PRODUCTION AND NUTRITION RECOVERY OF CROPS IN A RECIRCULATING AQUAPONIC SYSTEMS
thesisposted on 16.08.2019 by Teng Yang
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The goal of this research was to improve crop yield and quality and enhance nutrient use efficiency of aquaponics for the development of sustainable aquaponic production system. Aquaponics is the integration of aquaculture and hydroponics by recirculating water and residual nutrients resulting from aquaculture wastewater into hydroponic crop production. The project had four objectives. The first objective was to characterize nutrient composition and accumulation in recirculating water and plant parts of tomato, basil, and lettuce grown in aquaponic systems, and to compare their growth and yield with those grown in hydroponic systems. The second objective was to determine the effects of feeding management regime on water quality, crop yield and quality, and N use efficiency for vegetable and herb production in recirculating aquaponics in comparison to hydroponics. The third objective was to optimize water-flow rate for efficient aquaponic system for maximum crop yield. The fourth objective was to investigate and compare the N and P mass balance between aquaponics and hydroponics. Four conclusions were determined that 1) Aquaponic solution was deficient in Ca and/or Mg leading to plant nutrient deficiency but sufficient or high in P; And luxuriant nutrient profiles in hydroponics are not necessary to enhance crop yield in aquaponics as long as key factors affecting crop yield are identified and properly addressed. 2) Uniform feeding regime improved water quality by reducing toxic ions and enhancing initial nutrient availability and considerably increased the yield, quality and nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) of crops in aquaponics as close or similar to those in hydroponics. 3) Flow rate is an important factor affecting water quality parameters and optimizing flow rate is essential to maximize aquaponic crop production and improve energy efficiency; High hydraulic loading rate at 3.3 m3/m2-day improved performance and yield of all crops in an aquaponics system regardless of their growth rate, but the water hydraulic loading rate for fast-growing and medium-growing crops can be reduced to 2.2 m3/m2-day without production reduction. 4) Plant species had significant influence on N and P removal and mass balance in aquaponics and hydroponics; Fruity vegetables showed better growth adaption in aquaponic system, while yields of leafy vegetables may be reduced when grown in aquaponics than hydroponics; Aquaponics is more efficient than hydroponics releasing less environmental wastes, however, N and P use efficiency in aquaponics and hydroponics can be further improved via proper management.
The important findings obtained from this research will fill the knowledge gap in aquaponic research and provide new management strategies to improve quantitative study of aquaponic crop production and new management strategies for cultivating crops in aquaponics. The findings will also greatly contribute to the commercial aquaponic development, and ultimately improve food security and resource use efficiency in the US and global agricultural production.