Source: OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY submitted to
Sponsoring Institution
National Institute of Food and Agriculture
Project Status
Funding Source
Reporting Frequency
Accession No.
Grant No.
Project No.
Proposal No.
Multistate No.
Program Code
Project Start Date
Sep 1, 2005
Project End Date
Aug 31, 2008
Grant Year
Project Director
Keener, H. M.
Recipient Organization
Performing Department
Non Technical Summary
The use of hydroponic growing systems in computer controlled greenhouses has resulted in year-round production of high quality vegetable crops (especially lettuce and tomato) by expert growers. The overall objective is to expand hydroponic production technology with new growers and new crops using energy efficient greenhouses and Internet decision support tools. To have year-round availability of locally grown, high quality vegetable and floriculture crops for all consumers.
Animal Health Component
Research Effort Categories

Knowledge Area (KA)Subject of Investigation (SOI)Field of Science (FOS)Percent
Goals / Objectives
The overall objective of this project is to develop and demonstrate economically sustainable, year-round, high quality, hydroponic horticultural crop production systems through energy efficient greenhouses and Internet decision support tools for business planning. This will be achieved by the more specific objectives: 1.To identify and help greenhouse growers establish markets and marketing organizations for hydroponically produced crops. 2.To refine Internet decision support tools for growing hydroponic vegetables and other horticultural greenhouse crops economically; 3.To design and demonstrate new, low cost, energy efficient, naturally ventilated greenhouses that can improve and sustain the quality of hydroponically grown crops; 4.To refine and demonstrate experimental computer controlled fertigation systems to improve the quality and yield of hydroponically grown crops.
Project Methods
Hydroponic production diagnostic models will be taken from research at Ohio State and other public institutions and modified to become grower friendly information models via the Internet. Since there are some international diagnostic models available in different languages, screening will be done to achieve the most "user friendly" system. Experimental crops will be grown at up to two non-commercial locations by novice growers and tested against commercial norms. The primary non-commercial location will be Toledo Botanical Garden (TBG) greenhouse and the secondary location will be the OARDC engineering and horticultural research greenhouses at Wooster. The OARDC demonstration will depend on the availability of graduate students. Normal measurements will be made for establishing yield and quality. Marketing studies for hydroponic vegetable production will be done in northwestern Ohio with special attention to the design of business plans. Focused programs will be given to greenhouse growers who may be looking for new crop possibilities and who may be good role models. Attention will also be given to high potential new growers who need infrastructural support to achieve profitable hydroponic vegetable production businesses. Technical presentations will be made by project personnel at local, regional, and national conferences as to the opportunities of using such technology to improve quality of life, health, and economic well being. Special effort will be made to demonstrate Internet accessibility of the new decision models. Produce marketing cooperatives will continue to be investigated with small growers as to their effectiveness for marketing high quality hydroponic produce to large retail chains. Organizational meetings will be held and cooperative development experts will be invited to give presentations in Northwest Ohio to assist the growers. Project personnel will continue to work closely with the Toledo Area Flower and Vegetable Growers Association (TAFVG) to further develop and enhance a web site to market the products and services of the greenhouse growers in northwest Ohio. The web site will be used to connect the participating northwest Ohio greenhouse growers to customers throughout the United States. This marketing tool will be publicized using both the Internet and printed media to increase the sales and customer base of the greenhouse businesses.

Progress 09/01/05 to 08/31/08

OUTPUTS: This program has assisted existing and prospective hydroponic growers in Ohio and abroad with technical, cultural, and marketing support through one-on-one consultations, site visits, telephone, e-mail and a hydroponic website ( The website averaged nearly 400 visits per month in 2008 for individuals accessing interactive crop models, economic analysis budgets, hydroponic images and presentation podcasts from the 2008 Greenhouse Management Workshop. No other website provides these web-based, interactive decision support tools and learning modules for hydroponic growers. RESOURCE, a regional commercial greenhouse newsletter, was produced and distributed by mail to nearly 400 floriculture and hydroponic growers, distributors and academia ten times per year. In 2007 program organized and hosted a grower study tour to Leamington, Ontario where fifteen university and industry representatives met with Canadian hydroponic researchers and three greenhouse producers. Additional outreach activity included diagnosis of insect, disease pathogens and nutritional disorders for Ohio growers. Cultural and chemical recommendations for maintaining healthy, saleable crops were also provided. Oral presentations were delivered to audiences in Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan. A review of Ohio's hydroponics program was presented at an international symposium on hydroponics in Lima, Peru. Three fact sheets on biological insects, insect scouting methods and best management practices for optimizing nutrient utilization in hydroponic systems were written. Conducted a water quality assessment program for producers in Ohio and interpreted results to assist plant producers in improving water quality and fertilization practices for vegetable production. Developed a hydroponic research laboratory at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center capable of randomly and simultaneously delivering 16 different treatments to a crop via 16 growing channels supplied by 8 solution tanks. Initiated studies on lettuce growth utilizing different substrates, lettuce varieties, irrigation flow rates, pH and EC levels. Preliminary results showed media and pH factors provided greatest impact on lettuce yield. Built an aquaponics system in Bowling Green, OH to demonstrate how fish culture and vegetable production systems can be integrated. The demonstration greenhouse provides hands-on opportunities to learn hydroponic growing techniques and cultural practices in addition to evaluating yield and return on various vegetable crops and specialty crops. Research conducted in cooperation with an Ohio pot-in-pot nursery indicated that current slow-release fertilizer practices used in the nursery industry do not meet the nutrient uptake needs of the plants. A MicroFeed system was designed to control pH levels and to deliver precision quantities of all essential nutrients for optimum utilization. Based on the grower's records, substantial economic benefits were realized as fertilizer consumption decreased by over 50% and plant production increased by 20%. Developed instrumentation for whole plant photosynthesis measurement. PARTICIPANTS: Beth Fausey, Floriculture and Hydroponics Vegetable Extension Educator; Director Agricultural Business Enhancement Center; Peter Ling, Associate Professor and Extension Specialist in Controlled Environmental Plant Production, Chad Draper, Program Specialist in Web Based Systems; Robert Hansen, Research Associate Nursery Hydroponic Systems; Jonathan Frantz, USDA-ARS Toledo Office; Bill Bauerle, OSU Emeritus Horticulture and Willoway Nursery TARGET AUDIENCES: Extension Agents, Growers, Scholars PROJECT MODIFICATIONS: Nothing significant to report during this reporting period.

Access to information on the OARDC/OSU Hydroponic Vegetable Production Web Site was simplified and upgraded. The web site is receiving over 400 visits per month. Interactive crop growth models and interactive crop budgets are assisting growers in managing crop production and in predicting the annual expected income of their operations, both critical to maintaining profitability. Studies documented rapidity and magnitude of pH swings in water systems at hydroponic sites and at nurseries. Controlled studies on the effect of pH swings on plant growth were initiated. Based on one grower's records, substantial economic benefits were realized as fertilizer consumption decreased by over 50% and plant production increased by 20% when pH control was implemented.


  • Takahashi, Noriko, Peter P. Ling and Jonathan M. Frantz. 2008. Considerations for Accurate Whole Plant Photosynthesis Measurement. Environmental Biology 46(2) 91-101

Progress 09/01/06 to 08/31/07

In 2006/2007 research and extension programs assisted existing and prospective hydroponic vegetable growers in Ohio and abroad with technical, cultural, and marketing support through one-on one consultations and site visits, telephone and e-mail communications, a monthly greenhouse newsletter, a hydroponic website ( with resources beneficial to growers. Organized and hosted a grower study tour to Leamington, Ontario where fifteen university and industry representatives met with Canadian hydroponic researchers and three greenhouse producers. Produced RESOURCE, a regional commercial greenhouse newsletter and distributed by mail nearly 400 copies to floriculture and hydroponic growers, distributors and academia ten times per year. (Available on the OSU Extension ABE Center website - Hosted conference call series linking growers with experts in the field of hydroponic production, insect and biological control methods, and energy efficiency topics. Growers, extension specialists and industry members from Ohio, Wisconsin, Virginia and West Virginia participated in these interactive sessions. The monthly conference call series will continue through December of 2007. Initiated a water quality assessment program for producers (over 40 to date) with aim to assist Ohio plant producers in determining the characteristics of their irrigation water used for plant production and in making research-based recommendations to improve water quality and fertilization practices for crops grown. Assessments will provide valuable data in mapping source water quality characteristics across the state and in developing state-wide recommendations for how to address water quality and fertilization issues in plant production settings. Compiled a greenhouse instrumentation package to demonstrate how technology can be used and implemented in plant production greenhouses. Growers will use package and accompanying educational materials to assess environmental conditions in their facilities. Diagnosed insect, disease pathogens as well as nutritional disorders for growers across the state and provided cultural and chemical recommendations to maintain healthy, saleable crops. Planned a hands-on grower conference to be held in Ohio in November 2007. Updated the hydroponic extension website including valuable links to supporting websites and information. Initated redesign of website using a more modern approach of a content management systems with the goal to complete by end of 2007. Using Nukedit ( as it fills the needs for the hydroponics site and is quite simple. An important feature of the updated website will be a nutrient database listing nutrients important to the plants and their function. Initiated studies to investigate 1.) the effect of carbon dioxide enrichment in combination with lower greenhouse operating temperatures on plant growth, productivity and energy savings. Initiated studies to develop a whole plant canopy photosynthesis measurement for plant health monitoring. The system will monitor plant responses to biotic and abiotic stresses.

The hydroponic research and extension program provided production and marketing expertise and assistance that allowed current growers to conduct business in an increasingly competitive marketplace. Assisted one grower in Mercer County to successfully construct and begin a hydroponic lettuce business. Water quality analysis identified nutritional imbalances that previously prevented a lettuce grower from marketing the crop, resulting in increased sales and market reach. Over 60% of growers responding to a survey indicated they routinely read the RESOURCE newsletter for pertinent information to their hydroponic business.


  • Both, A.J., David R. Mears, Thomas O. Manning, Eugene Reiss, and Peter P. Ling. 2007. Evaluating Energy Savings Strategies Using Heat Pumps and Energy Storage for Greenhouses. ASABE Annual International Meeting, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 17 - 20 June 2007. ASABE Paper No. 074011. (Published on CD (search at
  • Takahashi, Noriko, Peter P. Ling, Michael Klingman, and Jonathan M. Frantz. 2007. System Approach for Improved Whole Canopy Photosynthesis Measurement. Japanese Society of Agricultural, Biological, and Environmental Engineers and Scientists 2007 conference, June 25-27, Sakai, Osaka, Japan. Paper number: B31-6, pp184-185.
  • Takahashi, Noriko, Peter P. Ling and Jonathan M. Frantz. 2007. Considerations for Accurate Whole Plant Photosynthesis Measurement, ASABE Annual International Meeting, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 17 - 20 June 2007. (Published on CD (search at )

Progress 09/01/05 to 08/31/06

A Hydroponic Vegetable Program began in the spring of 1999 to foster hydroponic greenhouse vegetable businesses in Ohio by providing horticultural, marketing, business planning, and greenhouse design support. Grower support continues to be provided by direct contact with individuals, seminars, tours, interactive Internet websites and a demonstration greenhouse at the Toledo Botanical Garden, Toledo, Ohio. A NW Ohio grower study group organized through the project has met monthly to pursue production and marketing possibilities and to tour commercial sites in Ohio and Canada. In 2004, project personnel helped the growers form their own Great Lakes Hydroponic Association, which holds regular educational meetings and tours and administers the Nature's Flavors Produce TM brand, which project personnel also helped to develop. Project personnel organized and sponsored a 2 day Greenhouse Food Production Short Course at the annual Vegetable Growers Assn. Meeting & Trade Show, Jan 22-23, Toledo, OH. Over 30 participants came from Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota, Indiana, and Pennsylvania and evaluations were very positive. Seminars included business planning, produce marketing, greenhouse lettuce and tomato production systems, and greenhouse designs. Project engineers continued to revise the program's interactive website to support business planning and economic analysis for both tomato and lettuce production. Growers can enter growing parameters into the website and get immediate feedback about their horticultural and business planning decisions. The one-acre, gutter connected, poly roof greenhouse included a natural ventilation system designed by project personnel using a Computational Fluid Dynamic model. Hydroponic production systems were improved at the Toledo Botanical Garden greenhouse for both demonstrations and research. The program expanded into floriculture by publishing a newsletter once a month for 120 northwest Ohio floriculture greenhouse businesses and professionals.

Two commercial lettuce growers doubled their production area and one Ohio tomato grower expanded from a starter greenhouse to a one-acre state-of-art production facility as a result of the project activities. Personnel also collaborated with researchers at the University of Toledo and Bowling Green State University to bring cluster-based economic development to the northwest Ohio greenhouse industry. The interactive web-site tracker continued to show over 5000 worldwide users annually coming to the web site for the interactive programs and to search for publications and information related to hydroponic vegetable production and marketing. This work is increasing the chance of success for new hydroponic vegetable and flower growers. Some are small farm operators looking for alternatives to commodity crop production and others are looking for new economic ventures in high tech agriculture.


  • No publications reported this period