Year-Round Lettuce (Lactuca sativa L.) Production in a Flow-Through Aquaponic System

Gaylynn E. Johnson, Karen M. Buzby, Kenneth J. Semmens, Nicole L. Waterland

Abstract


Aquaponics is the combination of hydroponics and aquaculture that sustainably produces both animal and plant food products. Soluble nutrients are released into water by the fish providing nutrition for plant growth. Lettuce (Lactuca sativa L.) is one of the most popular vegetables grown in aquaponic systems. In this experiment, the feasibility of year-round lettuce production utilizing a cold water flow-through aquaponic system (FTS) growing trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) in a high tunnel was evaluated. A high tunnel is a greenhouse-like facility constructed with polyethylene covering a metal frame which extends the growing season and protects the crop from cold temperatures. The average night air temperature inside the high tunnel during winter in Wardensville, WV was 2.9±3.4 °C and it helped extend the growing period into the fall and winter. Results from this pilot scale experiment showed the potential for year-round lettuce production in an FTS. Average yield (fresh harvest weight per tray) in the spring season was the highest, while productivity (average yield per week) during the summer season was higher than that in spring. During the extended growing seasons (fall and winter), more than a quarter (30.6%) of the total lettuce production was obtained. The yield per unit area (7.4 kg m-2) from our pilot study was significantly higher than that from the reported average field production (3.1 kg m-2) in the U.S. except California and Arizona where year-round production of lettuce occurs. To compensate for lower lettuce yields during cold seasons, high value crops requiring less nutrients and tolerant to the colder environment may be considered.


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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5539/jas.v9n1p75

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