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Spain: Camp d'Elx introduces hydroponic crops to save water

The lack of water is leading producers to bet on innovative and more efficient techniques to ensure an efficient use of their resources. For example, several greenhouses of Camp d'Elx are incorporating hydroponic cultivation, which consists in the use of sacks with substrate, rock wool or coconut fibre for the planting of vegetables. This technique, which prevents plants from being in contact with the soil, requires less water and fertilizers.

Growers have also been introducing other systems in order to save water, including drip irrigation, which has been implanted in Camp d'Elx over the last few years with important investments. These advances have turned the province's agricultural sector into an example when it comes to water saving. However, it is always possible to go one step further. Proof of this is the implementation of the hydroponic cultivation system, which in addition to allowing vegetables to be planted without the use of soil, leads to a much more efficient use of the available water resources.

In Elche, it has been gradually implemented in greenhouse operations, with a preference for sacks filled with substrates, coconut fibre or rock wool for the planting of tomatoes, courgettes or cucumbers, among other vegetables. These bags are placed on top of plastics, so that all the water remains in the bag and does not leak to the ground, avoiding, at the same time, the appearance of soil diseases, such as fungi, which can affect the normal development of the crops.

The president of Asaja Jóvenes Agricultores de Elche, Pedro Valero, pointed out that although this farming system requires the crops to be irrigated several times per day, in the long run it makes it possible to optimise the water resources, because, as producer Mari Antón points out, "you water several times a day, but only for two minutes, and using only the amount of water needed by the plant. Nothing is lost," she says.

In this way, no water is wasted and the result is crops that meet every requirement; and that with a lower use of fertilizers. In fact, it is a system that has proliferated in areas that are considered unsuitable for cultivation.

This technique was already used in areas of Spain with more greenhouses, such as Almeria, and is now gaining ground in Elche. "It is the future for the agricultural sector," says Mari Antón, taking into account that it is a more sustainable option because of its rational use of water, and because in the long run it needs fewer products for the soil's disinfection.

Furthermore, experts argue that the combination of this technique with good greenhouse management makes it possible to obtain higher yields than with traditional methods.


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