Aquaponic farming is a relatively new horticultural trend that many people have embraced. It involves the combination of aquaculture and hydroponics. Aquaculture is the growing fish, while hydroponics is plant cultivation. In an aquaponic system, both the fish and the plants depend and benefit from each other. The excretes from the fish are used by the plants as nutrients while the plants clean the water and channel it back into the fish tank. Wasabi is a Japanese plant known for its distinct flavor, mostly known for making sushi and a prime cooking ingredient. Although the plant is not very easy to manage, growing wasabi in aquaponics has been adopted by many aquaponic enthusiasts and individuals as a whole for their benefits.
Types of Wasabi That can be grown in aquaponics
The different wasabi types that exist are attributed and differentiated by how they are grown. Wasabi is mainly categorized into Hon-Wasabi and Seiyo-Wasabi. Hon- wasabi, or the Japanese native wasabi, is classified into Sawa and Hatake wasabi.
Sawa-Wasabi/ Mizu-Wasabi (Water Wasabi)
This type of wasabi grows wildly in the cold. It can be found in stream beds as it grows in clean, constantly flowing water rich in nutrients at a uniform temperature. To develop, it utilizes the water that flows naturally from mountain streams.
Hatake-Wasabi/ Riku-Wasabi (Land Wasabi)
For Hatake Wasabi growth, the seeds are sowed in the soil like for other vegetables. Hatake- wasabi rootstock grows within the ground for it not to get too big. It is cultivated for the use of its leaves and stem as raw materials in making processed foods.
Seiyo-Wasabi (Mountain Wasabi)
It is also referred to as Wasabi- daikon or Yama-wasabi in Japan, raifort in French, and horseradish. It is grown in Northern Europe and is often used as a spice.
Factors to Consider when Growing Wasabi in Aquaponics
The Aquaponic System Type
The best system for growing wasabi in aquaponics is the use of Media beds. The system is easy to construct, perfect for small-scale production, and is cost-efficient.
The pH Levels
Wasabi will grow in neutral and or slightly acidic soil. It requires a 6- 7 pH level. Test the levels at least once every week.
The Grow Medium
Clay balls or pumice rocks are the recommended grow mediums for wasabi farming. Clay balls are lightweight, porous, and their surface area is big enough for bacteria to grow. Careful consideration should be made when choosing the clay balls as some are incredibly lightweight. The very light clay balls would float and not enable the wasabi to grip properly. Pumice rocks work well as they are porous. Ensure that the pumice rocks chosen do not contain any calcium. A simple spot test can be done using vinegar. If any bubbles form, don’t use the pumice rocks for your wasabi.
The Water and Air Temperature
You will need to water your wasabi using cool water frequently. The leaves must also be misted to prevent them from wilting. Wasabi will exceptionally grow in a humid environment with temperatures of approximately 45 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
Wasabi can grow up to twenty-four inches. It is recommended that spacing of twelve inches be provided in between the plants.
The Sunlight Requirements
Wasabi will not grow properly in direct sunlight. If you will be growing your wasabi in your backyard, ensure to provide a shade for the plants.
The Preferable Fish Types
Since wasabi requires clean water free of sediments and cold temperature for growth, the fish you decide to use should be the type that thrives well in low temperatures as well. Some best options are bass and trout. If you use bass, keep monitoring the potassium levels, and where trout is used, it should not be kept with other fish types. Koi, Guppies, and Koi fish can also be used. The quantity of fish must be controlled in order to support and maintain the nutrient level favorable for the growth of the rhizome (the active ingredient). Excess nutrients will make the wasabi produce huge leaves with almost no rhizome.
Planting and Harvesting
The planting of wasabi should be started during the cold months. You can start planting in late fall for winter to help in the growth of healthier plant roots. If you choose summer as your planting period, ensure to diligently water the plants, keep them moist, and grow them in a shaded area. If you grow your wasabi during spring, it will need to thrive during winter for a good root system. Wasabi will take around 24 months for maturity that will offer its distinctive flavor. Due to the size of the plant, it must have many harvestable stems and small shoots or offsets that can be taken for dispersing of more planting stock. A dense canopy with round brittle leaves must also be evident on the long stalks. If wasabi grows way too fast, the rhizome will have no flavor when processed or grated.
Pests and Diseases
Wasabi, just like other plants, can be affected by various pests and diseases. Common pests will include moths, aphids, and diamondback. Snails and slugs could also damage wasabi. You can protect the plants using precautionary measures of the correct pesticides and insecticides.
Aquaponic life capitalizes on the benefits and eliminates each other’s drawbacks at the same time. Wasabi is a plant that can be used in various ways. Its most popular one is the use of its green paste as a condiment, and other methods include the use of its leaves, flowers, and sliced rhizomes in the preparation of Japanese pickles. The plant is also a typical garnish for meals, and the roots and stem can be made into powder. Growing wasabi in aquaponics is inarguably a feasible idea, but the cost may be pretty expensive as it requires high maintenance and takes a long time to develop. The growth conditions such as lighting and water must be kept exact for optimal results.
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