The Evolution of Plant Nutrition
By Cindy Rea
Hydroponic cultivation is well recognized as a superior method of agriculture. Plants are fed their exact nutritional requirements and are provided with absolutely ideal growing conditions. Consequently, plants thrive.
Having witnessed the substantial improvements in plant quality and yield delivered by hydroponic cultivation, scientists have taken a keen interest in further developing this field. The school of thought is “If we can make it this good, we can make it even better!”
These eager minds with their unquenchable desire for perfection have succeeded in taking hydroponic agriculture to a new dimension. The development of some very important new products has made significant changes to hydroponic crop production. Other products, that up until recently have strictly been used for commercial soil farming, have successfully been adapted for use in hydroponics.
It is possible to fine tune plant nutrition by supplementing the twenty mineral elements required for plant growth (and contained in good quality hydroponic nutrients) with biostimulants and nutrient conditioners. Biostimulants contain natural hormones, vitamins and rare trace elements that stimulate normal biological functions in plants. They are best administered as a foliar spray to optimize absorption or as a seed soak to enhance germination. For example presoaking seeds in a biostimulant blend of humic and fulvic acids, ziatine and amino acids will ensure a better percentage of germination and cutting success while dramatically decreasing germination times.
Nutrient conditioners complement biostimulants when used as a supplement in hydroponic feeding methods. Scientifically developed combinations of hormones and micro-nutrients will energize the microbial activity, promote cell division and lateral bud development as well as delay the aging process of plant tissue. Employed as an additive to fortify a traditional nutritional regime, nutrient conditioners enhance a variety of functions such as root development, vegetative growth and fruit and flower production. A nutrient conditioner containing cytokinins may be added to a hydroponic reservoir to enhance root development. While nutrient conditioner containing a blend of vitamins and other growth stimulants will help maintain photosynthesis during flowering and promote plant vigor.
All plants require a balance of N-P-K and trace elements to grow. There are many variables that influence a plants’ ability of utilize these nutrients adequately. pH and temperature will greatly effect nutrient uptake. Through a supplemental feeding plan of biostimulants and nutrient conditioners the grower will ensure that plants receive a naturally balanced diet which can help compensate for micro-nutrient deficiencies caused by temperature variations and small pH fluctuations. While making sure plants receive the maximum nutrient uptake, biostimulants and nutrient conditioners will also protect plant health and discourage insect infestation.
The initial presoak biostimulant should have additional nitrogen and potassium to compensate for the sudden acceleration in growth that it will provoke.
Humic and fulvic acids are chosen for their agronomic value.
They help facilitate faster nutrient uptake and accelerate stem and leaf growth. They are responsible for natural chelation of micronutrients and enhanced macronutrient uptake. Fulvic and humic acids are bi-products of humus. Humus shale was created by the degradation or decomposition of organic matter deposited over 75 million years ago and is currently being considered for organic certification.
Ziatine (Cytokinic complex) a derivative of seaweed, found in microbes and plant exudes, activates seeds out of dormancy, improving early germination and growth. Ziatine enhances root growth and plant metabolism and stimulates cellular division. It is known to regulate enzymatic and metabolic activities and enhances absorption and nutrient transportation.
The natural amino acid, Glycine Betain is the most powerful antistress agent. It guards against temperature variation, cold, draught, flooding and osmotic stress. It is credited with promoting better nutrient absorption within the plant and activates root growth.
Trace elements will protect plants and increase the rate of penetration of foliar nutrients. They ensure complexation, a natural method of absorption.
The synergy of these organic components combined in a presoak provide a healthy and vigorous start to virtually all plant life.
Biostimulant foliar sprays and nutrient conditioners added to a regular nutrient feeding schedule during the vegetative stage can alter the duration of vegetation and aid transition to the bloom cycle. The vegetative stage of a plant’s life is a crucial period for building strength and storing nutrition to support flowering. Calcium and magnesium are needed for vegetative growth and are essential chlorophyll building blocks.
I.P.A. improves the systemic transportation of nutrients. This dual purpose additive activates photosynthesis while stimulating the root system. Glycine Betain is also very helpful in the vegetative stage.
During the flowering stage the absence of nitrogen will help shift plants from vegetative to reproductive growth mode. A synergetic blend of IPA and Glycine Betain with phosphorous and potassium will safeguard plants and continue to support strong growth when used as a foliar spray. Adding a nutrient conditioner specific to flowering and containing a bulking agent will maximize blooms and increase fruit and flower size and weight.
High quality hydroponics nutrients should be able to adequately supply a plant with everything it needs providing all other growing conditions are optimal. This is seldom the case. Unexpected environmental changes or other hiccups in regular routines often lead to nutritional deficiencies which will send a plant into shock, stunt growth and cause other stresses. Supplementally compensating with hormones and vitamins will provide extra insurance that plants will be able to withstand the stress and flourish in less than optimal conditions.
People are encouraged to eat a well balanced diet with at least seven servings of fruit and vegetables a day. With today’s stressful lifestyles and hectic schedules, Health Canada has recently acknowledged that this is an almost impossible expectation for the majority of people. Therefore, they have recommended, as extra insurance, that all adults supplement their diets with a mineral rich multi-vitamin, once a day. Why not do the same for your plants.