EDUCATION

NUTRIENT ANTAGONISM

It is very important to understand how certain nutrients react with each other. If you don’t understand these interactions, you may over-supplement with a specific nutrient in anattempt to correct a deficiency.

Not all deficiencies are caused by a lack of nutrients! For example, Calcium deficiency may be diagnosed due to low Calcium levels OR because there are high levels of Nitrates (NO3). Nitrates ‘push’ Calcium away and can block absorption.

So you should use organic Nitrogen instead of inorganic Nitrogen, which is high in Nitrates. Many modern synthetic fertilisers contain primarily Nitrates or other salt-based forms of nitrogen. Fertiliser salts are the most common cause of tip burn, nutrient antagonism, and weak plant growth.

The antagonistic action of nutrients shows how overdoses of certain elements can lock out or displace another element. The list below shows which elements react with each other. Understanding nutrient antagonism makes diagnosing deficiencies and toxicity more difficult, but ultimately more accurate.

TRUE PLANT NUTRITION

The way plants assimilate nutrients, the interactions between nutrients, and the bioavailability of nutrients are widely misunderstood.

Modern plant nutrition systems are managed as if they were a chemistry experiment. All kinds of chemical compounds for nutrition (especially Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium salts) and protection (pesticides, fungicides and insecticides) are released in the plant’s environment. Results are expected simply because all the proper chemicals are present.

However, nature teaches us that the use of chemical-based nutrients and pesticides is not enough to solve existing plant problems.

Typically, as more chemicals are added, more and more problems are created. This is because chemical-based nutrients typically create imbalance in the nutrition uptake of the plant.

Chemical fertilisers tend to decrease pH in plants, which induces plant weakness against pests and fungal diseases. Chemical fertilisers and pesticides also decrease micro-life populations and species in the grow medium significantly. This results in poor mediums, poor mineralisation and minimal plant stimulation.

To fix these problems, better understanding of nutrient uptake sequencing, nutrient interactions, and bioavailability of nutrients is essential.

SILICIC ACID

Improves uptake, absorption and utilisation of nutrients

There is a remarkable effect silicic acid has on the uptake of other nutrients. Think of it as a train engine that helps pull other ‘cars’ throughout the plant sap. Silicic acid is particularly good at increasing the transport of heavy, immobile minerals like Calcium.

Silicic acid is a ‘sticky’ fluid molecule. When present, the pressure of the vascular system (like our circulatory system) increases. Imagine a hose filled with tiny particles of sand (nutrients). If a trickle of water (plant sap) moves through the hose, most of the particles stay put. If the water pressure is increased to a heavy flow, more of the sand particles are pushed through the hose.

Plants don’t have muscles in the same way we do. Instead, elements move around the plant by suction, pressure, and molecular interaction. Lower pressure created by synthetic fertilisers and overwatering makes heavier molecules less mobile. By increasing the pressure, minerals are more easily carried throughout the plant.

With higher pressure inside, all other minerals in various forms are more easily moved throughout the plant to where the plant needs them. This vascular pressure is especially important for larger plants with heavy branching as more energy is required to move nutrients along these complex and far-reaching pathways.

STAGES IN PLANT DEVELOPMENT

Plants have different and distinct development stages: rooting, growing, shooting, blooming, fruit or flower development and maturation. Each stage requires a specific balance of nutrition and mineral uptake for maximum production.

Many growers supplement with growth ‘boosters’ at the wrong development stage when the plant cannot utilise the nutrient. These unused minerals sit in the growing medium interacting with micro life and other minerals, many times causing deficiencies and lockout.

A COMMON MISTAKE THAT CAN HURT YIELDS

A common practice is to add a Phosphorus and Potassium (P/K) booster during all or most of the bloom phase. This can create significant problems with nutrient uptake that decrease yield and quality. Most plants only need small amounts of Potassium during growth and early bloom. Potassium is mostly needed during the ripening and maturation stages (late bloom).

Excess of unused Potassium in the growing medium can ‘push’ away Nitrogen, Calcium, and Magnesium. These are some of the most common deficiencies. Growers can avoid these issues by respecting the natural laws and providing the right balance of nutrients at the proper development stage.

BIOCHEMICAL SEQUENCING OF NUTRIENTS

It is important to understand that plants have a defined biological sequence of nutrient uptake. This starts with Boron, which encourages the root system to leach sugars into the medium. These sugars feed the microbes, which transform silicates (Si) into silicic acid. Silicic acid enhances Calcium uptake, followed by Nitrogen (in amino-acid form), Magnesium, Phosphorous and Potassium.

These elements should be present in a bioavailable form to plants. If one nutrient in this sequence is not available (or less available), the uptake of all other elements in the sequence is more difficult or missed. It is very important to respect this sequence in order to avoid mineral deficiencies and/or nutrient uptake problems.

Macro elements are nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) & potassium (K).
Meso elements are magnesium (Mg), calcium (Ca) and sulphur (S).
Micro elements or trace elements are iron (Fe), manganese (Mn), zinc (Zn), boron (B), copper (Cu), molybdenum (Mo) and silicon (Si)