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Plant Profile: Nufar-Basil

Nufar BasilWe are excited to feature the first crop in our Plant Profile series that is produced in our aquaponics system.  So what is this plant you ask?  Well, it’s basil, Nufar Basil to be exact.  We have it growing in our aquaponics greenhouse, which is located at our Dyersville, Iowa campus.  We have recently updated and re-designed both our aquaponics system and building within the past year, and we are pretty excited about our new setup.  We have been experimenting with several different types of plants, and we are happy to say, Nufar Basil has been a huge success.  You can learn all about growing this crop for yourself in either a hydroponic system or aquaponics system below.

Nufar Basil Ocimum basilicum

Days to Bloom: 77

Disease Resistances

Fusarium wilt

F Fusarium Wilt (Race 1)

Growing Method

Nufar Basil in NFT channelsRight now we are growing our Nufar Basil in both the float bed and NFT channels.  We have a table of channels set up above the float bed, which has allowed us to double the growing space in our aquaponics system.   While both methods are working well, the basil growing in the NFT channels seems to be doing a bit better than the basil in the float bed.  We believe that this is due to the lighting, or lack of lighting, that the different locations receive.  Currently, the only lighting comes from above the entire system.  This means that the basil in the raised NFT table receives the most light, while the basil growing in the float bed receives less light due to shading.  We plan to eventually add lights to the bottom of the NFT channels in order to eliminate this problem.

We started the seeds in our propagation table.  Like all the other crops that we grow, we started them in our 1.5 inch Rockwool starter plugs, and then placed them into a standard 1020 flat.  The germination percentage of Nufar Basil is highly dependent on the temperature of the greenhouse.  If the temperature fluctuates too much, it could cause the percentage of germination to lower.  The average length of germination for Nufar basil is five to seven days.  After the first true leaves appear, you will want to transfer the seedlings over to either your NFT channels or float bed.

Nufar Basil in float bed

Lighting 

For ideal growth, Nufar Basil should receive 16 hours of supplemental lighting. Our aquaponics system is placed under our 400 watt metal halide light fixtures.

Temperature and Humidity

In our new aquaponics greenhouse we aim to keep the temperature between 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit.  We also aim for 60 percent humidity in the greenhouse, as this is the most optimal temperature for Nufar Basil.

Nutrient Requirement   

Chlorosis in our Nufar Basil

Signs of Chlorosis in our Nufar Basil

Basil is great because it can thrive in a wide range of pH and EC.  We found that it most closely compares to the nutrient requirements of lettuce.  With that said, a pH of 5.7 and an EC of 1.5 is generally considered optimal.  In our greenhouse however, we have the pH at 7.0, and the basil is growing extremely well.  We have noticed recently though, that the basil is suffering from Chlorosis which is likely associated to an iron deficiency caused by the high pH. We have been counteracting this deficiency by supplementing iron pentetic acid (FeDTPA), and the basil has been responding well. For a hydroponics system, we would recommend simply reducing the pH rather than supplementing iron, but since we are producing this basil in an aquaponics system, reducing the pH is not an ideal option as the bacteria within the system require a more basic pH to survive.

Support

Because this is a smaller plant no growing supports are needed.

Care

There is minimal care required for basil, as it is a low maintenance crop. Once you transplant them into the system they will grow without needing much attention.

When you are transplanting though, you will need to be careful with the seedlings, as they are very fragile.  Be sure not to over saturate the Rockwool while the seeds are in the propagation table.  By over wetting the media, it can cause basil to suffer from Damping off.  Basil in particular is highly susceptible to this horticultural disease.  Damping off is a disease that can weaken, or even kill, seedlings before or after germination.   It is most commonly seen in a wet and cool environment.    

Pollination 

Nufar Basil has no pollination requirements.

Harvesting

Nufar Basil is ready to be harvested about four weeks after transplanting.  Basil is a determinate crop, meaning it only produces for a period of two months.

Nufar Basil in float bedOne great thing about basil is that you can grow for both a single harvest or for multiple harvests.  Both of which are beneficial in their own way.  For single harvest crops, there will be fewer issues with disease and pests, because the basil will not be in the system as long, reducing the chance of prolonged pest and disease issues.  The benefits of harvesting each plant multiple times is that you can expect anywhere from two to three harvests per plant.  In order to insure multiple harvests, you must remove the top 2/3 of the plant with each harvest.  This allows the plant to stretch and grow at a quicker rate.  Be sure you harvest well before the flower set grows though, as this can impact the flavor of the crop.

Tips/Tricks

NFT channels, like our GT50 channels, are better suited to single harvest crops, as there is less volume in the channel for root growth.  With multiple harvest crops, additional room for root growth is needed, as the crop will remain in the system for a longer period of time.  Keep this is mind when choosing where to grow Nufar basil.

Our aquaponics systemWhile using aquaponics, make sure you regularly monitor and check your calcium, potassium and magnesium levels.  By making sure you have the proper amounts of each for the crop, you are ensuring adequate growth.  Be sure that that calcium and magnesium are at similar levels; this is because they are antagonistic to each other.  When testing your water, if it shows your magnesium levels are low you can add Epsom salts to boost levels.

One of issue we have had with our basil is thrips.   These pests cause noticeable damage to the leaves, reducing the sale value of the crop.  We have controlled the thrips by introducing predatory mites, Amblyseius cucumeris to be exact.  These mites can sense thrips emerging from the leaf tissue and will bite of their heads once they emerge.  This method of pest control has proven to be quite successful for us.

Thrips damagae

Leaf with signs of thrips damage

That is how we produce Nufar Basil in our aquaponics greenhouse.  If you have any questions on caring for Nufar Basil or about our aquaponics system, please leave us a comment.

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. At what rate are you distributing cucumeris in your crop?

    March 3, 2015
    • Good question. We have been applying every two weeks by applying a light dusting around the crops. It is important not to apply too much so you do not get excessive amounts of substrate in the water, so be sure to use caution during application.

      Thanks for the question.

      March 5, 2015

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