By Pat Rorabaugh, Ph.D., Lecturer in the School of Plant Sciences and a hydroponic specialist with the Controlled Environment Agriculture Center, University of Arizona. The past 20 years have certainly seen some changes to Arizona
Water conservation: Water is our most precious resource. Whether crops are grown in soil or hydroponics, water conservation must be at the forefront of Arizona agriculture. One way to conserve water is to put it right where it is needed by using drip irrigation. As an example, cotton is now being grown very successfully in Coolidge and Maricopa, Arizona using subsurface drip irrigation and
Arizona Sun: Although water may be our most precious resource, light is our most abundant. In 20
For farmers, solar panels could be covering their homes, equipment storage
Water recycling: Why use water once when you can recapture it for multiple uses? Commercial greenhouse hydroponic growers do this now by recycling their nutrient solution. However, both greenhouse and field growers could also recycle water from the air itself. Water
Aquaponics: What about using the same water for two crops? Aquaponics is the technique for recirculating water between fish and plants to create a sustainable ecosystem. The fish are fed and then provide
Rain harvesting: Though we live in a desert, when it rains it can pour!
Other Alternative Energies – Biofuels & Biomass: Several crops have been looked at recently as possible alternatives to fossil fuels. One plant that shows real promise as a biofuel is algae (and unlike corn is not an existing food crop). Grown in various ways (tubes, raceways, ponds) algae is harvested, the oil extracted
For more on algae, do a search on www.azfb.org using the
Protecting Crops from Diseases – Grafting. Grafting tomatoes onto vigorous, disease resistant
Smart Technologies: Finally, smart technologies, including advances in mechanization, automation, robotics and remote sensing, will help Arizona agriculture stay competitive in a global environment by increasing efficiency and productivity.
What will Arizona agriculture look like in 20 years? I’ve mentioned just a few possibilities but one thing remains to be said. Any advancements in Arizona agriculture will only occur if the next generation has an opportunity for a quality education.
Well-educated agriculturalists and skilled technical support will be crucial. Education will be the key to unlocking a sustainable future
Editor’s note: Dr. Rorabaugh teaches Introduction to Hydroponics and Controlled Environment Agriculture. If you have further interest in controlled environment agriculture and hydroponics go to www.ag.arizona.edu/ceac. This article is an updated and condensed version that originally appeared in Arizona Farm Bureau's monthly publication Arizona Agriculture.
To contribute to the future of Arizona agriculture consider becoming a member of Arizona Farm Bureau, a grassroots non-profit organization