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Hydroponics takes root in Bahrain

Manama, November 2, 2008

A call has gone out to create village farms across Bahrain, using a revolutionary method called Hydroponics to grow crops for local consumption.

Hydroponics, which involves growing plants without soil, could help Bahrain combat the effects of the global food shortage and rising prices, says expert Dr Ashraf Omran.

He wants villagers taught how to farm using the system, with each village growing designated crops, to serve the local market and reduce the need for imports.

People could even grow their own vegetables and fruit in their homes, to cut down on their grocery bills, says the professional landscaper.

He is running workshops with the Bahrain Garden Club, to teach people how to cultivate with hydroponics, which involves growing plants in sand, gravel, or liquid, with added nutrients, but without soil.

Plants produced this way consume just 2.5 per cent of the water and 7.5pc of the fertilisers used in normal plant production, says Dr Omran.

He says hydroponics can be used to produce vegetables, fruits, flowers and animal fodder alike, even in a harsh climate such as Bahrain's - he has even grown strawberries here.

Dr Omran uses two methods at his farm in Karanah, aerial and horizontal planting, each of which uses dramatically less space than normal planting methods.

The aerial method uses two foam or wooden boards, with openings, which are placed in a pyramid shape.

'Inside the pyramid, we place a water sprinkler, with its pipes connected to a water tank (reservoir). Then we place seeds that have grown roots inside the openings and the water is sprinkled to the plants' roots,' said Dr Omran.

'The water trickles down to a tray that is also connected to the reservoir and the circle is repeated.'

The water has organic fertilisers dissolved in it to supply plants with nutrients.

Horizontal hydroponic planting uses PVC pipes that have a cut along them for the roots to be placed inside.

All pipes are then connected together to the water tank, which supplies water to the plants placed in the pipes - which in turn is recycled.

'You can connect as many pipes as you want to the water tank, you can even make the pipes at different levels, so you cut down on space,' said Dr Omran.

He said either method can produce any vegetable or fruit, or even fodder for livestock, depending on the space available.

'The area should be slightly shaded, so just the right amount of sunshine touches the plants' leaves, otherwise the water will evaporate with time,' said Dr Omran.

Residents in Bahrain can easily do this at home and produce their own food, without breaking the bank, he said.

'Any of these methods can be implemented at home, on the roof top or even on the balcony, it really depends on the space available,' he added.

Dr Omran has implemented these methods in Bahrain and says it has proved very successful. 'We were able to plant most vegetables and we even planted strawberries here in Bahrain this way,' he added.

One metre can produce 80 plants in approximately a month, depending on the seeds.

'If we plant them the regular way, we need around 700m to make what 300m produce with the hydroponic method, said Dr Omran.

He believes countries must increase their self-sufficiency in food to beat the global shortage and to ward off unwelcome production methods, such as genetic modification, which he believes is potentially dangerous.

'The food crisis has political and financial factors behind it, but if nothing is done we might end up having to buy what's pushed at us, such as genetically produced seeds,' Dr Omran added.-TradeArabia News Service

Tags: Bahrain | Food crisis | Hydroponics | revolutionary method |

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