I’m an avid reader of your magazine, and love all the articles. I was wondering if you guys could settle the age old question of whether organic fertilizers make your finished product taste better. I have to believe that if you properly leach, and then flush your plants, you will turn out just as fragrant and smooth as if you used organic ferts. I have no experience with organics and would be willing to try them if they produced a better product . . . I adhere to the old adage of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”
Thanks for the kind words, and it probably will remain an age old question. However, what you taste is not what you fed your plants, but what your plants were able to do with what they were fed. Organic solutions can be more complex in terms of the array of substances and organisms they contain when compared to standard synthetic fertilizer solutions. As a result, the plants have more variety in their diet which they can utilize, possibly resulting in more complex tastes, etc. Now, that was one of the upsides of organics. One of the drawbacks of organic crop production vs. standard hydroponic fertilizer is that the majority of nutrients are not immediately available to the plant. This makes it very difficult to monitor and regulate concentration and ratios of elements available to the plant. If using premium hydroponic fertilizers, the vast majority of nutrients are immediately available in precise and measurable values. As a result, healthy vigorous plants can reach their genetic potential which includes characteristics such as taste and flavor. Plants do not differentiate the nutrients they absorb resulting from hydroponic or organic nutrient solutions. For example, nitrogen is typically available as NO3– or NH4+. It does not matter to the plant whether it came from guano or bottled nutrient.
With that said, there are some advantages to supplementing your current hydroponic nutrient regimen with an organic based product. There are an array of products on the market that take advantage of compost teas and the complex array of substances and beneficial life they may contain. Many organic based products are fortified with other compounds which include complex and simple sugars, amino acids, phyto-hormones, vitamins, minerals, etc.
It is generally accepted that hydroponics is capable of producing higher yields, but which produces the “better” product seems to vary from crop to crop and from grower to grower. I have seen studies illustrating that tomatoes grown in hydroponics have higher nutritional contents while in my other hand I was holding a study that said organically grown tomatoes had a higher nutritional content. Consider experimenting with a portion of your crop. You may choose to do a side by side trial and repeat it several times before passing judgment as to which method works the best for your individual growing situation. Remember that if nothing more is ventured nothing more can be gained. If you’re not much into experimenting I would recommend sticking with a proven winner.
Cheers, Erik Biksa