CropKing & Hydroponic Society of America (HSA)
22nd Annual Conference

Nov. 10-13, 2005
Tour of Disney’s Land Pavilion, Epcot, Orlando, Florida

Introduction:

The CropKing/HSA Conference was held at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. The resort is in Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park area. The resort is composed of a number of separate buildings (Spanish-style guestrooms) located around a small lake (Lago Dorado or Lake of Gold) (photo 1). The guestrooms are located in three differing themed areas-The Casitas, The Ranchos and the Cabanas, each being separate buildings. It is named after the legendary explorer, Don Francisco de Coronado. The Resort combines the natural beauty of the lake and its lush landscaped surroundings. The architectural design encompasses the beauty, fantasy and unique cultural elements of colonial Spain, Mexico and New Mexico. It is truly a family resort with attractions such as heated pools, a water slide and close proximity to Disney World. It has a colorful, Fountain of the Dove, hidden treasures of the Mayan-ruin themed Dig Site pool with a representative Mayan temple. The Mayan temple structure towers over an elaborate pool area with a water slide and cascading fountains. There is free bus service every 15 minutes to Downtown Disney, Pleasure Island and other activities of Disney World. It is 6 miles from Epcot, so is very convenient for visiting Disney World.

The Land Pavilion is located in Future World at Disney World. I found some trivia information on Epcot at the website: www.answers.com/topic/epcot. EPCOT is an acronym for “Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow”, which is a utopian city of the future. It is to always be introducing, testing and demonstrating new materials and systems. It opened on October 1, 1982. Epcot is regarded as a learning experience. The Land pavilion underwent some renovations to the displays and restaurant in May 2005.

The Living with the Land boat ride is an informative 14-minute journey through a stormy prairie, a windswept desert, and a South American rain forest en route to the experimental greenhouses and fish farming. There is a narration of the history and future of agriculture as is later shown in the greenhouses with technology on real crops. If you enjoy gardening or wish to learn more about this type of horticulture you should take the Behind the Seeds tour of the greenhouses. It is a one-hour tour of the greenhouses from behind the scenes at a cost of $6. Tours are offered throughout the day starting at 10:30 AM. Make your reservations early at the Green Thumb Emporium Shop as soon as the pavilion opens at 9:00 AM.

The Land produces more than 30 tons of fruit and vegetables each year, which the majority is served to guests in Epcot restaurants such as the Garden Grill, Coral Reef, or Sunshine Season Food Fair.

TOUR OF EPCOT:

The members of the conference were given a special “behind-the-scenes” tour of Epcot’s hydroponic displays. Normally, tours are by small boats that pass by via a canal (photo 2). “Behind-the-scenes” tours can be arranged with the scientific staff of the horticulture display. However, we were given a special detailed tour not available to the general public. We met with Epcot horticulturists, agronomists, entomologists and college interns who showed us how they grow a wide range of crops using a variety of unique hydroponic growing systems. Demonstrations by pathologists and entomologists explained their pest management program. They rear their own beneficial insects in the Biotechnology Lab at The Land. They discussed integrated pest management (IPM) strategies that they use to manage pest problems in the greenhouses.

Sand Culture:

As our tour group entered the greenhouses the first crop we saw were the huge winter melons hanging from vines supported from above (photo 3). These melons measure about 18 inches in length by 8 to 10 inches in diameter. Sand culture is used to grow these melons in addition to grapes, cotton, pumpkins, grapefruit, and corn (photos 4-5). One must keep in mind that many of the crops grown in The Land pavilion are for display and education, not necessarily as potential commercial crops for hydroponic culture. For example, the melons, grapes, cotton, corn and pumpkins are field crops best cultivate in soil. Please note the bran on the leaves of the pumpkins in photo 5. This has beneficial insects in it that control pests. Grapefruit, as for other citrus and tree fruits are best suited for orchards outdoors. Grapes were trellised to support the fruit above the surface as is done in vineyards (photo 4). Cotton and corn are grown in vast agricultural areas of California and the Midwest.

While most plants will grow hydroponically in sand culture, their yields and labor intensive management would not permit them to be grown economically. Pumpkins take a lot of horizontal space in a greenhouse and therefore cannot yield sufficiently on a per square-foot basis of the greenhouse floor area to be profitable. However, some melons, such as honey-dew and cantaloupes may be trained vertically in greenhouses thereby yielding greater on a unit area basis that they can become profitable. There was a tomato plant trained as multi-stemmed and supported overhead so that the tomatoes hung down from the vines (photo 6). This demonstrates more that tomatoes can grow for up to several years if they are kept healthy by the proper environment, nutrition and pest & disease management. However, in commercial greenhouses it is better to replace plants at least once a year to keep them more productive. In addition, using conventional cultural and training methods of hydroponic culture of tomatoes greater yields may be achieved than permitting them to become “trees.”

NFT Lettuce:

This was a very beautiful demonstration of combining varieties of lettuce. The red oakleaf lettuce contrasted against green bibb ones. The purpose was to show the “50” years of Disney in the crop by use of a different colored lettuce for the numbers (photos 7-8). The support benching was also sloped at about 10% so that guests could see the pattern. The benching is about 30 ft with a 3-ft. slope from one end to the other. The NFT channels are about 12 feet long with an aisle between the two sections. Each section has inlet tubes at the higher end and a catchment trench at the lower end that returns the solution to a cistern tank (photos 9-10).

Aeroponic Systems:

There are several types of aeroponic culture. The first is a more common A-frame constructed of Styrofoam board sides supported above a nutrient reservoir (photo 11). High pressure misting nozzles spray the solution onto the roots from below and the excess solution drains back to the tank. The plants (cabbage in this case) are inserted into the holes of the Styrofoam sides with their roots suspended to the inside (photo 12). The roots get good oxygen from the spray of solution and from the volume of air within the chamber. Cabbage grows well under this system, but, again what is the economic feasibility of such as system. Certainly, it would be feasible for herbs and especially for medicinal plants whose roots would be harvested for the commercially active ingredient used for vitamins or drugs.

Another aeroponic culture system is a moveable overhead rail supporting columns of herbs and ornamentals that move around the display area (photos 13-14). They are misted with nutrient solution from the top of the column and permitted to drain below.

A very unique aeroponic system is the one in which papaya grow from an overhead mobile supporting system. As they move around their fixed path their suspended roots pass through a misting chamber at one section that feeds them on each cycle (photo 15). As the plants pass out of the nutrient chamber the excess solution drains to the rocks below where it is conducted away from the area.

Coco Coir Culture:

European cucumbers are grown in slabs of coco coir. The plants are started by seeding into rockwool cubes and transplanted to rockwool blocks that are later transplanted onto the coco coir slabs. One plant is set onto each slab to get the correct spacing of about 10 square feet of floor area per plant. This system is set up with drip irrigation and a similar layout as for rockwool. It does differ from rockwool in that each “slab” is set in its individual collection tray to conduct the drainage back to a cistern tank (photo 16). Each collection tray sits on top of a drain pipe that receives the leachate and conducts it back to the cistern. You will notice the bran on top of the slabs and plant leaves that contains beneficial insects to control pests.

 

Rockwool Culture:

Eggplants and pumpkins are grown in rockwool. Seeds are sown in small pots of rock substrate. The pots are set on top of the rockwool slabs with two drip lines to the pot and one to the slab. One plant is placed in each slab. In this case the slabs are set in a channel that collects the drainage and conducts it to the cistern (photo 17). The plants are fed by drip irrigation. An injector makes up the nutrient solution for the sand, coco coir, bato buckets of perlite and rockwool systems (photo 18).

Bato Buckets of Perlite:

European cucumbers are grown in bato buckets of perlite (photo 19). Plants are sown in rockwool cubes, later transplanted to rockwool blocks and finally transplanted to the bato buckets of perlite. Two drip lines feed the plants in the pots. The bato buckets are set on top of drain pipes that collect the leachate and return the solution to a cistern.

Concluding Remarks:

A trip to Epcot is rewarding in the presentation of futuristic horticultural technology using hydroponics. The displays show how almost any crop may be grown hydroponically using different systems suitable to particular crops. While such demonstrations emphasize the possibilities of hydroponic culture, they do not take into consideration the economics of using some of these systems commercially. However, the important message is to introduce people of all ages, especially younger children, to the concept and potential of hydroponic culture. The “Behind the Seeds” tour is a special attraction to anyone having interest in gardening as it instructs you on how hydroponics works and introduces you to pest and disease management in greenhouses through the use of integrated pest management (IPM) that uses beneficial insects to control pests. After experiencing this tour you will realize that growing plants is a precise science, especially hydroponic culture, yet it may be successfully applied at a basic level in your home using these principles.

 

 

 

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Dr. Howard Resh, Hydroponic Services
Old Ta, Anguilla BWI

email:click here
Fax:(264) 497-8794

 

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