In the world of hydroponics, EC refers to the measurement of electrical conductivity within a nutrient solution. Keeping an eye on pH is important for checking the balance of available nutrients, whilst looking after the EC of the nutrient feed allows you to get a feel for the quantity of nutrients available.
Electrical conductivity (EC) measures the concentrations of salts within a solution. Usually pure or distilled water will hold no EC because it contains no minerals, meaning no salts. When minerals are added this dissolves into salts and makes the water electrically conductive. If the concentration of salts in the solution is high, the EC will also be high. The reason why many seasoned growers measure EC is because this measurement will tell you how much nutrients are actually available for your plants within the solution. For young plants in the seedling state, you want to start with an EC of around 0.4, then progressively build up to 1.3 for the vegetative state. For early flowering an EC of 1.4 is recommended and then slowly built up to a maximum of 2.4 EC. As with any other growth method, listen to your plants!!! If the EC of your feed is too high your plants will become locked out from over feeding, you will also see yellowing leaf tips as a result of this, with the leaves also drooping and looking sad! EC is just as important as pH!
But why is it important?
Measuring the EC of your nutrient feed will give you a way more in depth review of what is actually existing within your solution. Depending on how often you change up what goes into your feed the EC should stay around the same. If you add more nutrients as you progress further into growth, then you should expect the EC to be higher than it was at the start of the grow as more nutrients equals a higher EC! If you decide to start increasing the amount of nutrients added then remember to pay attention to your plants, see what they react well to and act accordingly. If your plants cant take nutrients of a high EC then you should reduce your feed to something more manageable for your plant. For some growers EC isn’t a problem as they use nothing but pH 6.0 water to feed their plants and achieve great results.
How do I measure EC?
The undisputed most efficient way of measuring EC is by using a digital meter that works due to electrodes installed on the meter at the bottom. All you have to do is put the end with the electrodes into the solution and watch the numbers change to reveal your EC! When it comes to quality, we do not recommend a cheap EC meter, as these often cause more problems than they’re worth. EC meters should be treated as essential and you should be willing to spend the money on a good one. Its an investment and it will last your through multiple grows, we recommend the trusty Bluelab EC/CF (Conductivity Factor) Truncheon which, depending on your supplier, will set you back around £75.