Growing cannabis is progressing, and farmers appear to be seeking new ways to sustain growth strategies. Rather than relying on soil, producers are studying and experimenting with other systems. The nutrient film technique has gained popularity when developing cannabis efficiently. The nutrient film technique (NFT) can be used in an indoor growing system in a hydroponic setup. In a structural sense, the NFT approach is the same as the ebb and flow method. This strategy has traditionally been used to produce cannabis plants fast and has shown to be successful. Discover more below about the process and stages involved.
Understanding nutrient film technique
The nutrient film method (NFT) is a hydroponic form that immerses a portion of the roots in a thin nutrient + water film, hence the name while leaving the remainder of the roots exposed to air. This is done because the nutrient solution is vital for the plant, but the roots also require air. Plants cannot grow in the absence of oxygen. In this way, the system facilitates the roots’ absorption of nutrients from the water and air.
How does the nutrient film technique function?
Although hydro in hydroponics stands for water, supplying air to the plant’s roots is an equally important part of the process. NFT setups supply air to the roots by permanently exposing most root mass to air. Your cannabis plants are developed in long channels (troughs) with net pots or neoprene collars to keep them in position. A thin film of the nutritional solution is constantly recirculated down the bottom of the trough, supplying food directly to the plants. Additionally, the bare root mass is kept out of the solution and left exposed to the air between the suspended plant and the nutrient film at the channel’s bottom.
How frequently should the NFT hydroponics reservoir be changed?
A cannabis producer should change the reservoir and replenish it with the new nutrient solution once a week when utilizing the nutrient film technique hydroponics method. If there is no other choice, attach a hose to the pump and siphon the water out into a toilet or adjacent drain. Still, the ideal approach is to discharge the solution into a garden area to reduce environmental damage. Growers must ensure that the new nutrient solution filling the reservoir has the proper pH and E.C.
The advantages of using the nutrient film technique to cultivate cannabis
The NFT method is well-known in the world of hydroponics. Although more complex than more basic hydro setups, the effort required to establish an NFT system pays off significantly in terms of results. The advantages associated with the hydroponics system NFT method are:
Greater yields and faster growth
Despite taking up little space when stacked vertically, NFT structures can produce massive yields. When adequately handled, they can surpass other hydroponic systems and setups that use soil as a growth medium. The nutrient film approach achieves such appealing results for the following reasons:
- Oxygenation: Cannabis roots are constantly exposed to oxygen, which promotes healthy root development and makes these networks more sensitive to nutrients.
- Significant root growth: The ample area and shallow current within NFT development channels allow cannabis roots to grow and develop freely. Without the obstacles of compacted soil, they swiftly generate an abundance of root hairs to attempt to intercept passing nutrients.
- Increased nutritional uptake: Nutrients are given in water-soluble ionic forms, allowing them to enter plant roots immediately. Cannabis crops in this environment do not have to “work” for their nutrients via microbial symbiosis and cation exchange.
Less expensive to set up
Compared to other hydroponic systems that need misters and timers, an NFT system is also less expensive. If you don’t want to spend additional money on commercial NFT systems, you can even cut expenses by building your own. However, if you intend to grow many plants, commercial setups are preferable because they reduce your chances of making mistakes.
Even hardcore soil purists have acknowledged the extraordinary adaptability of nutrient film method systems. NFT systems, like growing in the soil inside, can adapt to the area provided. Furthermore, growers are not limited to growing cannabis alone. The net pots used to host cannabis plants may also house several culinary crops that flourish in a comparable pH range and benefit from the identical nutrient solution. Although it results in a lower cannabis yield, you can incorporate strawberries, spinach, and lettuce into their system alongside your primary crop to add a touch of self-sufficiency to the setup.
Due to the regulated and consistent nutrient delivery, plants in an NFT technique of cannabis cultivation absorb just the necessary nutrients – neither less nor more. This keeps the plant healthy and prevents overfeeding and nutrient burn. It also removes the guesswork from the equation, leaving you with nothing to do but maintain the nutritional solution.
Furthermore, the plants will always have a consistent pH, which is one of the most important elements of cannabis growing.
Cultivators can easily observe root health
Roots are easy to ignore, significantly when growing in soil. While growers tend to focus on the luscious fan leaves and resinous buds, cannabis roots quietly work out of sight to keep plants alive and thriving. During the development cycle, growers pay close attention to various parts of plant anatomy to check for pests, disease, and nutrient deficiencies—NFT systems enable you to apply the same level of inspection to roots. When examining roots, look for health indicators such as a white or light brown look, little to no wilting, a firm texture, and no rotten odors.
Main factors to consider when cultivating cannabis using NFT
Here are the four main factors you need to consider while using the NFT technique:
The gradient is the angle at which the NFT channels are positioned; it is critical to the flow of nutritional solution. The troughs’ slope helps the nutrient solution to flow smoothly and prevents it from accumulating around the roots. This is done to avoid root rot and nutritional imbalance caused by pooling. You can make the gradient in various ways, such as placing the channels on a frame, benches, or a sloping floor, but it can be tough! Theoretically, a gradient of 1:100 (1%) is needed, although experts suggest a slope of 1:30 (3.33%) or 1:40 (2.5%).
Nutrient flow rate
Next, pay attention to the nutrient flow rate, which determines how much fertilizer is supplied to the roots and its depth at the trough bottoms. Both are essential for the cannabis plant’s proper development. The gradient and pump determine the flow rate. As a result, you must use the gradient specified above and a flow rate of one liter per minute. When adding new plants, reduce the flow rate to 500 ml per minute.
A channel length that guarantees optimal nutrient delivery to each plant on the channel is also required. Plants at the far end may suffer if the length is too long. Furthermore, the length is critical for increasing the oxygen levels in the solution. Use air stones to boost the oxygen levels in the nutritional solution.
The exact length of NFT channels varies depending on parameters such as gradient, culture size, nutrient content, etc. However, experts recommend that your channel size be at most 30-40 feet. Longer tubes may be required if you are producing commercial cannabis. Experts propose installing numerous nutrient feeders throughout the channel to maximize nutrition distribution.
Maintaining the proper temperature is essential for good development but can be difficult in an NFT system. Long pipes might cause significant fluctuations in temperature in the nutrition solution. Also, because exposed roots lack the natural insulation of soil or growing mediums, temperature fluctuations occur on the roots. It is recommended to keep the temperature between 65° F and 75° F. This recommended temperature range is warm enough to encourage strong cannabis growth while being cool to allow nutrient retention in the solution.
How to build an NFT system
Follow the instructions below, and you’ll have a working system in no time:
Step 1: Create your frame
First, you must construct a frame to hold your expanding channels. You can utilize wood, PVC pipes, or scaffolding to do this. The height of your frame is determined by personal desire, while the length is determined by the number of plants you choose to grow in each channel. In this case, experts recommend building a frame 130cm long to accommodate a 110cm piece of guttering. You’ll also need a few centimeters added to one end to enable the channel to sit at an angle. You should aim for a slope of around 3% to allow for gentle flow while preventing channel pooling. Secure your channel to the frame using cable ties.
Step 2: Prepare the channels
After you’ve built your frame to your liking, you’ll need to prepare your growing channel. Before you start drilling, you must first shape the channel’s end. Heat the top end with a heat gun until it is pliable. Close the end and tilt it upwards to form a sealed lip to keep water from seeping out the top. Put those net pots in position by running a tape measure down the center of your 110cm guttering. Mark the 25cm, 55cm, and 85cm positions using a marker. This will result in a gap of 20 cm between each plant while accounting for the size of the net pot. Next, take your hole saw and aim the drill bit at each mark to make three 10cm diameter holes.
Step 3: Make the reservoir
You’ll need about 1.5 gallons for each plant (a total of 4.5 gallons for this arrangement). However, using a larger tote will allow you to make the following modifications easily. Take out the 10-gallon plastic tote. You might require to lift it off the ground to reach the bottom end of the trough depending on the height of the frame. Using a jigsaw, carve a rectangular hole large enough for the end of the trough to slip into, leaving no gaps for light to pass.
Make this hole high above the water line at the tote’s lip. Insert the channel’s end into this hole. Next, using a large enough drill bit, make an additional hole close to the tote’s lip that fits the diameter of the pump hose. Pass the pump hose through this opening. Finally, drill another hole next to this one that is large enough to accommodate your airstone hose pipe.
Step 4: Establish a flow
It’s time to get some flow now that your holes are in place and your reservoir is ready! First, make another hole in your growing channel with your drill. This hole should be located 5cm from the upper end of your developing channel, between the terminus and the first net cup. Then, insert the pump hose end into the channel. Insert your pump and airstone into the reservoir and connect their pipes. Fill your reservoir with 4.5 gallons of nutritional solution and turn on the system. Put the cover on your bag to keep light from promoting algae development. You should now hear the lovely trickling sound of water entering the channel’s top and flowing back into the reservoir.
Step 5: Watch the plants grow!
After establishing your cannabis seedlings, transplant into net pots and fill any gaps with clay pebbles for structural support. Turn on your lights (if you’re growing inside) and get ready to measure pH to keep your plants happy and healthy!
Investing your effort (or money) in an NFT system for cannabis cultivation might be quite profitable. And the benefits don’t stop with better cannabis buds. If you’re serious about building an NFT system, experts recommend conducting an extensive study first. Furthermore, if you lack experience with DIY projects, consider purchasing a commercial setup rather than constructing one at home. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t try to build up a DIY NFT system — you should because it’s simple; however, you should perform some test runs with a few extra cannabis seeds for sale.
Using an NFT technique teaches you a lot about how cannabis plants act, how to fine-tune your culture using your nutrient solution and surroundings, and how to produce more plants in a small space. So, whether you’re experimenting with an NFT method or adapting it for your entire culture, go for it. Just remember to do some research and be patient when configuring the system. The results will be well worth it!