This week, we’re spending time with Disney horticulturalist Les Frey and the greenhouses at The Land Pavilion. The greenhouses here are amazing! As we have seen for the past two days, growing hydroponically produces amazing results! We dove into just why hydroponics offers better crops. Today we’re taking a look into the many forms of Hydroponics there are! First up is a subset of Hydroponics called Aeroponics.
With Aeroponics, plants are placed above a nutrient spray system which continually projects nutrients as a mist upon the roots. Frey explains the brussle sprouts seen above, “are being grown aeroponically. The plants are supported by a metal pole, the roots are hanging in mid air and move through the chamber where they are misted with nutrient water. The sprouts are harvested and used in some of our restaurants here at Epcot.” I love this about this Disney, great healthy food if you look for it!
These Okra, (above on the left) are grown by misting their long roots in the massive container below. Frey states that, “the herbs, edible flowers, brussels sprouts, okra, cabbage, kale, bok choi, and peppers” are also grown this way,” just to name a few.” Furthermore, “We grow a variety of edible flowers including such things as nasturtium, violas, marigolds, California poppies, lavender, and snap dragons. There are lots of flowers that are edible” but advises, “gardeners should always be certain before eating any unknown plant to make sure it is indeed edible as not all flowers are edible.”
Above are several plants being grown with this system. Frey explains the plants are in, “column pots (a name we came up with). These pvc pipes are hollow. The plants are inserted into the side of the pot with their roots exposed on the interior. The pots move around on a track and periodically they pass beneath a spray mister which sprays nutrient solution down the inside of the pot and across the roots.”
But there are many more ways to grow hydroponically he informs us. “All of the plants we grow in The Land greenhouses are grown using a form of hydroponics. There are many types of hydroponics that we use such as Aeroponics, Bag culture, The Nutrient Film Techniques and Sand culture.”
In the Production or String Greenhouse plants are grown in a bag culture, (seen above), which Frey describes as either, “using the rockwool, perlite, or coconut coir bags.” He adds that, “this is how most commercial hydroponics is done” and that, “typically you’d find cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant grown using this method.” This particular crop used a suspension technique. The tomato trees and most of the other plants I saw were on the ground like the Eggplants below.
Nearly 45 crops are grown here using the Sand Culture growing technique which Frey points out, includes the entirety of crops they have in the Temperate and Tropics Greenhouses. The Sand Cultured plants here at Epcot, he explains, show, “how plants can be grown in sand or desert regions of the world using hydroponics. The nutrient water is supplied to the plants using the subsurface drip irrigation. It is used in some places around the world, but is not very common.”
Here many beneficial crops can be grown in temperate regions. Cotton, (seen below-right), for example thrives perfectly well with this technique!
Cleome, (seen below), Frey says “is considered a weed in most tropical countries, (yet) is a pretty flower in most USA gardens…” In many parts of sub-Saharan Africa…” he continues it, “is a semi-cultivated, popular tropical leafy vegetable.”
This Pummelo, Frey explains “is one of the larger fruits in the citrus family and is related to the grapefruit.” he adds that it also doesn’t normally grow in sand but with this technique, it can.
And just when you thought you’ve see it all, there is the super hybrid Aquaponics! Frey explains that this, “is the integration of aquaculture and hydroponics. Aquaponics is practiced both on a hobby scale as well as commercial operations throughout the world. Most see this farming technique as a wise use of resources and consider such an integrated system as an “Eco-Friendly” system.” I find this amazing!
As you can see, there’s some spectacular growing activity going on here in the Epcot greenhouses! When I asked Les why farmers around the world don’t utilize these techniques, he replied that it’s a matter of simple information dissemination. Simply, most farmers don’t know about it. He’s helping change all that through the intern program here.
Frey supervises the interns for Epcot’s Science Professional Internship Program which has been going on since 1982. He works with about 60 interns at a given time who are learning about Hydroponics, Aquaculture, Biotechnology, Entomology and Plant Science.
Frey proudly states that many of his interns go on to, “teach (from elementary up through college), some are county extension agents, while many others are working on their graduate degrees. Several of our interns have gone overseas to help teach agriculture and hydroponics in other countries such as Bangladesh, Tajikistan, and parts of Africa. One intern even made it to Antarctica to do some hydroponic research there. It is a great hands-on learning experience where our interns get exposed to over 80 different food crops from all over the world.”
If you or someone you know may be interested in this fascinating internship, just visit, http://disneyinterns.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tomorrow we’re taking a look at the Tropical Greenhouse here at The Land where I finally saw my first coffee plant!
Britt : )