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Home > Main Index > Markets > Horticultural Applications > Perlite Plant Guides > Hydroponics > Almeria

Hydroponic Miracle Story in Almeria, Spain
Based on a speech given to
The Perlite Institute on May 21, 2000
by Manuel Lucas--Gen'l Manager of Otavi Iberica

In many parts of the world, but especially in the province of Almeria, Spain, hydroponic growing methods have changed the way farmers operate. And in the process, Almeria has been transformed from the poorest province of Spain into one of the ten most affluent!

Growers around the world are trying to grow more fruits and vegetables with less water and less land. And in Almeria, Spain perlite hydroponic systems seem to be helping them do this!

In Almeria, a beautiful semi-arid area along the Mediterranean, greenhouses currently cover over 30,000 hectares (more than 74,000 acres) of land from the sea to the mountains. Over 2,700,000 metric tons of produce are being grown in the region including lettuce, , cucumbers, watermelons, beans, squash, cucumbers, peppers, and tomatoes.

What makes these numbers particularly interesting is that almost 8 % of all vegetable greenhouses in Spain are now using hydroponic methods, and approximately 54% of Spain's entire hydroponic industry is in Almeria!

When growers and the government first tried to develop this greenhouse industry in the 1980's, a special "system" using sand, manure, clay, and top soil was used. The problem with this "Enarenado system" was that too much water was required and the soil eventually suffered from soil toxicity. Later more sophisticated rock-wool hydroponic systems were introduced in the 1990's, but currently the most popular media is perlite, and it is the media which is growing the most.

There are different growing systems or methods being used in Almeria, but perlite seems to be the most popular. Based on current estimates the different systems break down into the following percentages:

Perlite offers far better control over water usage and makes what water is used more available to the plants. Many growers also find perlite far more "forgiving" than other medias---if a little too much water is used or not enough, the plants do not suffer. It also has posed far fewer disposal problems, and has potential for use in retail potting soils and landscaping after being used for greenhouse production.

This trend towards using perlite hydroponic systems in bags or containers is growing throughout the world. Whether driven by water restrictions or availability (as in Israel and the Mediterranean countries), or by land use limitations (as in Holland and most of Europe), or by climatic considerations (like growing in space or in Scotland year-round), or by the banning of popular field pesticides (like methyl bromide's ban in the U.S.), the use of perlite in commercial hydroponic growing is increasing, it is answering needs around the world, and it has offered a very environmentally safe and friendly way to produce more produce with less water.

Information given herein is from sources considered reliable, but no guarantee of accuracy can be made or liability assumed.  Your supplier may be able to provide you with more precise data.  Certain compositions or processes involving perlite may be the subject of patents.
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