Growing in Water
If you are going to set up a hydroponic wasabi farm (this is what we use), then there are not many thing to worry about except for the water source. See the other sections of this lesson to see what you need.
If you are going for a water grown operation using an existing river or stream then you have slightly different things to worry about.
- Can you make changes to the stream or riverbed? Do you need to check with your local Council or Water Authority? This is a deal breaker. You have to make sure from a legal standpoint that you can make changes to the river or stream bed in order to get the right set-up for growing Wasabi. There can be big consequences if you get this wrong. You need to check with every organisation (Government, local, State and Federal) that deals with water. This is likely to include the Game and Fishing, Park authorities, local protection groups, etc. You really have to be really sure that you are not going to destroy a protected species habitat both in the area you want to alter, but also up and down stream. DO NOT rely on the locals or landowners.
- Is there enough flowing water year round for you to grow the quantity of wasabi you want to? The local council or water board may be able to help you there. If not then you are going to have to set up a recording flow meter in the lowest part of the river or stream and leave it there for a significant amount of time to make sure you don’t run out of water during the growing cycle.
- Is the water safe to use? Get it tested for pollutants. At the back of the Wasabi Growers Primer there is an extensive section on what needs to be tested for and why. This section all gives the minimum standards the proposed water supply must meet. These requirements are irrespective of the water source. If these requirements are not met then this is another deal breaker and you need to find another reliable water source that meets these requirements.
- Are you allowed to use the water? Some places won’t let you return used water to the stream or river. This can be a big problem if there are limitations on what you can and cannot do with the water in the river. Some places allow almost anything, but it is becoming more common to severely restrict use of rivers and/or streams. Once again, the local authorities are likely to have this information. Do the downstream users have any say in the upstream use? This might involve a title search of the downstream land titles. Use a professional to do this, and get a written guarantee that what they have told you is watertight if you ever go to Court over usage problems.
- Does the river or stream flood? How often? How high? Once again the local authorities and weather people should have this information. Another way is to walk around the area and see if there are bits of branches and debris hanging off fences or up in the trees. Also see if grass next to ditches, rivers and streams have been flattened. Do this after a downpour of rain and you might get a bit of a shock. Certainly in New Zealand, streams and rivers rise very high and very fast after a serious downpour. Drowning in rivers and streams because of this is a common occurrence every year. In fact, in the 1890’s drowning was known as the “New Zealand disease”.
- Can you build flood protection works? This is not a trick question. I know personally of a number of perfectly good Wasabi growing sites that lost all their plants out to sea with one minor flooding that was totally unexpected. Protection of this sort is dependent upon the amount of flooding that is likely to occur. If projected flooding is too high then it may not be economic to even consider the area. Also some areas are designated as “flood plains” and you will not be able to put in any flood protection in at all. Go somewhere else.
- Does the water carry a high level of sediment? If so, this will clog the feeder roots of the Wasabi plant and they will die. How do you find this out? There is a simple method for doing this. Use a big glass jar and fill it from the river or stream. Preferably by immersing the jar into the river with the open end facing upstream, the water flows into the jar. Remove the jar and let the water settle. Wait one hour and have a look at what has settled out on the bottom of the jar. The heavier stuff will settle first and then the finer stuff. There should not be a lot of material that has settled out.
- Does it need shelter from the weather? How are you going to do that? This can be difficult, especially if the river / stream is wide. Putting supports in the riverbed is fraught with problems, so most of the time it will have to be supported from the banks. This can involve some ingenious methods to support the shelter. 🙂
- Do you have all the local weather information for the last three years or more available and in your possession? The local weather office and / or local authority are likely to have this information. What you are looking for are the unusual events as well as the averages as defined in the next question.
- Have you determined high and low temperatures, humidity, rainfall etc., and have you sorted out how you are going to deal with the extremes of weather? The average weather is straightforward to deal with, but the extremes normally take a bit more thought and planning. I would be extremely reluctant to set up a Wasabi farm in an area that is prone to gusty and unpredictable winds, for example.
- If you are not doing this by yourself, do you have access to labour to look after the plants seven days a week? Sooner or later, you are going to want to have a weekend off just to get away from the Wasabi. You will need someone else, preferably more than one, to look after the plants while you are away. These people need to be trained, and it would be better if they were local to the Wasabi farm in case of emergency. This is an area that is easily overlooked, but we recommend that you involve these people in the building and setting up of the Wasabi farm from day one.
All this needs to be done before you even think about planting or even ordering plants for planting.
If dealing with the local or other authorities, get everything in writing (preferably signed and dated) when you ask questions and keep them filed and safe. You might need them later if problems arise. 🙂
Further Topics relating to Water