Article by UF/IFAS Extension Broward County Urban Horticulture Agent Lorna Bravo
Food security is a critical concern as the global population expands, and natural resources dwindle. Smart solutions for more efficient farming, hardier crops, alternative sources of nutrition, and safer food packaging and storage are essential. The UF/IFAS Extension Broward County Master Gardener Program introduced a new Master Gardener class module, Sustainable Hydroponics 101, for Master Gardener Volunteers. The new class module brings awareness about the importance of sustainable home food production, water use efficiency, and nutrient saving principles in urban spaces. The demand for trained farmers will increase in our society in the coming years. The foundations that Master Gardener Volunteers lay in our community about the importance of sustainable urban food systems in urban populations will be invaluable.
In May 2019, Broward County Master Gardener program launched the first hydroponic workshop to 23 Master Gardener Volunteers with a focus on water use efficiency. The Broward County Master Gardener Program has been collaborating since 2019 with Dr. Germán V. Sandoya-Miranda, assistant professor of lettuce breeding and genetics at Everglades Research and Education Center. One of Dr. Sandoya’s research projects is to develop lettuce cultivars with good horticultural traits for Florida production.
Did you know that the United States is the second-largest producer of lettuce in the world?
It is a 3 Billion Dollar Business to the entire USA which situates second after China in the production of this leafy vegetable. Lettuce is one of the top ten most consumed vegetables in the USA providing a source of unappreciated nutrients to consumers.
Dr. Sandoya teaches one workshop during UF/IFAS Extension Broward County Master Class Course Title “Lettuce Production in Florida for Master Gardener Volunteers”. The new hydroponic seminar, along with his lettuce class for Master Gardener Volunteers, will be helping evaluate UF lettuce lines suitable for hydroponics.
Broward County Master Gardener Volunteer Class 2019 Results
During the Class of 2019, Master Gardener Volunteers learned how to build their own hydroponic floating bed system to test hydroponically grown Florida lettuce as an alternative crop for local food production. From 23 Master Gardeners, 19 were satisfied with the workshop and results. Master Gardener Volunteers increased their understanding of basic hydroponics.
Broward County Master Gardener Volunteer Class 2020
This year, twenty-two new Master Gardener Volunteer trainees will be learning how to build and use a basic deep-water culture technique with 5-gallon buckets. The 5-Gallon bucket system will help them evaluate three different lettuce experimental lines from Dr. German’s Sandoya’s breeding program. The Master Gardener Volunteer Trainees will be helping gather data during the Summer of 2020 on three lettuce breeding lines for Dr. Sandoya’s Research project. Participants will apply the skills taught during the Master Gardener class and will apply the hands-on practice in making their water quality measurements; proper fertilizer use and practice nutrient load reduction in hydroponics. They will also be weighing lettuce heads, identifying disorders as tip burn, bolting, and evaluating taste, and other checklist items.
“I am looking forward to participating in the KydroKit Project. This initiative will help us set up a hydroponic system at home, and will let us experiment with growing different types of lettuces in an urban hydroponic agriculture system. Having more control of nutrients, PH and the growing environment, while at the same time reducing soil-related insects, fungi and bacteria, sounds exciting. Soil is a non-renewable resource; having sustainable alternatives to growing our food is critical in urban areas. Furthermore, given that agriculture uses about 70% of water worldwide, having an alternative that reduces and optimizes water usage is key for the future” – Julieta Ross, 2020 MGV Trainee in Davie, FL
Why Grow Hydroponically?
Plants grow faster. Experts suggest that plants grow at least 20 percent more quickly in hydroponic systems than they do in soil.
No soil is required. This can be a distinct advantage in areas where existing garden soil is poor or for apartment dwellers who don’t have access to garden plots.
Hydroponic growing takes less space. Plants don’t need to develop extensive root systems to obtain the nutrients they need, so they can be packed together tightly—another advantage for those who must garden indoors.
Saves Water. The reservoirs used in hydroponics are enclosed to prevent evaporation, and they are sealed systems. The plants will take up only the water they need.
Nutrient Saving. Though hydroponics relies heavily on water, it uses less because water and nutrients can be recycled and reused.
In a time where land and water are becoming scarce, and the population grows, hydroponics is an appealing alternative for our future food security.
Are you interested to Evaluate UF/IFAS Lettuce lines?
Just “LETTUCE” know.
Interested to Join our UF/IFAS Extension Broward County Master Gardener Volunteer Program?
You can apply at http://sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu/broward/urban-horticulture-and-natural-resources/broward-master-gardener/. UF/IFAS Extension Broward County Classes start every year in February, and they are 15 weeks long. Classes take place Wednesdays and Saturdays. Contact Master Gardener Coordinator Lorna Bravo at firstname.lastname@example.org
UF/IFAS Extension South Florida Urban Agriculture Initiative
The South Florida Hydroponics Initiative is a collaborative effort between county Extension faculty from Broward, Hardee, Hillsborough, Miami-Dade, and Palm Beach, counties, and statewide faculty of the University of Florida united in the UF/IFAS Coalition of Florida Extension Educators (CAFE Latino). The group came together to develop educational materials and activities to the growing Latinx population in English and Spanish and increase the reach of UF/IFAS Cooperative Extension. The team utilized the current initiative of using hydroponics to raise awareness of urban agriculture opportunities in Florida among the Latinx.
This video is serving as an educational tool to increase knowledge on water conservation efforts, with the role of trained Master Gardener volunteers in the community, pests, and disease management practices for Florida-grown lettuce, cultivar options, and other topics delivered in a friendly format.
To read more about Dr.German Sandoya’s Lettuce Breeding Project
you can visit https://erec.ifas.ufl.edu/faculty-pages/dr-german-sandoya-faculty-page
For more information about pest and diseases affecting your lettuce, please reach out to Vanessa Campoverde email@example.com How to integrate your small hydroponic farm can be obtained by contacting Dr. Jiangxiao Qiu firstname.lastname@example.org For more information on how to set a hydroponic system for urban settings to contact UF Agriculture Agent Jonael Bosques email@example.com and UF Small farms Agent Francisco Rivera firstname.lastname@example.org.
UF/IFAS Extension Broward Green Bites Newsletter
Do you want to receive our quarterly Broward Green Bites newsletters? It has terrific horticultural educational information and resources. You can download them directly at http://sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu/broward/urban-horticulture-and-natural-resources/publications/ Follow us on Instagram at #Urbanhortbroward Visit the UF/IFAS web site at http://sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu/broward/ and contact Lorna Bravo at email@example.com You can reach us at twitter https://twitter.com/HortUrban