Plant disease cannot occur without a host plant, a pathogen, and favorable environmental conditions. Bacteria growth runs rampant in an organic hydroponics system where organic fertilizer will provide the perfect breeding ground for billions of bacterial microorganisms in the plant’s roots. So, is this good or bad? And the answer is, “it depends”. It depends on how often you flush your system and what you use for nutrients and the system type.
There will always be bacteria in your hydroponics garden the same as in any garden. Some bacteria are beneficial by providing increased disease resistance for your plant and some bacteria are not so good and will adversely affect plant processing.
A simple walk through the forest will provide examples of bacteria in action. Have you ever noticed that mushrooms tend to grow at the base of trees? Mushrooms are not bacterial in nature, rather they are fungal, and fungus thrives in an aerobic environment. This is important because aerobic bacteria are the ‘good’ bacteria you find in a plant’s root system. It is bacteria that thrive on oxygen. Therefore, a good oxygenated growing medium will encourage aerobic bacterial growth and in nature fungus like mushrooms thrive in an aerobic environment, so mushrooms are a good indication of a healthy bacterial environment.
Back to organic hydroponics… an organic system by nature of design is more prone to pest and disease due to the organic breeding ground provided by the organic fertilizer.
Should you be worried?
Not really, if an organic system is completely flushed with plain water at least once or twice a month. This should reduce the active bacteria growth down to a manageable level. And, by the way, this is one purpose of rain; to flush bacteria that has been building up out from the roots.
You need to periodically flush away bacteria because the more bacteria you incubate, the more oxygen is used which could eventually suffocate the plant. This is especially true if your growing system is an NFT hydroponic or Aeroponics design or some similar closed design.
Larry Maki is an avid, self-taught hydroponics gardener from Connecticut with a passion for alternative types of gardening.