Hydroponics - Pest and Disease Control
As with soil-based gardens, hydroponic plants require good
pest and disease maintenance controls. Failure to do so creates the same
results as with 'ordinary' gardens (i.e. spindly or dead plants).
However, managing the hydroponic garden is even trickier,
since disease and pests have it much easier in this setting. Plants are
continuously kept wet, either immersed in water ('true' hydroponics) or
continually sprayed (aeroponics) or reside in a permanently wet medium such as
perlite or sand. Fortunately, as with soil-based gardens, there is a large
array of available methods to manage the problem.
Controlling Pests and Disease
Using beneficial life forms is one popular way to control
unwanted pests, including certain types of bacteria and fungi. These can help
to control spider mites and other invaders by crowding them out, eating them or
releasing compounds toxic to the pest. They're known as beneficial organisms
because they do all that without damaging the plants themselves.
~ Different types of pesticides are available, too.
Pesticidal soaps have been in use for centuries and still provide effective and
non-toxic ways to keep the pests down. One category, called botanicals, is
compounds released by plants themselves that have been combined into an
easy-to-use pest control method. Botanicals break down naturally from exposure
to air and water and are brilliant because they leave no harmful chemicals
~ Neem oil can control over 400 different types of pests
that commonly invade gardens, including hydroponic ones. A simple spray to the
leaves can often eliminate common pests. The bugs absorb the oil, which limits
their ability to reproduce, leading to a lower population. For more serious infestations,
many commercial pesticides continue to work well.
~ Pyrethrum continues to be a safe and effective means of
control. Though it sounds man-made it is actually derived from flowers. This
class of natural compounds released by plants are extracted and used in many
commercial insecticides. Dosage is low, so the compound is very safe when used
correctly (always read the label). Azatrol is a broad spectrum insecticide that
provides another easy control method over most common pests.
White flies, aphids, mites and other pests can be a problem
in hydroponic settings, just as in soil-based gardens. Powdery mildew is
common. In fact, because of the continual moisture, bugs and pests have a
'friendly' environment. Making it 'unfriendly' is straightforward enough, using
fungicides and organicides. Sulfur-based compounds can help control white
flies, mealy bugs, thrips and more.