Fundamentals of Growing Basil in Hydroponics
Basil is a culinary herb known for its outstanding aromas. All type of basil has its unique aroma such as lemon basil has a lemony taste; sweet basil has a clove-like essence while cinnamon basil has a sweet, cinnamon-like aroma.
Basil is popular in the world as a spice, but it's also known in medicine and chemical industry for its essential oils. The essential oils that basil contains have antimicrobial, antiviral, and antioxidant properties.
Basil leaves are grown and marketed in different forms such as fresh basil leaves, dried basil leaves, basil leaves paste, etc. Today, we are going to discuss the fundamental practices of growing basil hydroponically.
Seedling Production and Transplantation
Basil seeds are considered best for propagation, which is available in the market. Propagation can be done through cuttings also, and these cuttings develop roots within 7-10 days.
Seed germinates after 5-7 days of proper watering. The optimum temperature for germination of basil seeds is 21 °C to 23 °C.
Basil seeds can germinate in a variety of growing media, such as perlite, vermiculite, foam substrates, coconut fiber, peat moss, and sand culture are found suitable.
Make sure not to over-wet the surface of the growing media during the early stages of post-germination because basil seedlings are prone to Pythium and other damping-off pathogens. When the seedlings reached a height of about 3 inches (7.62 cm), they are transplanted carefully to the hydroponic growing system.
Basil prefers a temperature between 18 °C to 20 °C for optimum growth. Growing basil in a hydroponic system requires proper care from the seedling stage to maturity stage.
Basil grows well in a slightly acidic nutrient solution, having a pH between 5.6 to 6.4. A well-illuminated greenhouse is necessary for basil growth as it requires a higher level of light for optimum growth, a minimum of 12 mol/m2 light is required. Install artificial lights in your hydroponic farm to control the lighting better.
Providing an airflow to the plants is beneficial as it prevents fungal infections such as botrytis, which can develop under the plant leaves due to high humidity.
Type of Hydroponic System
Basil grows well in a nutrient-filled hydroponic system or a deep water culture (DWC) hydroponic system. There is no significant difference between the plant yield obtained from both of these systems.
Many commercially prepared nutrient solutions are available, and they can meet the plant's nutrient requirements very well. But it is always better to make your crop-specific nutrient solution by yourself, and it gives you more freedom to adjust the nutrient composition accordingly.
Basil has high amounts of calcium and potassium in its leaves, and that is why it becomes essential to keep the quantity of both these nutrients relatively high than others.
Other than potassium and calcium, magnesium and nitrogen also play a significant role in the healthy growth of a basil plant. Magnesium is directly related to the production of essential oils that are present in basil, and these essential oils have high economic value in the medicine and chemical industry. Another vital nutrient is nitrogen, which is necessary for getting better leaf yields.
With proper nutrition and management, the basil crop will be ready for harvest in 50 to 60 days after transplantation.
Basil harvested as a cut and re-grow crop. Only one-third or two-thirds of the upper foliage harvested at a time. If you are growing basil for fresh leaves, pinch out leaves when a branch has 6 to 8 leaves.
During the harvesting, the matured lower leaves are plucked out first as per the grower's requirement. The growing tips are removed by the grower when the plant reaches a desirable height, to promote the growth of more stem and to keep the plant compact.
Different varieties get used differently after harvesting, some types of basil dried to make tea, and some get used for medicinal purposes.
Basil has a shorter shelf life because of the essential oil start to deteriorate quickly after harvesting. Harvested basil stored at a cold temperature between 11 °C to 14 °C in a lightly wrapped packaging for retaining moisture.
Production will always be within the genetic limitations of the plant regardless of growing techniques, but when an optimum environment gets provided, it can reach its peak production. Utilizing different designs and practices can optimize basil production.