Nutrition Hydro-Organic

fermentation-gases-1-270x360Nutritional and physical properties are the two basic areas of concern when considering materials for a soil substrate to be use for a live organic potting mix. The traditional chemically based paradigm does not consider the nutritional value of a substrate mix to be of importance. But when applying a truly organic system, much of the nutrition is is directly or indirectly inherent in the soil. Both Nutrition and the physical properties of the substrate work together to effect the organic taste, rapid growth and health that organic growing offers in such style and grace.

 

Essential Nutrients Deficiency | Toxicity Symptoms

Essential Nutrients Deficiency | Toxicity Symptoms

Action Mode, Deficiency and Toxicity Symptoms of the 17 Essential Nutrients. MACRO NUTRIENTS Nutrient Action Mode Deficiency Excess Comments Nitrogen (N) Absorbed as NO3-, NH4+; responsible for rapid foliage growth and green color; easily leaches from soil, especially NO3-; mobile in plant, moving to new growth Reduced growth, light green to yellow foliage (chlorosis); reds and purples may intensify with some plants; reduced lateral breaks; symptoms appear first on older growth Succulent growth, leaves are dark green, thick and brittle; poor fruit set; excess ammonia can induce calcium deficiency The best NH4+/NO3- ratio is 1/1; high NH4+ under low light can cause leaf curl; uptake inhibited by high P levels; indoors, best N/K ratio is 1/1 unless light is extremely high; in soils with high C/N ratio more N should be supplied. Phosphorus (P) Promotes root formation and growth; affects quality of seed, fruit and flower production; increased disease resistance; does not leach from soil readily; mobile in plant, moving to new growth Reduced growth; leaves dark green; purple or red color in older leaves, especially on the underside of the leaf along the veins; leaf shape may be distorted; thin stems; limited root growth Shows up as micronutrient deficiency of Zn, Fe, or Co Rapidly “fixed” on soil particles; when applied under acid conditions, fixed with Fe, Mn and Al; under alkaline conditions fixed with Ca; high P interferes with micronutrient and N absorption; used in relatively small amounts when compared to N and K; availability is lowest in cold soils. Potassium (K) Helps plants overcome drought stress; improves winter hardiness; increased disease resistance; improves the rigidity of stalks; leaches from soil; mobile in plant Reduced growth; shortened internodes; margins of older leaves become chlorotic and burn; necrotic (dead) spots on older leaves; reduction of lateral breaks and tendency to wilt readily; poorly developed root systems; weak stalks Causes N deficiency in plant and may affect the uptake of other positive ions such as Mg and Ca High N/low K favors vegetative growth; low N/high K promotes reproductive growth (flower, fruit); calcium excess impedes uptake of potassium Magnesium (Mg) Absorbed as Mg++; leaches from sandy soil; mobile in plant Reduction in growth; yellowish, bronze, or reddish color of older leaves, while veins remains green; leaf margins may curl downward or upward with a puckering effect Interferes with Ca uptake; small necrotic spots in older leaves; smaller veins in older leaves may turn brown; in advanced stage, young leaves may be spotted Mg is commonly deficient in foliage plants because it is leached and not replaced; epsom salts at a rate of 1 teaspoon per gallon may be used two times a year; Mg can be absorbed by leaves if sprayed in a weak solution; dolomitic limestone can be applied in outdoor situations to rectify a deficiency Calcium (Ca) Absorbed as Ca++; moderately leachable; limited mobility in plant; essential for growth of shoot and root tips; reduces the toxicity of aluminum and manganese Inhibition of bud growth; roots can turn black and rot; young leaves are scalloped and abnormally green; leaf tips may stick together; cupping of maturing leaves; blossom end rot of many fruits, pits on root vegetables; stem structure is weak; premature shedding of fruit and buds Interferes with Mg absorption; high Ca usually causes high pH which then precipitates many of the micronutrient so they become unavailable to the plant Ca is rarely deficient if the correct pH is maintained; too much or too little water, can affect Ca relationships within the plant causing deficiency in the location where Ca was needed at the time of...

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Biofertilizer Aquaponics & Biochar

Biofertilizer Aquaponics  & Biochar

Biofertilizers (also known as “plant-growth promoting rhizobacteria” or PGPR) have come on rapidly in “sustainable” agricultural circles, providing eco-friendly organic agro-input. A biofertilizer contains living microorganisms which, when inoculated into biochar or soil, promotes growth by increasing the supply or availability of major nutrients, such as Nitrogen and Phosphorus. Bio-fertilizers add nutrients through the natural processes of nitrogen fixation, solubilizing phosphorus, and stimulating plant growth through the synthesis of growth-promoting bacterial bio-liquides. Bio-fertilizers do not contain any chemicals. Using Biochar in conjunction with aquaponics is a cutting edge innovation. Biochar has proven to be many times more useful as a medium than rocks. This is true especially when considering applications and/or inoculations with beneficial microorganisms. This is mainly due to the porous structure of Biochar which supports microbial communities. Due to immobilization of phosphate by mineral ions such as Fe, Al and Ca or organic acids, the rate of available phosphate (Pi) is always below plant needs. In addition, chemical Pi fertilizers are also immobilized in the soil, immediately, so that less than 20 percent of added fertilizer is absorbed by plants. Therefore, reduction in Pi resources, on one hand, and environmental pollutions resulting from both production and applications of chemical Pi fertilizer, on the other hand, have already demanded the use of new generation of phosphate fertilizers globally known as phosphate-solubilizing bacteria or phosphate...

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Ammonia vs Ammonium

Ammonia vs Ammonium

“Ammonia-nitrogen” includes the ionized form (ammonium, NH4+) and the un-ionized form (ammonia, NH3). Ammonium is produced when microorganisms break down organic nitrogen products such as urea and proteins in manure. This decomposition occurs in both aerobic and anaerobic environments. One of the noticeable differences between the two is that Ammonia gives out a strong smell whereas Ammonium does not smell at all. Ammonia (NH3) is an actual gas or liquid you can see. It is not ionic. When ammonia goes ionic, which happens when you add ammonia to water, it draws a hydrogen away from a water molecule to form ammonium (NH4+). The chemical equation that drives the relationship between ammonia and ammonium is: NH3 + H2O ↔ NH4+ + OH- The un-ionized Ammonia with the formula NH3  is a weak base. The iodized Ammonium with the formula NH4+, is an acid. In solution, ammonium is in chemical equilibrium with ammonia. The major factor that determines the proportion of ammonia or ammonium in water is water pH. When the pH is low, the reaction is driven to the right, and when the pH is high, the reaction is driven to the left. This is important as the unionized NH3 is the form that can be toxic to aquatic organisms. The ionized NH4+ is basically harmless to aquatic organisms. Ammonia exerts a direct biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) on the receiving water since dissolved oxygen is consumed as ammonia is oxidized. Moderate depressions of dissolved oxygen are associated with reduced species diversity, while more severe depressions can produce fish...

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Five Important Substrate Properties

Five Important Substrate Properties

There are really only 5 important substrate properties. total pore space, water holding capacity, air space, bulk density and particle size distribution Without these proper physical properties nutrients in the compost will not be effective. We all know a good substrate must drain well but not get too dry nor retain too much water. It should be always moist yet not hold too much water. The ideal potting mix should be able to be watered every day so as to bring water, nutrients and air to the plant roots. The water applied every day from the top of the pot drives old air containing carbon dioxide out from the bottom and suck fresh air in from the top. It can do all this via the above stated physical properties. I grew up in Florida. These were my formative years. Somehow I grew an affinity for plants, flowers in particular during this time. So when I came across this very well put together .pdf file from the University of Florida, it caught my eye. Check it out. It is all about substrate particle size properties....

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Hydro-Organic Nitrification

Hydro-Organic Nitrification

One of the reasons Hydro-Organic Nitrification was developed, was because hydroponic systems traditionally use only certain manufactured fertilizers. Many of us are striving for a more sustainable, organic way of life. Tradition always hands the generation that follows, systems that are considered fully developed, as was horticulture before hydroponics came into the fold of true science. Hydro-Organics adds value to hydroponics. New information is coming in from all disciplines of sciences, doubling it’s libraries every 3 years. It is no wonder microbes and hydroponics have finally found a connection. Since there are no microbial ecosystems present in such traditional systems to mineralize organic compounds into inorganic nutrients, a new method was needed. Addition of organic compounds to a hydroponic solution generally has phytotoxic effects and causes poor plant growth. Makoto Shinohara of NARO developed a novel organic hydroponics culture method using organic fertilizers. A microbial ecosystem was constructed in hydroponic solution by regulating the amounts of organic fertilizer and soil. This is called Hydro-Organic Nitrification. Organic sources of nitrogen breakdown to create Ammonia. Nitrification is the process by which ammonia is converted to nitrites (NO2-) and then nitrates (NO3-).  This process naturally occurs in the environment, where it is carried out by specialized bacteria. Nitrogen is the fourth most abundant element in living things, being a major constituent of proteins and nucleic acids. Nitrification, the aerobic conversion of ammonia into nitrates, is one of the most important functions in an Hydro-Organic system as it reduces the toxicity of the organic compounds in the water and allows the resulting nitrate compounds to be used by the plants for nourishment. Organic compounds can be converted into other nitrogenous compounds through healthy populations of: Nitrosomonas: bacteria that convert ammonia into nitrites, and Nitrobacter: bacteria that convert nitrites into nitrates. The bacteria responsible for this process form a biofilm on all solid surfaces throughout the system that are in constant contact with the water. The submerged roots, substrates and tank walls combined, have a large surface area. Untold billions of microbes, principally bacteria, accumulate there. Care for these bacterial colonies is important so as to regulate the full assimilation of ammonia and nitrite for effective Hydro-Organic Nitrification. Once the system is set into play properly, The microfilm takes care of the microbial...

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pH and Organic Substrate Nutrients

pH and Organic Substrate Nutrients

Nearly all of us are familiar with pH as a method to quantify fluids to ascertain if they are acidic or basic. It is common knowledge the scale goes from 1 to 14 with 1 to 6 being acidic, 7 neutral and 8 to 14 basic. The pH shows the concentration of hydrogen ions, H+, within the liquid. So why is the topic of pH so basic whenever we discus live organic soils? The reason is that pH impacts what kinds of microbes live in the soil. Different microbes promote or suppress nitrification along with other organic behavior which impact the way plants develop and grow. Bacteria will increase the pH while fungus lowers it. The soil pH is effected by microbes more than the microbe is affected by the soil. . Preferred pH levels of Different Plants As we all know, every plant has it’s preference for a certain pH level. But ideal pH for any plant, has more to do with its preference for a specific bacteria and/or fungus  than it does with the biochemistry of pH. This is not to say certain nutrient up-takes are not effected by pH. Refer to the chart on the right.(click to enlarge) It outlines which elements are available at what pH. This is standard biochemistry. So there are two points to consider here… plant microbe preference and elemental behavior at specific pH levels. In general, woody forest plants such as trees and bushes have fungal symbiosis. Fungus thrives in low, acidic pH. So you will find acidic soils in the forests. In contrast, soft vegetative plants, such as our precious herbs, have a symbiotic relationship with bacterias. Bacterias thrive in their low, basic pH environ. So would you say herbs prefer a low pH or would it be more descriptive to say veggies grow better in a highly bacterial soil? . Hydrogen is a Cation The hydrogen cation is used as an exchange currency for other cations in the exchange. When you have a great deal of hydrogen ions, the pH is minimal and the liquid is said to be acidic. In a similar fashion, when you have few hydrogen ions in the liquid, it is said to have a high pH, which is alkaline or basic. I have always wondered why a pH is LOW when it has HIGH amounts of Hydrogen. This is because when calculating the pH mathematically, a negative logarithm is used. (see formula below) We are herb growers and therefore really don’t need to be experts and learn that much more about pH. However we do need to know that each time an herb plant’s root tip interchanges a H+ cation for a nutrient cation, the amount of hydrogen ions within the liquid will increase. Because the concentration of H+ cations increases, the pH decreases, which makes the substrate progressively more acidic as nutrient up-take increases. But the pH many times,  balances out since roots (click on image right) also take up negatively charged anions. Just as plant roots use H+ as an exchange currency for cation exchanges, they use hydroxy, OH- for an anion exchange currency. More OH-, in your solution increases the pH since it reduces the percentage of H+ cations. Amazingly, fungi and bacteria are little enough to receive and shed cations and anions on their surface area, electrolytically retaining or expelling mineral nutrients from decomposition in the soil. This, also, has an influence on the pH. So with so many variables effecting the balance, being aware of the substrate’s pH is helpful in choosing what you need to add to the...

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Nitrogen | Cycling Down

Nitrogen | Cycling Down

“Nitrogen is a vital element of all proteins, and therefore is essential for all plant life.” A Plants Nitrogen Cycle in a Nutshell: Deceased, rotting proteins housing organic nitrogen, is broken down by microbes to liberate ammonia, that is oxidized by bacteria into nitrite, after which it is further oxidized by other types of bacteria, so that it may then be absorbed by plants in the form of nitrate. Nitrogen the Unavailable Abundant Element We have a considerable availability of nitrogen within the planet’s atmosphere, which is 79% N2. Nonetheless, the nitrogen in the air is not available to be used by most microorganisms since there is the three-way bond amongst the 2 nitrogen atoms, leaving that molecule practically inert. To ensure that nitrogen is to be utilized for growth it needs to be fixed in a form of ammonium or nitrate. One way this can be fixed is with atmospheric nitrogen through legumes via their symbiosis with certain bacteria. The genera of bacteria which accomplish this form of nitrogen fixing are Azotobacter, Clostridium, Azospirillum and Rhizobium. All these live within the soil, except for the Rhizobium. They in fact reside inside the roots of  legumes, in which they will form noticeable nodules. More Gluconacetobacter diazotrophicus Diazotrophic Information Then there is Gluconacetobacter diazotrophicus (formerly Acetobacter diazotrophicus) which is a bacilli, aerobic, obligate endophytic (an endosymbiont), diazotrophic (bacteria that fix atmospheric N) bacterium discovered by Joana Dobereiner (1924 to 2000).  It has been undergoing lab and field tests in research institutions around the globe for the past 50 years. Nitrogen’s Versatility Nitrogen might possibly enjoy the distinction for being the element that can occur in the most diverse oxidation states. You will find nitrogen can have 9 distinct oxidation states. Only 3 of those 9 states, ammonia, nitrate, and nitrite, are part of the diagram below demonstrating the nitrogen cycle.  From the plant’s point of view, the main thing is to cycle down nutrients till they are immobilized within the body of bacteria and fungi. The most crucial of such nutrients is nitrogen being the fundamental building block of proteins and, therefor life. This biomass of fungi and bacteria establishes, the volume of nitrogen that may be accessible for plants. Nitrogen’s Five Movements There are 5 movements in the nitrogen cycle, all accomplished by microbes… fixation, uptake, mineralization, nitrification, and denitrification. Nitrogen fixation…  N2 to NH4+ Nitrogen uptake… NH4+ to Organic N Nitrogen mineralization… Organic N to NH4+ Nitrification… NH4+ to NO3– Denitrification… NO3– to NO2– then to NO then to N2O lastly to N2. . There is a step missing in the above diagram. Can you spot it?. The missing step is associated with the very top circle Ammonia NH3+. Ammonia is NH3 not NH3+, and there is a missing step from NH3 to NH4+ before the bacterial oxidation to NO2-. To find out the difference in Ammonia forms, read the article in the below link. Ammonia vs Ammonium The Difference   Recent Research | Bacteria Fungal Nitrogen Cycle It was not till the eighties that researchers could properly determine the level of bacteria and fungi in the earth’s soils.For the first time Dr. Elaine Ingham at Oregon University published research which demonstrated the ratio of these two microorganisms in several kinds of soils. Normally, the least disrupted earth experienced much more fungus compared to bacteria, whilst disrupted soils possessed much more bacteria than fungus. Dr. Ingham additionally observed a relationship among plants and their inclination for soils which were dominated by fungus vs  the ones that were dominated by bacterial. Generally, perennials, trees, and shrubs prefer soils dominated by fungus, whilst...

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Biochar Absorption of Nutrients

Biochar Absorption of Nutrients

I wanted to activate some virgin biochar with microorganisms and nutrients before adding it to some new substrates I was formulating. Without activation I was concerned that the new biochar would rob the surroundings of it’s cations and leave the plants in the substrate with less nutrients. I also wanted to observe if the biochar was adsorbing nutrients in the tea or just absorbing the tea. So I made a tea, consecutively placed 3 sacs of virgin biochar in the tea, took samples of the tea out after every sac of biochar activated to see the difference in color of the teas. This would tell me something about what biochar was absorbing and adsorbing from the tea.   On June 23 2011 I started the procedure: Contents of Liquid Tea 8gal of coopebrisas compost and 2gal of lombris humus (older), 35 gal of decloronated water, 1 gal of molasses, 1 gal of fish emulsion, .5gal MM All were placed in a 55 gal tank and injected bubbles on the bottom for two days. . First Sac of Biochar Activated I then added  the 1st sac of 20gal of biochar (5.5pH) with a weight on the top to hold it submerged. The sac was full. Laid flat the sac measured 60x100cm. OBSERVATIONS – lots of bubbles after the 1st BC was in tank for one day. During the making of the tea there were really no fermentation bubbles on the top of the liquid. I took the first sac out 2 days later. . Second & Third Sac of Biochar Activated I added the second sac and took it out 2 days later as well. I added a third sac but it was only 60% full (13gal) of BC otherwise it would not be able to be submerged below the liquid since much of the liquid was gone, due to the first 2 sacs absorption. I took the 3rd sac out 2 days later as well. After the 3rd sac was submerged for 2 days, what was left in the tank was rice hulls and a bit of more of the solid components of the Coopebrisa’s compost, the bubble tubes and approximately 10 gal of liquid tea. There was approximately 35gal to begin with. This means 25 gal of liquid was absorbed by the 53 gal of biochar in the 3 sacs. 25 gal of 53 gal = 47.2% The Biochar Absorption of Water test calculated a 55.2% liquid absorption capacity of biochar. So this test shows a bit different water absorption capacity. . The Tea Samples Taken After Each Activation So what I found very interesting was the difference in the coloration of the teas samples that were taken immediately after i took out each of the 3 different sacs of biochar. There was a markedly difference in the color of the teas. They progressively got lighter in color. I am hoping Gabi Soto, a BC researcher at Catie University here in Costa Rica will duplicate the experimenter noting more exact data and analyze the liquids and biochar afterwards. Activating biochar could be an important improvement for biochar use if more was known about it.  ...

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Biochar Absorption of Water

Biochar Absorption of Water

Inoculating Biochar after pyrolysis with microorganisms and or nutrients is recommended by almost every expert that you will study. This is because biochar has a high CEC, (Cation Exchange Capacity). A substance that has a high CEC with no cations adsorbed to it will soak up the first cations that it comes in contact with. If freshly pyrolysized biochar is placed directly in a substrate or soil it will rob the surroundings of it’s cation nutrients, leaving the soil and or substrate with less available to the plants.  I wanted to know just how much biofermentation and or water a certain amount of Biochar absorbed when inoculated. So let me give you the results here at the top of the post Results: 500ml of biochar absorbed 276 ml of water (55.2% by volume) or 106gr of biochar absorbed 276 gr of water (260.4% by weight) Here is how I got to these figures:   I started out by filling a 500ml glass jar with biochar and weighed only the biochar. . I then filled a 500ml plastic cup with 500ml of water and poured it in the glass jar with the biochar. The glass jar held the biochar and an extra 406ml of water. The extra 94ml of water was left in the cup. . I let the BC with water in the glass jar sit for 24 hrs and then drained the water from the jar. . Of the 406ml poured into the jar with the biochar, 130 was drained out after 24 hrs. Therefore there was 276ml of water absorbed by the biochar sample. . Results: 500ml of biochar absorbed 276 ml of water (55.2% by volume) or 106gr of biochar absorbed 276 gr of water (260.4% by...

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