Frequently Asked Questions
1. Is Suncrest™ Lettuce Certified "Organic."
Suncrest™ lettuce is not technically “Certified Organic.” USDA is currently evaluating how to provide “Organic Certification” to hydroponic growers. The issue is that to be certified, among other requirements, the plant needs to be grown in soil, but hydroponics does not use soil. (There are a few exceptions of hydroponic growers who have managed to become certified, but only through technical loop holes in the rules.) Eventually, we expect full certification will be available for hydroponic growers following all the rules, other than the soil requirement.
Suncrest meets what most organic-focused consumers are focused on. Our growers use no synthetic pesticides and our seeds are organic and non-GMO. When we do need to spray for things like aphids, just like Organic Certified growers, we follow organic standards by using OMRI® (Organic Materials Review Institute) approved products such as Neem Oil. However, by growing in controlled environment greenhouses, the insect issue is significantly reduced to begin with.
2. Why Deep Water Culture (DWC) rather than Nutrient Film Technique (NFT)?
There are a number of hydroponic methods used for growing leafy-greens like lettuce, tomatoes and other produce. Deep Water Culture (DWC) and Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) are the most commonly used methods for leafy-greens. Basically, the difference is that in DWC, lettuce sits on rafts that float in large nutrient-rich tanks of water, while in NFT, lettuce sits on gutter-like channels with water running down the channel to provide nutrients. DWC was pioneered at Cornell University and was determined to be higher yielding, more efficient and somewhat less costly to operate than NFT. Most of the very large commercial-scale hydroponic lettuce growers prefer this method. NFT, on the other hand, does have some advantages as the running water becomes oxygenated more easily and the channels can be moved around for access. One of the issues is reliability for the grower. If the power fails and the water cannot circulate in NFT, the plant roots will dry up very quickly. Where as in DWT, plants can safely sit in the tank water for days without circulation.
3. Do you use lights during the winter months?
Yes. In Northern climates, where there is limited sunlight, we must use lights. We are often asked about LEDs, but our testing has shown that while LEDs use less power, they also provide less light and the plants do not grow as fast. Metal Halides (MH) are still our lamp of choice as they provide an excellent indoor spectrum for photosynthesis and foliage growth. If we were growing tomatoes, we would switch over to High Pressure Sodium (HPS) lamps as their spectrum helps with flowering.
4. In DWC, how much water do you use and is it safe?
Actually, compared to field-grown lettuce (traditionally grown and organic) which uses 16-38 gallons of water to grow a head of lettuce, hydroponically grown lettuce requires only 1 gallon of water. In our DWC hydroponic tanks we start with drinking water and circulate the water each day through multiple mechanical filters and UV sterilizers to keep the growing water extremely safe. It is tested on a regular basis for pathogens and unwanted elements such as iron and arsenic. Another factor is that the plants are not watered from above, so the leaves stay very clean and the roots are the only connection with the tank water.
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