Hydroponics and IPM FAQs

At Twin Pine Farm, we grow our produce in a clean, healthy environment, free from pesticides and herbicides. We protect our produce from weeds, pests, and neighboring farmers' overspray by growing in greenhouses using hydroponics, and we control pests naturally using a variety of non-toxic IPM (integrated pest management) methods.

Our FAQs cover basic information and commonly asked questions about hydroponic growing methods and IPM. If you have a question which is not in this section, please contact us.

Hydroponics

Hydroponics is the science of growing plants without soil, in a complete nutrient solution which provides a more direct and efficient way to feed plants.

Here are the most Frequently Asked Questions about hydroponic growing methods.

 

Hydroponic vs Organic Methods

Twin Pine's methods are "Beyond Organic"


ImageMany consumers select produce labeled as "organic," believing that this is the only way to be assured of nutritious contaminant-free food.

Twin Pine's growing methods include only safe methods to control pests and disease. Twin Pine's growing methods are considered Beyond Organic because they meet or exceed most organic definitions.

Unlike organic produce with is usually limited in season, availability, and growing conditions, TPI's hydroponic greenhouse environment offers clean, healthy produce with superior nutrition and flavor, as well as year-round availability for many of our products.

Last Updated on Thursday, 16 July 2009 11:46
 

Are hydroponic methods vegetarian?

Hydroponic methods and vegetarian diets

Image The hydroponic solutions used at Twin Pine Farm do not use animal sources for their nutrients, which makes our hydroponic growing conditions consistent with vegetarian diets.

Strict vegetarians or animal rights activists may be offended by the use of animal products to grow their food. Some consumers may be surprised to learn that blood, bone, horn, hoof, and feather meals are commonly used as primary nutrient sources for organic farming--which one might argue would make these organic foods unsuitable for vegetarians.
 

Are hydroponic methods organic?

Hydroponic does not necessarily mean "Organic"

ImageHydroponic nutrient mixes usually can't be labeled as organic because refined minerals are needed to dissolve properly in nutrient solutions.

Most state requirements allow only unrefined minerals on crops labeled as organic. A problem with using unrefined minerals is that they may contain impurities, some of which can be toxic. They include fluoride, radium (a source of radon), and selenium, all of which can be harmful to humans in excess. Impurities occur naturally in the minerals, so this is acceptable according to organic standards.

The nutrient solutions used at Twin Pine Farm are made from refined minerals which do not contain potentially toxic impurities as can be found in some organically labeled foods.
 

What makes produce "Organic"?

Organic is...

ImageIn the United States there are numerous different definitions of "organic," and many differ significantly.

Each state has its own regulations for labeling produce as organic, but generally, organic refers to methods of growing and processing foods using environmentally sound practices to control weeds and pests.

The goal of organic farming is to grow healthy foods in a manner which does not compromise the health of the land or the consumer.

Organic farmers attempt to avoid harmful or refined chemicals (pesticides, fungicides or fertilizers), and use crop rotation, composting and cultivation methods which strive to maintain a balance with the ecosystem.

 

No pesticides or herbicides

No chemical pesticides or herbicides

Image Hydroponic methods practically eliminate weeds and the use of herbicides. Twin Pine also eliminates the use of pesticides through the use of Integrated Pest Management (IPM). IPM is a method which introduces predatory insects that help to control their pesky cousins but do not harm the plants. Lacewings and ladybeetles are examples of "good bugs" that are commonly used to manage problem pests.

Superior nutrition and flavor

Hydroponic produce can be superior in flavor, nutrition, appearance, freshness and shelf-life. TPI uses hydroponic methods which ensure high quality produce, while eliminating toxic pesticides and harmful waste practices. Our methods embrace ideals of hydroponic and organic philosophies to produce safe, contaminant-free produce of the highest quality.
Last Updated on Thursday, 19 February 2009 23:43
 

Nutrients and Growth Media

Nutrients: A balanced diet for plants

Hydroponic crops are fed a complete nutrient supply, in a precise mix of primary, secondary, and micro-nutrients to ensure optimum plant health. Hydroponic formulas have been defined from extensive experience with a wide variety of crops in areas like the Netherlands, Japan, Europe, Israel, Canada, Australia, and the United States.

Static Nutrient Delivery: No effluent

Image In many hydroponic systems, nutrient flows past the plant roots through a pipe or a bag and is either recycled or partially discarded. The discarded waste product is considered a type of pollution which may contaminate the adjacent environment. Recycled nutrient can carry contaminants such as excess salts or disease back to the crop.

Twin Pine uses a static system without nutrient run-off, and no pollution. Static nutrient systems cannot be used everywhere, as these methods require high quality water to avoid large concentrations of excess materials which could kill the plant.

Perlite growing media

Our plants are grown in pots or bags filled with perlite, an inert volcanic glass familiar to many gardeners. Perlite serves as an exellent storage for the nutrient solution. The plants take up the nutrients they need from the perlite, and any excess nutrient remains stored in the perlite for use with the next crop. Unlike rockwool, perlite does not experience a fluctuation in pH levels and is a stable media for the plants. Perlite is also an excellent oxygenator for plant roots, and is far more economical. While rockwool is limited to bag methods, perlite can be used in bags, pots, or any container system. Perlite can be re-used for many years.
 

Why grow vegetables hydroponically?

ImageHydroponics in a controlled environment such as a greenhouse offers several advantages.

The greenhouse protects plants from airborne pollutants and soil that may be contaminated from over-spray of neighboring fields; growers may choose to keep herbicides and pesticides to a minimum or use none at all.

The controlled environment and precise nutrient solutions allow hydroponic farmers to provide plants with the food, light, temperature, and moisture that they need at the proper time during their life cycle in order to grow to their maximum potential, both physically and nutritionally.

Twin Pine Farm grows all of its produce hydroponically and uses only organically approved pest control, providing the consumer with a clean, full-flavored, fresh, and nutritious choice in produce throughout the year.
 

 

IPM

At Twin Pine Farm, we grow our produce in a clean, healthy environment, free from pesticides and herbicides, controlling pests naturally using a variety of non-toxic IPM (integrated pest management) methods.

Here are the most Frequently Asked Questions about Integrated Pest Management.

 

What is IPM?

IPM (Integrated Pest Management) is an environmentally sensitive approach to manage and control "pests" using a combination of common-sense practices. These practices are based on knowledge of biology and insect habitats. IPM programs involve a series of steps that result in healthy plants and reduced pest populations while having the least adverse effect on people, pets, and the environment.

What is a Pest?
In a greenhouse, a pest is any living thing (plant or animal) that damages crops, or that causes or spreads disease. Examples of greenhouse pests are thrips, caterpillars, and aphids.

tree frogWhat is a Pesticide?
Pesticides are substances used to prevent, destroy, or repel pests, or to reduce the damage caused by pests. Most IPM strategies encourage a reduction in dependency on pesticides. However, IPM is not the same as organic gardening. When necessary, IPM practices can include the use of non-organic forms of pesticides.

In the greenhouses at Twin Pine Farm, we avoid conventional pesticides that may be hazardous to humans and the environment and rely instead on biological controls to reduce pests. Beneficial insects and other organisms (such as toads and frogs) as well as non-toxic solutions (for example, insecticidal soap) target pests but are harmless to humans and the environment. Beneficial insects are often pests' natural predators, such as ladybeetles that prey on aphids. Insecticidal soap is an example of a non-toxic control substance, toxic to soft-bodied pests such as aphids, mealybugs, spider mites, thrips, and whiteflies yet leaves no residue harmful to humans or beneficial insects.
 
 

IPM Methods

Tomatoes in perlite IPM methods include multiple tactics to keep pest populations to a minimum. They include cultural, physical, biological, and chemical controls.

Cultural methods minimize the conditions pests require to live. Pest populations are reduced when the habitat fails to provide a suitable environment for growth. Cultural controls start with plant selection that is appropriate for growing conditions.

Other practices such as pruning, variation of planting dates, and good sanitation help to disrupt pest infestations. Healthy plants are less susceptible to disease and are more likely to resist insects.
 
Physical methods generally involve mechanical or non-chemical ways of preventing access to an area or removing existing pests. Choices include the use of traps, barriers, vacuuming, row covers, or removal by hand.

Biological methods rely on natural enemies of the pest. Using predators, parasites, and diseases in a targeted way reduces pest populations. (Use of microbial pest diseases is a type of chemical method).

Many beneficial organisms are predators of pests. A toad can eat 3,000 grubs, slugs, or beetles every month. Bats can catch 1,000 mosquitoes every night. Ladybeetles can consume up to 40 aphids an hour. Other organisms are parasites of pests. Tiny Braconid wasps lay their eggs in the body of grubs and caterpillars. When the wasp larvae hatch they kill the host. 

Chemical controls involve the use of naturally derived or synthesized pesticides. IPM programs select the least toxic and most specific pesticide for the offending pest. A biorational pesticide is a naturally occurring compound derived from a living organism, including pheromones and growth regulators. These are generally less toxic overall, and often target a specific phase of a pest's life cycle or metabolism.

Examples are diatomaceous earth that dehydrates insects by damaging the pests' body surface, or microbial pesticides like Bacillus thuringensis that affect only a specific group of insect pests. Insecticidal soaps are another example of chemical substances that are harmless to people and beneficial insects but toxic to insect pest populations.

Conventional pesticides refer to synthetically produced compounds that act as direct toxins. Although synthetic chemical pesticides remain the most widely used method to control pests, these are not used at Twin Pine Farm. Conventional synthetic pesticides work more quickly than other alternatives and have prevented many insect-transmitted diseases, such as malaria. However, their drawbacks include connections to human health problems, persistence in the environment, wide-ranging toxins that often kill beneficial organisms. 

 

Videos

Here's the first video we made to help dispel some myths about tomatoes. Hopefully, we will soon add more videos to this list.

 

Tomato Truths


Here's a little video we made for YouTube to help dispel some commonly held myths about Tomatoes.

 
 
Last Updated on Sunday, 22 February 2009 00:39