Hydroponics III

Course CodeBHT319
Fee CodeS2
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment

Learn more about Managing Hydroponic Systems

  • For people with some prior knowledge or experience in hydroponic growing
  • Explore the possibilities for serious hydroponic growing in greater depth
  • Discover how you need to adapt management practices to not only the crop you grow, but also the climate and system you are working with.
  • Develop a deeper understanding of nutrient solutions and water chemistry
  • Bed guided by experts in both horticultural science and hydroponics.
  • Our faculty includes people with decades of experience in commercial hydroponics
This course has been developed to complement Hydroponics I and II; and is intended for people who already have some experience and understanding of hydroponics.

Course Content and Structure

There are eight lessons in this course as follows:

1. Options for Managing Plant Culture - different approaches to cultural operations in hydroponics. Organics vs. hydroponics:Nutrient differences in food products. Is hydroponic food more or less healthy than organic? How feasible is organic hydroponics?

2. Planning a Hydroponic Operation - site and crop selection; matching a system with a crop, materials, resources & services required.

3. System Design Components - pumps, hardware, media, pipes, size, type, and so forth. Components for different types of culture.

4. Managing a Hydroponic System in Hot, Humid Conditions - tropical and subtropical climates or summer in temperate areas.

5. Water Management - water quality measures, treatments, runoff,testing, purifying water, water in recirculating and run-to-waste systems.

6. Nutrient Formulation - standard formulations, detecting toxicities & deficiencies.

7. Controlling Nutrient Levels - using EC and pH measures of concentration levels, solution temperatures, and maintaining nutrient levels.

8.Pest & Disease Control - nutrient and pH manipulation for control of pests & diseases, integrated pest management, common pests and diseases.

What You Will Do

  • Learn about the following:
    • Hydroponics versus Organic Crops
    • Feasibility of Organic Hydroponics
    • Hydroponic Food Health
    • Types of Hydroponic Culture -Water, Sand, Aggregate, Rockwool, Sawdust, Other
    • Planning a Hydroponic Sustem
    • Site Appraisal
    • Climate -temperature, frost, snow, humidity, light, dust, wind
    • Water Supply
    • Other Resources
    • Site Preparation
    • Site Layout
    • Matching a System with a Crop
    • Grow Bed and Tank Construction
    • Pumps and Pipes
    • Materials for Different Types of Culture based Systems
    • Materials for use with Sand Culture
    • Materials for Use with Aggregate Culture
    • Materials for Use with Rockwool Culture
    • Materials for Use with Sawdust Culture
    • Materials for Use with NFT
    • Aeroponics
    • Water
    • Chilling
    • Humidity and Temperature
    • Pest Control
    • Types of Tropical Culture
    • Sand Culture in Hot Humid Places
    • Ebb and Flow Systems
    • Modified Dynamic Root Floating (DRF) System
    • Deep Flow and Chilling
    • Water Sources -mains water, rain, underground, surface
    • Water Quality
    • Hard Water
    • Water pH
    • Water EC
    • Sodium Chloride
    • Turbidity
    • Smell and Colour
    • Iron Content
    • Carbon Dioxide
    • Water Recirculating Systems
    • Water Treatments
    • Compounds for Formulations
    • Dutch Classification of Nutrient Formulae
    • Nutrient Formulae
    • Nutrient Deficiencies and Toxicities
    • Nutrient Mobility
    • Detecting Nutrient Deficiencies
    • Toxicities
    • Nutrients and pH
    • EC and Nutrient Solution Levels
    • Maintaining Nutrient Levels
    • Nutrient Temperatures
    • Integrated Pest Management
    • Common Pests and Diseases


  • Describe different approaches to cultural operations
  • Demonstrate an awareness of similarities and differences between organic and hydroponic production techniques
  • Describe how to plan a hydroponic operation through site and crop selection, matching a specific crop, materials, resources and services required, and site layout; for different specific crops.
  • Discuss system design components such as pumps, grow beds, solution tanks, media and pipes in terms of size, type, and options for different cultures and specific crops.
  • Provide details of how to manage a hydroponic system in hot, humid conditions such as in tropical or subtropical areas, or in summer, in temperate areas, for specific crops.
  • Explain options for water management such as water sources, quality, testing, treatments, and use in recirculating and non recirculating systems.
  • Recommend awareness of natural and other methods of pest and disease control such as biological controls, as part of IPM and nutrient and pH manipulation for different pests and diseases.
  • Explain and recommend different standards of nutrient formulation, and advanced methods of detecting toxicities and deficiencies in specific crops.
  • Recommend methods to control nutrient level concentrations by taking EC, pH and temperature measurements, and maintaining nutrient levels for different specific crops.

How to Manage Hydroponic Nutrition

Hydroponic systems are reliant on the composition and formulation of the nutrient solution to supply all the essential elements required for optimal plant growth and yields. However, nutrient solutions are complex and the composition of these changes as they flow through the root system and irons are extracted. Many problems in hydroponic systems are either nutrient or environmentally based, making these the main areas where troubleshooting skills need to be developed.

The most common nutrient problem is the development of deficiencies of one or more elements, either due to rapid uptake or unsuitable nutrient formulations and management, which are common mistakes made by many hydroponic growers.

Deficiencies in hydroponic production are more common than toxicities as plant uptake of many elements has the potential to strip out nutrients at a rapid rate, particularly from recirculating solutions. The most common deficiency problems in hydroponic crops are potassium in fruiting plants such as tomatoes, iron under certain environmental conditions, nitrogen in some highly vegetative crops, and calcium in many species such as lettuce, tomatoes and capsicum.

To complicate hydroponic plant nutrition further, deficiencies as they occur in different crops may or may not be a result of an actual deficiency in the nutrient solution. Potassium can certainly be stripped from a nutrient solution rapidly as fruit develop and expand, and also because luxury uptake occurs in many crops. However iron, calcium and magnesium deficiencies on leaves and fruit occur even when there is more than sufficient of these elements in solution. These induced deficiencies often fool growers into thinking there is a problem with the formulation of their nutrient, when the cause is often more complex.

Iron deficiency is common under cool growing conditions, where the root system might have become saturated, damaged or where the pH is running high.

Magnesium deficiency on crops such as tomatoes can be induced by high levels of potassium uptake. 

Calcium deficiency which shows as tip burn on lettuce and blossom end rot of tomatoes and peppers is a calcium transport problem within the plant, rather than a lack of calcium in the solution. It is induced by environmental conditions such as high humidity which restricts transpiration and calcium distribution.

Working out if deficiency symptoms on a crop are actual or induced by other factors becomes the vital first step to solving such problems. The simplest way for a grower to determine this is to have a full solution or leachate analysis carried out to rule out any deficiency in the plant’s feed regime. Low levels of an element in solution (below the optimum being aimed for) certainly indicate that the nutrient is the problem and boosting levels of the deficient element will rapidly help correct the situation. Some deficiencies, particularly of the trace elements such as iron, benefit from foliar application of these nutrients to help correct the problem in the short term. These however are only a quick fix and the missing nutrient needs to be supplied in the root zone at the correct levels over the long term. Iron foliar sprays are particularly effective where cool conditions or root zone damage have limited iron uptake and caused the distinctive iron chlorosis symptoms on the new leaves.


More from ACS