Are you wondering what is nutrient film technique and how does nutrient film technique work? The hydroponic nutrient film technique (NFT) is a simple yet effective way to grow plants. The system we will build in this tutorial is basic and can be used for any small plant. With the right equipment, anyone with basic experience in hydroponics should be able to set up!
What Is Nutrient Film Technique (NFT)?
The Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) is a hydroponics technique that is very popular with home gardeners and hydroponic farmers.
NFT is an excellent choice for someone who wants a simple, low-maintenance hydroponic system. It requires relatively less space and can be set up in your garden or a greenhouse.
However, if you are a newbie to hydroponics, this isn’t the system to start with just because it may be a little complex to build for starters.
For beginners, a little simpler methods such as bottle hydroponics and deep water culture may be good options. And once they get their hands on it, they can move to more complex systems like NFT.
How Does Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) System Work?
The NFT system comprises a shallow channel filled with nutrient water on which the plant roots are suspended. The plant roots get all their nutrients from the solution flowing within the channel.
As the water level in this system never exceeds that of plants’ roots, it’s suitable to grow almost anything from lettuce to winter vegetables like spinach or even strawberries.
What Are The Pros And Cons Of the Nutrient Film Technique?
Pros of Nutrient Film Technique: Here are some advantages of the Nutrient Film Technique:
- Need less water and nutrients, especially if it is a circulatory system.
- Flexible to scaling
- Easy to setup and maintain
- Easy to check roots and clogging
- Relatively less salt build-up because the water is constantly flowing.
Cons of Nutrient Film Technique: Here are some disadvantages of the Nutrient Film Technique:
- A broken pump or a leakage in the pipe can lead to plants drying out and dying quickly.
- Plants with large tap root systems can cause the pipes to clog quickly
- It cannot support the growth of bulky plants with large fruits. If you need to grow such plants, make sure you use plant supports such as trellises.
- Although NFT is a fun technique, this system is not the best to start with if you are a beginner since it is a little complex and relatively difficult to maintain. Bottle hydroponics (Kratky method) or deep water culture is more suitable for beginners!
How To Build An NFT System At Home?
If you are wondering, “How do you make a nutrient film technique” there are several easy NFT Hydroponic Grow Kits available on the market. Let’s see how we build NFT hydroponics systems in your home!
So the first thing you’ll need, as with many systems, is a container or a reservoir.
You can use any tubes lying around, the ones you can find at stores (such as Home Depot), or even a five-gallon bucket.
Your reservoir depends on your garden size and the crop you are trying to grow.
The next thing you’ll need is something to oxygenate the water consistently.
- air stone
- water pump and an
Air Pump and Air Stone
If you are not growing your hydroponics crops on a huge scale, you can use simple and cheap ones like the Petco ones that work well.
You can also use one of those circular air stones with suction cups.
The number and length of the air stones depend on your reservoir size.
Whatever you use, ensure you’re oxygenating the water as much as possible.
Water Pump and Tubing
The next thing you will need is a water pump and tubing.
Unlike in a deep water culture where the roots grow straight down, and you may not need any air stones, you will need a water pump to pump the nutrients up in the channel in NFT systems.
Grow Tray (Channels)
NFT uses tubes or channels (such as PVC pipes) instead of flat trays as the grow tray.
The channels are usually set at angles, so the nutrient solution flows directly through the roots without wasting the valuable nutrient (especially since most of these systems circulate the nutrient solution).
The flow rate of nutrients through the channel and its slope is one of the most important factors to consider while building NFT.
There are many types and styles of channels. Most people built out theirs with PVC pipe because it is easy to find and clean up.
The NFT system is one of the best systems if you want to scale up in the future.
It is pretty modular in that you can add more channels into it so that your growth could significantly increase in size if needed!
Hydroponic Nutrient Solution
The hydroponic nutrient solution is required to provide the essential nutrient to the plants.
The pH meter is necessary to maintain the optimal pH of the nutrient solution between 6-8.
Getting Started In Hydroponics? Download our ultimate starter guide to build your own hydroponic system
How To Transplant From Germination to Propagation in NFT?
A plug of seedlings must have roots emerging from the bottom before they can be transplanted into an NFT channel.
What Is The Best Time To Harvest in NFT System?
Greens such as basil and lettuce can be harvested multiple times a year.
However, some plants grow so massively that their roots block nutrient flow through the channel.
Therefore, it is necessary to frequently clean the systems from clogging and algae growth within the channel.
Net pots can be reused after a good wash and rinse!
Want to learn about “How To Maintain A Hydroponic System: Flushing And Cleaning Strategies“?
What Is The Best Growing Media And Nutrients For NFT System?
Coir and clay pellets are all viable options to use as the growing medium in NFT.
Each growing media has pros/cons regarding how they store water or interact with nutrient solutions. However, Stone Wool (coconut fiber) is probably one of the best choices when using NFT hydroponic systems.
Stone wool is a great growing medium as it stores water well and can wick up nutrient solutions without clogging.
A concentrated blend of calcium and magnesium helps to prevent secondary nutrient deficiencies in fast-growing plants.
How To Clean NFT System?
- Blocked Channel
Make sure roots or the media substrates are not blocking the channel. Harvest crops if necessary to clean the channels.
- Blocked Irrigation Line
Check regularly for blocked and leaked irrigation lines. Try to use the pressure wash by closing all valves except the blocked one and see if the pressure helps to remove the clog. If not, replace the irrigation line!
What are NFT and DFT?
The Deep Flow Technique (DFT) is a variant of the Nutrient Flow Technique (NFT). Unlike in NFT, where a thin film of nutrient solution passes through the roots, the plants in DFT systems’ roots are surrounded by a larger volume of nutrient solution (as much as 4 cm thick). This large volume of nutrients surrounding roots in the DFT system protects roots from drying even in case of pump failure and thus is much safer than NFT.
Which is better, NFT or DWC?
In Deepwater culture (DWC), plants are held on a floating raft placed over a solution tank, whereas, in the Nutrient film technique, plants are grown on a series of shallow channels/troughs, and a thin film of the solution is applied to these channels/trough with the help of a pump. DWC is easy to build and could be small to large, whereas NFT is relatively complex and medium to large and may require a much larger area than DWC. NFT is a beginner-friendly system and can be built without lights, pumps, etc. NFT is somewhat difficult and is not ideal for beginners. NFT requires pumps and other equipment but can easily scale up by adding additional channels.
Who invented the nutrient film technique?
Dr. Allen Cooper developed the NFT in 1960.
What are Dutch buckets?
Dutch buckets (also known as bato buckets) are square buckets or regular 3-5 gallons buckets linked up in a row. These buckets consist of growth media onto which the plants are grown. The nutrient is pumped via drip hose to all these buckets. The flow-through is collected on a drainpipe, placed underneath the buckets, collected in a reservoir, and recirculated.
What is the best growing medium to use in an NFT system?
Several growing media can be used, but Stone wool is the best growing medium in an NFT system.
Which is the most efficiently used recirculation system in hydroponics?
Dutch bucket, DWC, NFT, and DFT all recirculate nutrient solution.
What is the difference between active and passive hydroponics?
Active hydroponics is the system in which the nutrient solution is circulated with the aid of a pump, whereas in passive hydroponic systems, pumps are not used.
How to clean NFT system?
If you use the nutrient film technique, ensure the roots or media substrates are not blocking the channel and harvest crops if necessary to clean the channels. Check regularly for blocked and leaked irrigation lines. Try to use pressure wash by closing all valves except the one blocked with a clog. And if it does not help remove the clog, replace the line.
What is the best way to commercially grow spinach using hydroponic methods?
The nutrient film technique is great for growing spinach and other leafy green veggies.
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