Hydroponics – What Happened at the Fall NOSB meeting?

December 05, 2017

After years of controversy, the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) failed to pass the proposed recommendation prohibiting hydroponic, aquaponics and container production from being certified organic. They will continue to be allowed by some certifiers, without any consistent direction or standards from the USDA National Organic Program. [They did vote to prohibit aeroponics]. NOFA-NY will continue to not certify hydroponics operations, until there is clear guidance and standards from the USDA.


Quote from the NOSB:
“The lack of consistency among certifying agencies and lack of standards for water-based nutrient-delivery growing systems has led to the need for the National Organic Standards Board to review this issue in a holistic way and recommend a path forward to the National Organic Program.”

For a detailed description of the NOSB proposal, including a glossary of terms, click here.

For a comprehensive analysis of the NOSB meeting from the “Keep the Soil In Organic” folks, and links to lots of other information, check out this blog.

To see NOFA-NY’s Policy Resolution on “Organic Certification for Hydroponic Production”, (passed in 2016), click here.


Glossary of terms (from the NSOB):

Aeroponics: A variation of hydroponic plant production in which plant roots are suspended in air and misted with nutrient solution.

Aquaponics: A recirculating hydroponic plant production system in which plants are grown in nutrients originating from aquatic animal waste water, which may include the use of bacteria to improve availability of these nutrients to the plants. The plants improve the water quality by using the nutrients, and the water is then recirculated back to the aquatic animals.

Recalcitrant: Resistant to microbial attack.

Container: Any vessel and associated equipment used to house growing media and the complete root structure of terrestrial plants and to prevent the roots from contacting the soil or surface beneath the vessel, such as, but not limited to, pots, troughs, plastic bags, floor mats, etc.

Greenhouse: Permanent enclosed structure that allows for an actively controlled environment used to grow crops, annual seedlings or planting stock.

Growing media: Material which provides sufficient support for the plant root system and enables the plant to extract water and nutrients. Used interchangeably with the term "substrate".

Hydroponics (for the purposes of this proposal): Any container production system that does not meet the standard of a limit of 20% of the plants’ nitrogen requirement being supplied by liquid feeding, and a limit of 50% of the plants’ nitrogen requirement being added to the container after the crop has been planted.

Nutrient solution: Growing solution used in traditional hydroponic production that is commonly composed of immediately plant-available soluble mineral salts in water.

Soil: The unconsolidated mineral or organic material on the immediate surface of the earth that serves as a natural medium for the growth of land plants. (ii) The unconsolidated mineral or organic matter on the surface of the earth that has been subjected to and shows effects of genetic and environmental factors of: climate (including water and temperature effects), and macro- and microorganisms, conditioned by relief, acting on parent material over a period of time. A product-soil differs from the material from which it is derived in many physical, chemical, biological, and morphological properties and characteristics (Soil Science Society of America Glossary).