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Greenhouse hydroponics - Conserve water prevent 21st Century war

Here in the US, we often take small things for granted. Although in reality, having a constant supply of fresh, clean water to consume, cook & clean is no small thing, we usually don't appreciate it as much as we should.

But in many parts of the world, water is a precious commodity. Water parched countries like Pakistan, Northern China, Parts of Africa and even in the American Southwest in states like New Mexico suffers from water shortage.

In most of these regions, water is primarily used for feeding crops rather than human consumption. One way to combat this problem, according to a September 8th. press release from the Department of Energy (DOE) Sandia National Lab, an US National Security Lab. in New Mexico is the use of Greenhouse Hydroponics.

Apparently, greenhouse hydroponics is a cultivation method that would use about one-hundredth of the fresh water typically needed to grow forage for livestock and would leave more fresh water for human consumption and other productive uses.

Greenhouse hydroponics is being tested by 42 wireless sensors. The sensors are installed in a hydroponics greenhouse growing forage near the US-Mexico border under the supervision of the Sandia National Lab. The lab is interested in the research because they fear that water shortage might cause a war in the 21st century.

So far, the lab has indications that hydroponics greenhouses in New Mexico, for example, could reduce the amount of water used in agriculture, which is currently 987,000 cubic meters to 13,500 cubic meters. That would increase the amount of available water for human consumption by 974.500 cubic meters.

In addition to saving water, hydroponics greenhouses would also reduce the amount of space or land required to cultivate products like alfalfa, for example, which currently uses 105,000 hectares, could be reduced to only 404 hectares.

Some additional benefit to utilizing hydroponics greenhouse production is water loss by evaporation is greatly reduced. Traditional soil cultivation tends to over absorb the water. In many cases, over time, soil cultivation or the quality of the soil, rather, loose its ability for agricultural productivity because of soil salination.

Another great benefit from using greenhouse hydroponics, also know as controlled-environment agriculture, is its ability to control and modify light reaching plants. Greenhouses can be modified to reduce light intensity and restrict certain frequencies, using various shading techniques to avoid heat-stress to plants.

The sensors placed in the hydroponics greenhouse, measuring 8 meter x 18 meters will monitor light intensity, temperature, humidity and air pressure. The collected data will be sent via phone line to a remote computer for analysis. The information will allow researchers to grow crops more efficiently.

Besides growing plants more efficient, the project is the first step toward avoiding a potential conflict over water resource.

More information about the Sandia National Lab can be found at www.sandia.gov

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