game. Talk with our expert staff to make sure you have enough lumens to achieve optimum growth rates. If plants are stretching, there is not enough light. If leaf edges are turning up or down, there may be too much light. It is crucial to make sure all your plants receive equal light, this can be achieved by using reflective wall coverings to bounce light back into your growing area. Remember: HID light diminishes the square of the distance from the source, which means, the light 3 feet away from your lamp is only one-ninth as strong. Be sure to ask one of our expert staff to help you design your controls for optimum performance from your grow room.
Contributed by Jeff Broad of Autogrow Systems
Whether you use regular hydroponic nutrients or an organic "tea" nutrient solution, it is vital to keep the pH of your nutrient tank within fairly close limits. This can be done manually by regularly checking the pH level and adding a pH adjuster solution (acid or alkali). With a small tank, you will need to do this at least every day! The danger is that you become lazy or forget because it is a pretty boring thing to do. The alternative is to use an on-demand pH doser to continually measure the pH and automatically add acid or alkali to keep the pH level spot-on.
Perhaps one of the most overlooked aspects of gardening, pH is very important in hydroponics and organic hydroponics as well as in soil gardening. pH is a measure of the acidity or alkalinity of a liquid and is measured on a scale of 1 to 14 with 7.0 pH being the central or "neutral" point where the solution is neither acidic nor alkaline. Below 7pH, the solution is acidic, whilst above 7 it is alkaline. The further from 7.0 pH, the stronger the acid or alkali. You might have expected plants to grow best at the neutral point, but, strangely, they prefer it to be slightly acidic.
Technically, the term pH refers to the potential hydrogen-hydroxyl ion content of a solution. Salts in solution ionize into positive and negative ions. If the solution has more hydrogen (positive) ions than hydroxyl (negative) ions then it is acidic (below 7.0pH). Conversely if the solution has more hydroxyl ions than hydrogen it is alkaline or base (above 7.0pH). Pure water has an exact balance of hydrogen (H+) and hydroxyl (OH-) ions and is therefore pH neutral (pH 7.0).
There are three main reasons why pH is important:
- The various nutrients required by the plant are more easily absorbed by the roots at particular values of pH. Every element is different and the ideal pH from this point of view has to be a compromise. Many growers adjust the pH value to 5.8, which suits most nutrients and most crops.
- If the pH is allowed to wander out of range too much, some of the compounds in the nutrient formulation can be de-natured. The acid or alkali can break the atomic bonds, allowing the free ions to then re-combine with other atoms. This creates new compounds, which may be either insoluble (and precipitate out) or may be unusable by the plant. There's little point in spending your hard earned dollars on expensive nutrients just to wreck them by having poor pH control.
Some of the micronutrient compounds are difficult to keep in solution and tend to oxidize or precipitate out of solution. For example, Iron Sulphate is very unstable and tends to rapidly precipiate. When this happens, it is no longer availabale to the crop and will also clog filters and drippers. This is why iron and sometimes maganese, zinc and copper are supplied in cheleated form. Chelated metals are much more soluble and stable, BUT even these are vulnerable to destruction if pH is allowed to rise. For example, Fe-EDTA, the most common form of chelated iron, will start to precipitate if the pH is allowed to rise much above 6pH. The more expensive Fe-DPTA will remain soluble up to 7pH. So, to some extent, if you use lower cost nutrients you will need to be much more careful with pH control.
Crops seem to have their own preference for pH and thrive at certain levels. For example, acid loving crops such as tomatoes, strawberries, cucumber, carrots, etc, thrive with the pH between 5.5 and 6.0, whilst some such as onions, cabbage and cataloupe are alkali loving and prefer the pH to be around 6.5 or even higher. Most other crops are happy with a pH around 5.8 to 6.