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Hydroponics provide ongoing organic controversy

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The organic certification of fresh produce grown hydroponically and by other soilless operations has been a thorn in the side of many organic farmers who view soil as a fundamental part of organic growing.

IBISWorld market research reports there are 3,214 hydroponic businesses totaling $891 million in revenue. Major crops include tomatoes, lettuce, fresh herbs, cucumbers, peppers, and strawberries. Although the number of these operations certified as organic is relatively small, this could change.

At present, all containerized, hydroponic, and aquaponic operations can be certified as organic if they meet current guidelines. The same is true for aeroponic farms, though the National Organic Standards Board has recommended this form of growing be denied organic certification.

The European Union, in the meantime, voted last year to prohibit hydroponics from organic certification, including plants grown “in containers, bags, or beds where the roots are not in contact with the living soil.”

The regulations will become effective in January 2021.