Microorganisms and organic compounds in the solution: Is filtering useful?
Many people think that filtering the recirculating solution is useful, but we have never filtered our solutions. Our measurements indicate that total organic carbon in the recirculating solution does not exceed 15 mg per liter, even near the end of a 2 month life cycle. About 30% of the organic carbon in the solution is in the chelating agent.
Total organic carbon includes the carbon that is in microbial biomass, so it is clear that neither organic compounds nor microorganisms are at high levels in the solution. The solution also appears as clear prior to harvest at 80 days as fresh solution.
Roots leak organic compounds, but there is an equilibrium between microorganisms on root surfaces and the exudates so that compounds are degraded to CO2 at the root surface. Estimates of the quantity of root exudates vary widely, but there is considerable evidence that carbon efflux increases when plants are stressed. Roots in solution culture produce smaller quantities of exudate than in soil. Reduced root growth due to inadequate aeration in hydroponic culture is accompanied by a dramatic increase in root microbe population, which is attributed to increased exudation from roots.
The bottom line is that healthy roots in a well aerated hydroponic system should not increase the microorganisms or organics in the solution and filtering is thus unnecessary.