Article Summary: Agriculture is a rapidly changing industry because people continuously search for innovative methods to meet the rising need for food supply while reducing environmental impact. Electrical horticulture, or electroculture, is one green-friendly, self-sufficient technique in plant production gaining traction. We explore how electricity has the potential to promote the development of your crops while using sustainable energy sources. We also look at the challenges and barriers to adoption to get the lowdown and be equipped with knowledge if you decide to use electricity as an asset on your farm.
Agriculture is a rapidly changing industry because people are continuously searching for innovative methods to meet the rising need for food supply while reducing environmental impact. We’re in a fast-moving industry that can no longer rest on its’ traditional pastoral laurels, and we must embrace it.
Electrical horticulture, or electroculture, is one technique in plant production gaining traction.
Have you heard about it yet?
Electrical horticulture is older than you think
With roots as far back as the 1700s in France, it’s been found that plants grow faster when placed near an electrical conductor. In other words, crop growth is stimulated by using electricity. Although electrified horticulture may seem a little futuristic, akin to something from a science fiction novel, all you need to do is think back to Jean-Baptiste de la Tour, a French scientist who stumbled upon the concept in 1746.
Electronic horticulture has since been the focus of countless investigations and tests, some of which have shown encouraging results. But we’re still not there yet in adopting it fully.
In this article, we explore how electricity has the potential to promote the development of your crops while using sustainable energy sources. We also look at the current challenges and barriers to adoption so that you can get the lowdown and be equipped with knowledge if you can use electricity as an asset on your farm.
What is electroculture, or electrical horticulture?
Electroculture, aka electrical horticulture, is the process of subjecting plants to regulated electrical currents to promote their development and general health. This idea is not actually new since it has been studied for centuries (see above). However, more farmers (and scientists) are becoming interested in electroculture thanks to recent technological developments and a rising concern for sustainable agriculture.
How can electricity stimulate crop growth?
The mechanism behind electricity promoting crop development is still a huge subject for research—simply, it’s highly complex and not yet widely accepted globally. To explain the advantages of electroculture, we can break it down into the following areas:
Enhanced nutrient uptake
Electrical fields may enhance plant roots' uptake and use of nutrients via an electric current, which increases the circulation of ions in the soil, increasing the availability of nutrients to plants.
Electric fields have the potential to accelerate photosynthesis, the process through which plants convert sunlight into energy. By speeding up this crucial process, you could expect improved crop yields and increased biomass output.
Stimulated root development
It’s believed that electrical stimulation may encourage root growth and development. And in the case of plants with stronger and bigger roots, they may absorb nutrients and water better, making these plants healthier.
Control of pests and pathogens
Some research suggests that electrical fields can fend off pests and pathogens, removing the need for chemical pesticides—a boon for sustainability initiatives. Electric currents may disturb pest feeding and reproduction cycles, which reduces their attraction to the plants. Ah, nature!
Scientists have found that plants that are exposed to environmental stresses like drought or insect infestations may benefit from mild electrical stimulation. How? Electrical impulses are thought to be able to activate plants' stress-resistance systems.
Where’s the proof that electric-powered vegetable growing really works?
Several experiments have been carried out to investigate the impact of electrical stimulation on plant development. While research has shown potential, these findings are still preliminary and larger studies are required to confirm the efficacy of widespread electroculture as a regular, accepted form of farming.
In 2019, researchers from the University of Guelph in Canada discovered that giving tomato plants a small amount of electrical current enhanced their biomass and fruit production. The Japanese have shown that electrical stimulation and LED lighting improve lettuce plant growth and quality, and it’s now a part of regular food farming practices there.
Electricity may be applied to crops using a variety of techniques. Aerial wire or even submerged electrodes in hydroponic systems are sometimes used instead of burying electrodes in the ground. The method chosen will depend on the particular crop, the surrounding conditions, and the intended result.
Can electroculture run via a renewable energy source?
Electroculture systems powered by renewable energy sources, like wind or rain, have the potential to lower the carbon footprint of your farm and speed up the uptake of sustainable agriculture. So it’s one of those things that should be happening now, everywhere, but isn’t quite yet.
A green and self-sufficient process, electrical horticulture is actually common among home gardeners and small organic growers, who sometimes fashion electric systems as simply as using copper wire.
But, while the idea is promising, there's still a way to go
Although electroculture offers farmers, consumers and the wider community many possibilities, there are a few challenges as well, which include:
Limited scientific understanding
How electricity truly affects plant development is still unclear. More study is required to understand these mechanisms further and improve electroculture methods.
Electricity is extremely dangerous and can potentially cause catastrophic damage to the environment, property and people, and death if not used under expert supervision to exact safety standards. Electrical currents can harm farmworkers, pollinators, and soil bacteria if not used correctly.
Putting in place electroculture systems can demand a significant amount of energy depending on the size of the operation. It is still difficult to make these systems energy-efficient, especially in isolated or off-grid areas.
It is difficult to scale up electroculture for extensive commercial agricultural operations and requires significant infrastructure, technological setup, and maintenance.
New farming techniques frequently encounter regulatory challenges. For electroculture to be widely accepted, it might need to overcome these regulatory obstacles.
Electrical horticulture is a fascinating new area of sustainable agriculture that can complement the growing array of digital technologies at our fingertips to farm better and smarter.
Anything that can increase agricultural output while minimising environmental damage is high on the minds of many in our industry. But while there are obstacles yet to be addressed, current research and advancements in renewable energy sources give us optimism for the future of this potential agricultural method. Feeding a growing global population while reducing agriculture's ecological impact could be just the solution we’ve been looking for.
Would you use electricity to power the growth of your produce? Tell us below!
Until we meet again, Happy Farming!
- The Dedicated Team of Pasture.io, 2023-08-31