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ISHS Acta Horticulturae 323: Symposium on Soil and Soilless Media under Protected Cultivation in Mild Winter Climates

NUTRIENT FILM TECHNIQUE IN PROTECTED CULTIVATION

Author:   S.W. Burrage
Abstract:
This paper covers the development of nutrient film technique (NFT) from its introduction in the early 1960's to the present day. Initially it was taken up rapidly by a number of growers and established itself as a viable technique for commercial crop production. A variety of systems were developed to suit particular crops. The simplicity of the technique allowed the development of almost totally automated systems. Expansion throughout the industry was halted by the rapid development of rockwool as a culture media which had may similarities to the standard techniques of crop production. In recent times we are again seeing NFT production entering a growth phase as the problems of cost and pollution inhibit the further development of rockwool.

The flexibility of the NFT system has enabled it to be adapted to a wide range of crops. There have been many improvements in the system over the years but it has been characterised by producing a high quality and quantity of the particular crop. The NFT system has become a very useful research technique for experimentation in plant nutrition. The ability to control the root environment has led to practices of solution heating, variation in solution conductivity and intermittent flow to control crop growth. The minimal use of water and nutrients has made it highly desirable in arid climates. The minimal use of materials and the high level of automation that is possible enables a rapid turn around in cropping.

The main disadvantages of the system were originally thought to be the pump failure and the spread of diseases. Neither of these has proved to be serious; more significant has been the need for a higher level of management expertise and in some areas this may be the main inhibitory factor in its development.

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