January 26, 2011

Chili growing via Hydroponic versus Fertigasi

Ok, this post is meant to be exploratory in nature. Exploratory for me :P. I hope a good kind reader will help enlighten me.

I subscribe to www.fatalii.net mailing list and I saw this cultivation system in their website, chili growing by Hydroponic! I am familiar with hydroponic but I did not know that you can grow chili this way too?!

Currently I am growing chili by the conventional way i.e. plant them in the ground.

The thing about planting in the ground,, there are so many variables that you cannot control. Let me list down what I think are the downsides of planting in the ground:

1) The number of plants you can plant is subjected to the size of your plot/land. I plant my plants 3 feet apart from each other in a row and the next row will be 3 feet apart from the last row and so forth. If you plant them too near to each other, they will be competing with each other for nutrients.

2) In Sabah at least, soils are clay in nature or maybe I should just say they are clay. They are sticky when wet and rock hard when allowed to dry. They are very good in nutrient retention, so theoretically, they are fertile but they also retain water very well. Chili do not like overwatering! So if you have severe rainy season like what we experience in Sabah recently where it rains practically everyday, you will have problem. My output has been affected by this. Even those plants that I planted on slopes (hoping that rain water would just flow downhill and minimize over drenching) were affected. So I am pretty much at the mercy of the weather. Not good because I cannot guarantee to certain extend my output. Some customers want a set minimum daily or weekly supply from you. Therefore, currently with my method of planting and erratic weather condition, I am not a reliable supplier.

3) Unless you have a mini lab and access to equipment to check the properties(the various nutrients that plant need to thrive) contain in your soil, you are basically groping in the dark and just leaving it to chance that your plants will be healthy and productive. Presently I fertilize my soil using a mixture of Bio and chemical based fertilizers. Every week, I would spray the ground with Mesra Alam Bio Agri (a Facebook friend of mine gave me instruction on concocting my own version of this using brown sugar, I haven't gotten around to try it. Probably should try it soon as it would definitely cut down my operating cost. I got the aquarium tank ready, just need to get a pump), once a week I also give a small pinch of NPK Blue 12:12:17:2 to the plants (this thing is very potent, I learned it by the hard way, over application of this stuff will have bad outcome for your plants) and once a week, I fertilize the plants with foliar fertilizer namely CIFO Flora N. So far I manage to keep my plants healthy and green but I suspect I still lack a component because the chilis that I produce are not as hot as I expect it to be.

4) Grass trimming! Oh I hate this part of the process. I used to just spray herbicide around the plants (not too near though or you risk killing your plants. Trust me, even while spraying in no wind condition and using cover attached to the nozzle of my sprayer, I still managed to get herbicide on the leafs of my plants) and then on my hands and knees, pulled those grass underneath the plant by hand.

Now I have stopped using herbicide and trim the grass using a Brush Cutter instead. Green and bio way. However, I have to do this every two weeks! More frequently in this rainy season because grass tend to grow faster in wet season.

5) Did you know that besides providing nutrients to the plants, soil can introduce harmful diseases to your plants too? So if you don't keep your 'office' clean and keep those grasses away, those diseases will come aknocking at your door.

Ok, so that ends the list of why I think planting in the ground is such a drag!

I am constantly reading, looking for tips on maximizing my output and having strong and healthy plants. I am looking for precision in my growing process, from cradle to grave i.e. from germination to growth to harvesting. Also the plot I am working on is not big, so I need to address maximize utilization of land space. All my query seemed to direct me to Fertigasi.

Actually, before I planted chili in the ground, I had considered fertigasi; even got a quotation from a local supplier of fertigasi kit but to plant 1000 chili plants, my start up cost quoted was about RM8,000/-! It may not be a big sum but RM8,000/- is still RM8,000/-.

Then a relative discouraged me from this endeavour, he said, "Tipu tu!" which means "They cheat!". Another relative told me that restaurants in Kota Kinabalu prefer soil planted chilis over fertigasi planted ones. He said they think fertigasi planted ones do not last long, they deteriorate faster? 

I have seen at least two fertigasi projects failed along the Kota Kinabalu-Beaufort Highway. So because of the cost, cautionary words from my relatives and from what I saw happened to other growers, I scrapped my fertigasi idea. 

I am still revisiting fertigasi though. I know it is not a scam because growers in West Malaysia has been successful with this system. If I am not mistaken, this cultivation system was developed in Israel. In Sabah, fertigasi has not been adopted widely. There is no good technical know how. Hence, there is no one you can refer to if you have technical problem. I suspect those failed fertigasi projects that I saw were due to wrong mixture or overdose of the fertilizer solutions.

Hydroponic seems to be a better alternative. Why? This is my opinion:

1) You can plant more per square feet. Plants can be put closer to each other because you do not have to worry about them competing for nutrients since each of them has their own 'pot' of soluble fertilizer.

2) There is no repotting, no polybags needed(in the case of fertigasi). So you cut down on one labour intensive process. And no soil too! Your chances of getting soil disease has been cut down to almost 0%!

3) You can plant them indoor with artificial lighting from fluorescent lamps! Or if you have a greenhouse, you can use those transparent plastic sheets as roof, so the plants will be exposed to the sunlight and at the same time, keep the rain away!

4) According to www.fatalii.net , it is the fastest, easiest and most productive way of growing chilies. Well, this is contentious since I do not know whether they included fertigasi as one of the benchmarks for this cultivation system.

Question now is, what is the start up cost? Is it viable in the context of Sabah's market. I noticed the behaviour of West Malaysian consumers and Sabahans differ. For example, Cili Kulai is in high demand in West Malaysia but here in Sabah, it is the local variety of the Bird's Eye/Cili Padi. I planted the Piqin variety of the cili padi, from Taiwan. It is as hot as the local ones (my taste bud says anyway) but it is bigger and longer than the local variety. I could only get between RM15/- to RM18/- a kilo for them, I was told I can get RM30/- for the local cili padi because they move(off the shelf) faster.

Please do drop a comment if you want to. I want to know whether I got it right or wrong.  


jonfun said...

Try to hydroponic. I think it's less costlier and it yields good results too if you wanna go for cili padi.

livvie said...

There's no harm in trying...Just...

abang mat said...

cara tanam bergantung pada keadaan, samaada secara fertigasi hidroponic atau aeroponic macam dalam gambar tu, semburan air nutrient pada akar secara berterusan atau secara periodical, atau convensional batas tanah, tanaman cara hydroponic memang hasilnya tak tahan lama spt buah sayur atau sayur daunan.......rasanya juga agak kurang baik berbanding cara convensional atau secara organik.

masalah kos fertigasi untuk 1,000 pokok rm8,000 amat mahal, mungkin di sana supplier peralatan tak banyak dan tak ada persaingan .

secara fertigasi kita kena ada tanah yang rata dan tidak berbukit atau tinggi rendah, kalu tanah tidak rata sebaiknya tanaman secara convensional amat baik sebab mempunyai saliran air yang baik, air tidak tergenang dan melemaskan akar. .......tanah jenis liat buleh di puleihkan denagn menggunakan compost untuk memberi eadaran udara yang baik pada akar di samping menyimpan nutreient secara slow release.........abg mat

Martin said...

According to me, hydroponics is really the better way for growing the stunning chillies. And they really gives the best of organically grown products. And they are really free from chemical fertilizers, herbicides and systemic pesticides.

Hydroponics Supplies

raychung said...

untuk saya fertigasi memang sesuai digunakan dan kosnya tidak lah sampai RM8/ sepokok.

Di sabah kk memang susah sikit untuk menanam apa-apa pokok disebabkan cuaca yang panas.

Cuba kita bayangkan apabila matahari yang panas gila itu menjemur paip-paip tersebut. Apa terjadi? Air akan jadi sangat panas, telur pun boleh setengah masak. Kalau air begitu siram ke pokok-pokok, aku pasti akan terbantut atau mati.

Ada juga cara mengatasinya tetapi kos memang tinggi. Iaitu menggunakan rumah hijau. Ada satu cara lagi, iaitu tanam di Tambunan.

Aku ni memang ada hati nak tanam tetapi banyak juga rintangannya..

Good Luck to everybody

alex said...

well, there is pros and cons for all different planting system (ground, polybag + fertigation, hydroponics) so it's up to you to weight the facts and make a decision

well, my company is doing fertigation for approx rm2.20 per seedling (excluding the cost of pump and motor required by large scale nurseries), thus i believe that it's more affordable than u think. based on my experience with nurseries, i believe that water source and planting medium are the two main factors to decide the good growth of plants

anyhow, i am really interested to know more about growing chili using hydroponic method. i've been thinking about it, but i just cant understand how can it sustain the growth of the chili plant which may require up to 15"x18" (polybag) of planting medium. well, i hope that we could talk, discuss and learn more together.
u can contact me at knightalex@hotmail.com

khairul adha said...

I'm so interested with this agricultural project . So , I think i want to plant it behind my house . I have a big land . Can you tell me what should i do to plant this chili very well ?

Unknown said...

fertigasi is just a gimmick i think. it's still a part of hydroponics...drip nonrecover system. the fertilizer formula is the same like the one used in conventional hydroponic system. well, in fertigasi system because of the fertilizer just 1time utilize by the plant, i think it's a waste there but at the same time u don't need to regulate the ph of the solution like in normal hydroponic system. hmm just do what u think right, don't let all those knowledge overwhelm u haha

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