Organic vs Inorganic Fertilizers?
There are 17 essential elements needed for the healthy growth and reproduction of plants.
Three of the elements are free - carbon, hydrogen and oxygen which are derived from water and air. Carbon, hydrogen and oxygen account for ~95% of the plants dry weight! This is why increasing carbon dioxide availability through supplementation to your plants will drastically increase weight. Increasing atmospheric CO2 levels from a naturally occurring 400 ppm to between 1000 - 1200 ppm can increase yields by 30%+. Remember, plants deplete CO2 from their surrounding environment rather quickly, so if you are not supplementing, be sure to exchange the air in your grow room regularly to avoid excessive depletion which will ultimately lead to slow growth and greatly reduced yields.
As opposed to carbon dioxide which the plants absorb through the leaves, the plant also needs oxygen for respiration which, however, is absorbed through the roots. This is why a plant becomes listless and droops when the media is too wet. Excessive water will wash out the oxygen and suffocate the roots and, until the media drys, the plant will slow in growth. This could also set the stage for an anaerobic (oxygen depleted) environment, increasing the chances of pythium growth which will induce nasty root rot - every growers nightmare! A good practice when growing in media is to water less, more often to avoid ‘drowning’ your plants. If you’re growing in deep water culture, you need to vigorously aerate the nutrient enriched water immediately in contact with the root zone.
The other 14 essential elements are macro and micro minerals that can be provided to the plant as either organic (typically animal and or plant waste) supplementation or inorganic (typically provided as mined/refined chemicals) supplementation. Remembering that the problem a short lived plant has in todays society is providing organic nutrition that's readily available in an elemental molecular size. Plants are not capable of absorbing a large particulate through the roots (casparian strip). Think of the casparian strip as being similar to your skin. It provides a means for absorption while filtering out large, unwanted viral and bacterial sized nasties! Dutch Master conducted in-depth studies at the University of British Columbia in conjunction with the bio-imaging facility staff, to see exactly what size molecule will actually pass through the casparian layer, and our results were nothing short of astonishing! We attached radio-active tags to various size carbohydrate molecules and fed plants, both through the roots and leaves. Using confocal microscopy, we were able to view the translocation (flow through) of the absorbed carbs and discovered that the roots are indeed restrictive when selecting molecular size. However, the radio-tagged carbs fed through the leaves (foliar sprayed with and without Dutch Master Saturator) showed us that the plant will accept a much larger size molecule when foliar sprayed. This opened the door to a whole new thinking of foliar spray efficacy! And the biggest discovery was the fact that those foliar spray applications that included Dutch Master Saturator as a delivery agent, showed the most prolific penetration and cellular saturation of the largest radio-tagged carbs. Finally, we proved that foliar application truly works AND, when used with a delivery agent like Saturator, will flood the cells within the plants leaves with ample nutrition right where the plant needs it the most.
So now we know there is a limitation to what the roots will uptake. This means that plants do NOT directly uptake organically offered nutrition until it can be made available at an elemental level. Therefore, there needs to be a third party involved, in the form of microbial life within the organically amended media to facilitate the breakdown of the animal/plant waste into elemental bite size chunks that the root system can utilize. Essentially, it will need to be reduced to the macro and micro elements that an inorganic fertilizer provides in the first place. So, if you’re now thinking ‘why would I waste my time with an organic fertilizer if the plant can only uptake it as a chemical?’ you would be pretty much on point. A well prepared organic fertilizer takes time to produce. It should be well-worked before being amended into the media. It should also be, at a minimum, partially already available to the plant and continue to breakdown and become available as the plant matures. Many experienced organic growers will amend their media at different levels within the ground or pot allowing for the fertilizer to be ‘time-released’ when the root system finally reaches each layer. This is fine for the hobbyist grower, however may present many problems for the commercial grower who must look at all aspects of his growing methodologies as a business. We all know that time is money! And this is where organics can get a bit tedious and costly. The labor/time/cost involved in correctly preparing a balanced organic fertilizer and amending the media just right is a major consideration for a commercial production business. Then one has to try be consistent with the ratios of varying organic inputs, being sure to cover all the bases of a balanced elemental requirement i.e. macros and micros, so as to provide consistency in growth timing and yield outputs.
All of this can turn south in a hurry in the hands of an inexperienced organic grower. It’s true that growing organically allows a little more room for error (typically), however don’t be mislead into believing that you can’t make a grave error that will cost you your crop! You can still over-fertilize rather easily and the remedy can be difficult given it’s not as easy as just flushing your pots. The other problem that presents itself is the potential to introduce various pathogens into your otherwise sterile grow facility. All in all, it seems that growing organically at home can be fun and can also be very rewarding, however looking through the eyes of a commercial grower, some of the issues that can arise, seem to outweigh the benefits. Sure your flower tastes different with organic fertilizers, but did you ever wonder why? Perhaps it’s the influence of the aromatic compounds typically found in organics. Ever grown a plant next to a citrus tree and ended up with lemon or orange tasting flower? It’s not a coincidence.
I guess the jury is still out on inorganic vs organic fertilizers, however, when you are heavily invested in a major commercial grow operation, you begin to understand the following major benefits of inorganic growing:
- The nutrient is readily available to be uptaken by the roots and macro/micro elements are immediately accessible
- There is less chance of introducing unwanted bacteria to your grow
- Each plant/strain is allowed to exhibit its true natural genetic traits in aromatics and flavors
- Labor costs are reduced by negating much of the ‘hands on’ needed in the handling/preparation of organic fertilizers and substrates
- Tweaking nutrient profiles on the fly based on growth phase and genetic needs is much easier
- Elemental toxicities and deficiencies are rectified much easier and faster
- Consistent timing and quality of end product is easier to attain
- Quality inorganic fertilizers are typically lower in toxic unwanted heavy metals
- The final pre-harvest nutrient flush is much more efficient
- Decreased flowering time and increased yield outputs are possible with a dialled in hydroponic growing media/system using a high quality inorganic nutrient.
But remember, not all inorganic fertilizers are created equal so do your homework!