“An atom of nitrogen is an atom of nitrogen, no matter whether it came from a pile of compost or a sack of chemical fertilizer. This is a basic fact of botany, and therefore, there is no nutritional difference between a plant raised ‘organically’ and a plant that is grown ‘chemically’. I’m right here with you ‘organic’ gardeners when it comes to farming in soil, but hydroponics is a different breed of cat entirely. So please don’t criticize hydroponics on strictly emotional grounds.”
— Mother Earth News, Nov-Dec 1977, p.97
The minerals that a plant requires for growth are absorbed by a plant’s root system after they have been broken down into their elements and dissolved by the water. In soil, this breakdown process includes weathering, leaching, and bacterial decay of dead animals, animal waste and dead plant material. By the time the plant ingests these mineral elements, they are no different from prepared “chemical” elements.
Many organic gardeners are put off hydroponics because of the necessity for using “chemical”, “non-organic” nutrients. This misconception has unfortunately kept many people away from hydroponics.
So why the controversy?
The widespread and negative overuse of chemical fertilizers for soil agriculture has destroyed essential bacteria and other organisms in the soil, as well as contributed to the pollution of rivers and excessive runoff. Too many nitrates can destroy the bacterial balance in soil and prevent it from being able to continue its normal regenerative process of creating minerals. It’s thus “dead” soil, and will only support decent plant growth if further huge doses of fertilizers are added.
Additionally, with all the organic hype in the media, many stores are now selling Organic Produce. However, much of it is imported from outside of the United States. Therefore, that produce is subjected to another country’s organic standards, which tend to be very lenient or non-existent!
When there’s no soil, there’s no problem!