What is EC in hydroponics? EC, or electrical conductivity, is a measure of the ability of a solution to allow an electric current through it. In hydroponics, EC is an important parameter to monitor to ensure your plants get the right amount of nutrients. This blog post will explain what EC is, why it’s essential, and how to measure it in your hydroponic system.
Why is EC in hydroponics important?
Many cannabis cultivation facilities ask, “What is EC in hydroponics, and why does it matter?” Pure and distilled water doesn’t naturally have electrical conductivity. Therefore, when growing plants in hydroponics, you need to add nutrients to the water to provide them with the minerals they need to grow. These minerals dissolve in the water and increase its electrical conductivity. The EC of your nutrient solution will tell you how much mineral content is present and whether or not your plants are getting the right amount of nutrients.
Nutrient Concentration Levels
The concentration of nutrients in your hydroponic solution directly affects the amount of current that can flow through it. If the concentration of nutrients is too low, the water will not be able to conduct electricity, and your plants will not be able to absorb them. On the other hand, if the concentration of nutrients is too high, the water will become too conductive, and the plants will be unable to absorb them. This sometimes results in nutrient burn, which can damage your plants.
Because EC gives you an idea of the number of available nutrients, it can be used to troubleshoot problems with your plants. For example, if you notice that your plants are not growing as fast as they should be, you can check the EC of your solution and adjust the plant nutrient concentration accordingly. Now that you know what is EC in hydroponics, the next step is knowing how to accurately measure it.
How to Measure EC
So, how do you measure electrical conductivity? Before answering this question, it’s best to understand the measurement units.
Electrical conductivity is typically measured in units of Siemens/meter (S/m) or microsiemens per centimeter (µS/cm). However, the µS/cm unit is more commonly used for hydroponic purposes.
Measuring EC in Hydroponics
There are two main ways to measure electrical conductivity in hydroponics: a conductivity meter or a TDS/PPM meter. Generally, readings don’t exceed 3.0 EC or 2100 PPM – even with adjuvants and non-nutrient additives.
Conductivity meters are specifically designed to measure the EC of a solution. An EC meter works by passing an electric current through the solution and measuring the resistance of the solution. The higher the concentration of minerals in the solution, the lower the resistance and the higher the EC reading.
There are several types of EC meters, such as:
TDS/PPM meters measure the total dissolved solids (TDS) in a solution. The more dissolved solids in a solution, the higher the TDS reading. TDS is a measure of all the dissolved minerals in a solution, not just the nutrients that are available to plants. For this reason, TDS readings are usually converted to parts per million (PPM) before they’re used to adjust nutrient concentrations.
To give you a clear-cut idea of conversion rates, here is a quick rundown:
As you can see in the image, there are two sets of rulers – one for the EU and Australia and one for the USA. This is because the conversion factor from µS/cm to PPM varies depending on where you are in the world. This breakdown of conversions is the magic formula as it ties PPM to EC and CF (conductivity factor).
After plants have taken in nutrients, it’s important to build up the internal concentration of salts quickly. This is because as the plant grows, its water absorption increases while its solid matter production decreases. The result is an increased concentration of dissolved salts and minerals in the plant tissue, which we call “internal EC.”
If the internal EC gets too high, it can cause problems such as nutrient lockout and tip burn. This is why it’s essential to monitor your plants’ external and internal EC and ensure they’re within the optimal range.
Over time, the concentration of nutrient salts in your hydroponic system will increase. This is due to several factors, such as evaporation and plant uptake. When the salt concentration gets too high, it can lead to a number of problems, such as:
- Nutrient lockout
- Stunted plant growth
- Yellowing leaves
- Plant death
To prevent these problems, flush your system and replace the nutrient solution regularly. Flushing involves running fresh water through your system to dilute the salt concentration. This is typically done every two weeks or so, but it may need to be done more frequently if you’re using a recirculating system.
Monitoring Your EC levels
Once you’ve gotten the hang of measuring and adjusting EC levels, monitor them on a regular basis. This will help you prevent problems associated with high or low EC levels.
There are several other ways to monitor EC levels, such as:
- Checking for visual signs of nutrient deficiency or toxicity.
- Testing the pH of your nutrient solution.
- Checking the conductivity of your nutrient solution.
Monitoring EC levels is an integral part of successful hydroponic gardening. By keeping an eye on these levels, you can prevent problems associated with high or low salt concentrations.
Ensure Your EC is in the Right Range for Your Hydroponic Plants
Electrical conductivity is a key aspect of hydroponics that should not be overlooked. Now that you understand what is EC in hydroponics and how to measure it, you can ensure your plants get the nutrients they need to thrive.
On our represented brand page, we carry all the supplies you need to get started with hydroponics, including products to help you monitor your EC levels. Start growing today by stocking up on everything you need!