Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) is a simple to use and maintain system. Plants are grown in gullies or formed plastic sheeting. The nutrient/water solution is pumped to the higher end of the gully and then, gravity draws the solution past the roots and then into the nutrient tank. This process is then continually repeated.
Costs are reduced as there is no growing media in an NFT system. However, it is important to use a high quality pump as the solution needs to be oxygenated and moving around the system. The plants will wither and die if the system is left ‘dry’ for too long
NFT systems are mostly used to grow leafy greens like herbs, lettuce and pak choi to name a few; whilst some specialist growers use them to grow tomatoes and even potatoes! NFT is typically not used to produce root vegetables or tuber crops. NFT has several advantages, the key one is that it is a simple technique – the plant roots are able to obtain satisfactory supplies of water, oxygen and nutrition. In other types of system, for example where a medium is present, there is a conflict in this supply, which results in a shortage or imbalance of one aspect or another. Over time, NFT systems produce higher yields of quality produce over an extended period of cropping.
However, NFT systems require reliable supplies of water and power to ensure the success of the project. If this is not possible or poor design is a factor, leading to the pooling of nutrients, the system will fail.
As a means to limit the chances of pooling occurring, all NFT gullies should have a slope of 1:30 or 1:40. Ideally, a nutrient temperature of 18°C to 22°C should be maintained for optimum growth, although this will alter depending upon the crop and location of the system.
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