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True nutrition, the missing link to growing succes
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 N, P, K) and protection (pesticides like 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 by the plant. Chemical fertilizers tend to decrease pH in plants, which induces plant weakness against pests and fungal diseases. Chemical fertilizers and pesticides also decrease micro life populations and species in the grow medium significantly. This results in poor mediums, poor mineralization and minimal plant stimulation. To fix these problems, better understanding of nutrient uptake sequencing, nutrient interactions, and bioavailability of nutrients is essential.

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 utilize 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 makes the root system 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.

Antagonistic action of nutrients

It is very important to understand how certain nutrients react with each other. If you do not understand these interactions, you may over-supplement with a specific nutrient in attempt 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. The antagonistic action of nutrients shows how overdoses of certain elements can lock out or displace another element. Understanding nutrient antagonism makes diagnosing deficiencies and excess more difficult, but ultimately more accurate.