“The world population is increasing, and we also have climate change,” says Eleni Stavrinidou, Associate Professor at the Laboratory of Organic Electronics at Linköping University, and leader of the Electronic Plants group. “So it’s clear that we won’t be able to cover the food demands of the planet with only the already existing agricultural methods. But with hydroponics we can grow food also in urban environments in very controlled settings.”
Her research group has now developed an electrically conductive cultivation substrate tailored to hydroponic cultivation which they call eSoil. The Linköping University researchers have shown that barley seedlings grown in the conductive “soil” grew up to 50% more in 15 days when their roots were stimulated electrically..
Hydroponics enables vertical cultivation in large towers to maximize space efficiency. Crops already being cultivated in this manner include lettuce, herbs, and some vegetables. Grains are not typically grown in hydroponics apart for their use as fodder. In this study the researchers show that barley seedlings can be cultivated using hydroponics and that they have a better growth rate thanks to electrical stimulation.
“In this way, we can get seedlings to grow faster with less resources. We don’t yet know how it actually works, which biological mechanisms that are involved. What we have found is that seedlings process nitrogen more effectively, but it’s not clear yet how the electrical stimulation impacts this process,” says Starvrinidou.
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Mineral wool is often used as cultivation substrate in hydroponics. Not only is this non-biodegradable, it is also produced with a very energy intensive process. The electronic cultivation substrate