The Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) is a soilless hydroponics growing system that involves growing plants in a shallow nutrient solution. The solution flows over the roots continuously, feeding them the nutrients and minerals they need to grow.
Hobbyists and commercial growers love this system for its simplicity and efficiency. But, as with any other growing system, it has both pros and cons. If you’re thinking of growing plants hydroponically, consider The Nutrient Film Technique pros and cons before deciding to use it. This article explores the advantages and disadvantages of the Nutrient Film Technique, backed by research.
Pros of Nutrient Film Technique
Easy to Set Up
Most growers with NFT systems will tell you that these systems are easy to set up and maintain. An NFT system takes up very little space and is perfect for small-scale farming. And because the system is so easy to set up, growers don’t need extensive knowledge or a lot of experience in hydroponics.
A study published in the Journal of Plant Nutrition revealed that when lettuce plants are grown in an NFT system, they produce higher yields than when grown in soil. One of the biggest benefits of the NFT system is it produces high yields. Because plants grown in NFT systems receive a continuous supply of nutrients, water, and oxygen, they grow fast and are healthy.
Research shows that NFT systems can reduce water usage by up to 90% compared to soil-based growing. These systems are highly water-efficient compared to traditional growing methods. The nutrient solution that flows over the plants’ roots is continually recirculated, so there’s no need for daily watering. NFT is a sustainable growing system that is perfect for water-scarce regions.
Lower Risk of Diseases and Pest Infestations
NFT systems are closed-loop systems, so there’s little to no exposure to external diseases and pests. The risk of crop loss due to root-knot nematodes and bacterial or fungal diseases is greatly reduced. Minimal fertilizers and pesticides are required, which is better for the environment. Overall, NFT is a more reliable growing system.
Increased Oxygen Supply
In NFT, more oxygen is delivered to plant roots, especially when the flow rate is increased per channel. The NFT solution usually contains oxygenated water. More oxygen is delivered to the roots, and freshly oxygenated water is delivered quickly to the roots. This ensures optimal root growth and improved nutrient uptake.
Consistent Crop Quality
In NFT, plants grow in a controlled environment which ensures consistent crop quality. Growers can monitor their systems regularly to ensure optimal growing conditions. They can schedule harvest times and predict harvest yields.
Cons of Nutrient Film Technique:
One of the main issues growers have to deal with is the risk of root drying. You have to set the flow rate of the nutrient solution properly, or else the roots will become dry and damage the plants. You must also ensure there’s a constant power supply so the pump can run throughout. If you don’t have backup power and there’s a power outage or pump failure, your plants may become stressed or die.
It’s important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions when mixing the nutrient solution because nutrient imbalances can cause your plants to die. Test the nutrient formulation regularly to see what you need to adjust. Insufficient monitoring can be your undoing. Poor plant growth and toxicities are usually caused by nutrient imbalances.
These can be caused by two things: bacterial growth or an improperly mixed nutrient solution. A dirty or malfunctioning hydroponic system can also cause pH fluctuations. These fluctuations can have a negative impact on plant growth and cause nutrient deficiencies or toxicities.
Algae growth is a common problem in NFT systems, especially during the warmer months. Algae growth can explode in the perfect environment due to factors like too much water, light, and warm temperatures. Algae can clog the system, preventing the nutrient solution from flowing and affecting plant growth.
High Initial Investment for Commercial Growers
Investment costs are higher for an NFT system because of the materials and power needed to build a hydroponic system. If you plan to set up a commercial operation, costs may exceed $10k. Before you set up an NFT system, consider the cost of products and equipment. But in most cases, the investment usually pays off.
The Nutrient Film Technique offers many advantages for growers. Its water efficiency, high yields, and ease of setup make it one of the best options for hobbyist and commercial growers alike. But like every farming system, it is not without drawbacks. If you want to build a great system with high yields, manage and monitor your growing system closely.