Rice is considered to be the staple food of more than half of the world’s population. It is an excellent source of nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and complex carbohydrates. But Can you grow rice hydroponically?
However, the answer is yes, yet with a bit complicated process to follow. Due to the high water consumption nature of rice crops, it’s more of a crucial step to direct rice cultivation towards the hydroponics system.
The article is determined to define the process and essential consideration factors to avoid facing any difficulties in the hydroponics technique of growing rice.
Hydroponics Conditions for Popular Varieties of Rice
|Basmati||Low sunlight||20˚C – 30˚C||Up to 150 days depending upon the sub-varieties of basmati rice|
|Wild||Medium to Full sunlight||Water temperature (40˚F)||6-7 months depending upon the seed germination|
|Jasmine||Full sunlight||70˚F or above||90 to 180 days|
|Sticky||Medium sunlight||Steam for 45 minutes & cooling at 26˚F (room temperature)||90 to 110 days|
|Valencia||Full sunlight||NA||7-8 months|
|Rosematta||Medium sunlight||Flowering & Fertilization: 16˚C to 200˚CRipening: 18˚C to 320˚C||8-9 months|
Basmati rice is one of the popular varieties of rice worldwide that is grown largely in Pakistan and India. There could be more than ten sub-varieties of basmati rice to grow from. It is available in both whole-grain and white-grain varieties.
Wild Rice is commonly known as a kind of grass that is grown around rivers and lakes. They come with a bit toasty flavor and are said to originate in the Upper Great Lakes region of the USA. The wild rice is gluten-free, low in fat, and high in lysine, protein, and fiber.
Commonly grown in the regions of Thailand, Jasmine rice is also called Thai Fragrant rice. They have a floral aroma, nutty taste, and long-grain feature. Jasmine rice is ideal to use in Jamaican jerk chicken or spicy curry.
Well, you can find them in both whole-grain and white-grain varieties along with a popular choice among the Caribbean and Asian dishes.
The sticky rice is consumed throughout all Asia and is commonly known as Thai sticky rice. They are also called as glutinous or sweet rice but don’t contain any gluten or sweet content. However, sticky rice takes a bit more time to digest than regular rice.
Valencia rice is the rice grown in Spain and is mainly used for paella. This rice variety is sticky, high in starch, and absorbs a lot of liquid without even making the dish too dry. However, Valencia rice is pretty hard to find in USA stores.
Rosematta rice is popular rice in a bit reddish color. The color is red because of the non-removal of bran layers. It further consists of earthy flavor, nutrients and is known to be best paired with beef, lamb, or game.
So, these are some popular varieties of rice produced or exported worldwide. However, the most common rice is white rice, from which you can derive various sub-qualities of rice such as parboiled rice, brown rice, etc.
Only the method of harvesting is different to get sub-qualities of rice. So, make sure your hydroponic method of harvesting and other growing conditions must be satisfied. Don’t force the hydroponics rice cultivation if it is not suited to a particular variety.
How Can You Grow Rice Hydroponically?
Growing rice hydroponically is also going to help the world from a scarcity of water resources. Well, the growers of hydroponic rice may face some difficulties in the future, but that should not lead you down in the process of the well-being of the environment.
Moreover, you have to cross different steps from seeding to harvesting, which is almost the same as growing rice in soil except for the nutrient part. The whole thing can’t be done without proper setup and materials.
So, let’s study what kind of materials in the form of planting medium or other setup accessories are required.
The UAE, which is known to face its harsh environmental challenges and turns the desert into green, has an amazing report in 2015 regarding an Emirati farmer, Saleh Al Mansouri. He has managed to grow the staple crop rice with a good amount of yield.
It was his words that say hydroponics techniques are less expensive and complex than you may imagine. So, the point is that you should be determined to do so as you will be in growing the rice by soil method.
The Best Hydroponic System For Rice
The Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) is considered to be the best way to grow rice hydroponially. The idea behind using NFT is pretty unique here. It generally starts by planting the seeds in a long tube in cups or glasses.
The tube must be large enough to house the roots of the rice crop in a straight line. Then, the nutrient-rich water will be sent to the top of the tubing which then cascades down to the reservoir.
The nutrient-rich water stays at the bottom, and the rest of the tubing is filled with air. Meanwhile, you have to protect the roots of the rice crop from dry air and light. The process of lifting the nutrient solution to the tube is continued via a water pump in the reservoir placed below.
The scalability is the major reason behind the popularity of NFT in crops with large grow operations. The system usually consists of a trough with a slope of around 0.3% to 2%. It is the bottom of this trough where the roots of the rice crop will lie.
Remember to keep the layer of nutrient solution thin like a film. You can use a trough of around 15cm for this purpose. However, the size of the trough will directly depend upon the crop you are producing, which generally varies from 1m to 20m.
The PVC tubing material can be used and the fast flow rate of around 8L/m2/h is suggested. The rice crop is raised in small plastic cups which are then placed in the tubing.
You have to fill those small cups with a planting medium that is composed of charcoal husks and manure. Mix into one and doused with decomposer water. Here’s your planting medium to grow hydroponics rice is ready!
Other Techniques of Growing Hydroponics Rice
Despite NFT, you can use the following hydroponics techniques as well for the cultivation of rice.
- Static solution culture
As the name suggests, it’s a stable nutrient solution culture. You can simply submerge the roots of plants in nutrient-rich water and let them be immersed in that water constantly. However, the nutrient solution water needs to be changed periodically.
Keeping this nutrient solution or water level low in the reservoir would help the roots to get exposed to the air.
When the roots of plants are exposed to air, the system is called as Aeroponics. Instead of submerging them in a nutrient-rich solution, this soluble water is sprayed over them periodically from the spray nozzles.
It is done due to the small size nature of droplets which further helps in the quick absorption of nutrients.
The most organic kind of hydroponics is Aquaponics. The system is generally used via fish and the nutrients are absorbed from the excreta of fish. The water taken from the aquarium will be reused in the hydroponics setup.
In the Fogponics setup, the nutrient-rich water will be sprayed over the plants via a diaphragm which reverberates at the ultrasound frequencies. Thus, the sizes of microscopic droplets are used to spray over the plants.
- Ebb & Flow
The Ebb & Flow hydroponics system requires growing the crop in containers, trays, or pots. A tidal like movement is further needed to drain the roots of plants. The planting trays are provided with nutrient-rich water for few minutes and let them absorb the maximum nutrients as possible.
The water is then drained or discharged to repeat the process after a short period.
- Passive Sub-Irrigation
The passive sub-irrigation uses a growth substrate for cultivation. This growth substrate is what acts as the nutrient carrier to grow crops inside it. The whole process is indirect and thus called as passive sub-irrigation.
The growth substrate will be drenched with the water from the plants absorb nutrients.
Growing Seeds in a Hydroponic System
A growing rice seed in NFT hydroponics is pretty easy. You are simply required to take the rice seeds and place them into the plastic cups as prepared above. Take just 1-2 of them and place them in the center.
You can even sort out the good seeds and leave the damaged ones aside. Since we are only cultivating the crop of rice, you can also use identification markers for other crops if planted.
Let us also consider the seed starting in NFT hydroponics in 5 simple phases as given below. So, you don’t have to face any complications in these super quick and easy steps.
- Seed coating is the first phase which is generally known as the hard outer shell of the seed.
- The second phase is Plumule. These are kind of first stems or shoots from an embryo plant.
- The third phase is Hypocotyl which is a part that sits above the root system and beneath the stalks of leaves of seeds.
- The first root after Hypocotyl is Radicle and thus the fourth phase of the system.
- The embryonic seeds developed into seed-bearing plants are usually called Cotyledons. There can be more than one left on the plant or crop from germinating seeds.
They further help to retain the nutrients from the solution until other dominant leaves begin to grow.
So, these are common 5 phases of seed starting in the hydroponics system. The early shoots of rice crops generally begin after radicle cracks. However, you need to keep the seeds in warm moist conditions for this to happen.
Propagation is the phase of strong seedlings with strong roots and first real leaves. The phase will end after the roots will be developed and take hold inside the germination plug.
It is the stage to transplant rice crop into the system after the plant develops its two or three sets of first real leaves.
Sustaining Rice Crops
The rice crop is now cultivated in various subtropical or tropical regions across the four ecosystem categories namely the rainfed upland, rainfed lowland, flood-prone agroecological zone, and irrigated zones.
It is said that the production of a mere single kilo of rice requires around 2,500 liters of water. So, it is the aspect of traditional cultivation that is being done for years and years ago.
All-in-all, the cultivation of rice via the traditional soil method causes great damage to the environment. Keeping in mind the growing demand for grain over the world, the rice growers have to resort to more sustainable practices of cultivation.
Those steps are highly effective than the traditional cropping method. The greenhouse gas emission will be reduced by up to 50% while increasing the yield by around 10%. However, you must fully submerge the stem of the plant in water to get a good yield.
Hopefully, you have understood that if certain growing conditions are provided you can grow rice hydroponically. We have discussed all the aspects related to the subject in terms of different varieties and the overall growth process.
It is absolutely normal if you can’t hydroponically grow certain varieties of rice. Meanwhile, you can start cultivating the normal white rice with the hydroponics NFT technique as discussed above.