Since hydroponics came into practice, it has completely changed the way of growing crops. The crops grown in hydroponics have better quality and yield than traditionally soil-grown crops.
Bok Choy is an amazingly nutritious crop that grows very well in a hydroponic growing system. It is commonly known as Chinese cabbage and belongs to the family of leafy vegetables
Bok Choy or Chinese cabbage has light to dark green leaves with stalks that are crunchy. It can grow to a size of 4-12 inches. The size can reach more if the growing period is longer.
It is considered as one of the worlds healthiest food as it ranks sixth on the Aggregate Nutrient Density Index (ANDI) for fruits and vegetables.
Today we are going to discuss the different processes involved in the Bok Choy's hydroponic production.
Production of Seedling
Propagation of Bok Choy through seed is much easier than propagation through cutting, that is why it becomes crucial to choose the best quality seeds for your system that are adaptable as well as tolerant to slight changes that occur in the growing environment.
After planting the seeds in suitable growing media, they get germinated within 3-7 days when provided the optimum temperature that is between 10 °C to 22 °C.
The seeds also require a minimum light period of 6-7 hours for proper development. After 17 to 28 days of growth, the developed seedlings get transplanted to the hydroponic growing system for further development.
Optimum Growing Conditions
Bok Choy grows well in a colder environment like most of the Brassica species crops. It requires a temperature between 13 °C to 24 °C for optimum growth.
The temperature of the nutrient solution also needs to be monitored as high temperatures can reduce the oxygen retaining capacity of the solution. It would be better to keep the temperature of the nutrient solution slightly lower than the air temperature to increase the oxygenation.
Electrical Conductivity (EC) and pH of the solution
The electrical conductivity of the solution gives us an idea about the available nutrient amount. High EC indicates a high amount of nutrients and vice-versa. That is why frequent measuring and maintaining an optimum level of EC is crucial for the growing crop.
The optimum level of EC for Bok Choy or Chinese Cabbage is between 1.5 to 2.5. The pH of the nutrient solution should be in a range of 5.5 to 6.5 for better availability of macro and micro-nutrients.
Management of Nutrients in the Solution
All the essential plant nutrients supplied to the plant by dissolving fertilizer salts in water to make up a nutrient solution.
Consider a few things while choosing a particular fertilizer salt:
The solubility of fertilizer salt: If salt is less soluble, then only a small amount of it will get dissolve in water. Fertilizer salts having high solubility should be used in hydroponics as they remain for a longer time in the solution, and they are more available to the plants.
· Cost of Fertilizer Salt: Poor grade salt may contain inert particles that may block the growing channels.
· The relative proportion of ions supplied by the compound: It should provide a greater number of ions to the solution than others.
Bok Choy uses two different nutrient formulations, one formulation used until the plants are about 3-4 weeks old, and the second used after this stage.
Bok Choy is harvested mostly for its leaves, and it can tolerate high levels of nitrogen, which promotes vegetative growth of the plant.
It is highly recommended by most of the growers to use chelates of manganese, iron, and zinc in the solution. These chelates remain available to plants even under slight pH shifts.
After 5-6 weeks from transplanting, the Bok Choy is ready for the harvesting process. The plant harvested entirely as the whole upper plant is edible.
Nutritional Benefits of Bok Choy
Bok Choy or Chinese Cabbage is a perfect vegetable for those who are looking for a healthy diet. It is low in calories and rich in nutrients. It contains vitamin-E, vitamin-C, and beta-carotene. These nutrients help protect against damage caused by free radicals by their antioxidant properties.
Bok Choy contains selenium, where most of the fruits and vegetables don't. Selenium detoxifies the body and decreases tumor growth rates. Bok Choy is also great for our skin as it contains vitamin-c, and it is essential for smooth and healthy skin.