Silicon Deficiency in Marijuana Crops
Silicon (Si) is abundant in natural soil and most commercial fertilizers. As a result, it’s extremely rare, although not unheard of, for outdoor weed seed growers to experience problems with silicon deficiency. Highly controlled indoor grows that use soilless media are a different story.
This article will focus primarily on addressing silicon deficiency in hydroponic and soilless media grows, but it will offer extensive insight into what all growers need to know about this natural micronutrient.
Silicon and Plant Health
Until recently, plant scientists did not consider silicon an essential nutrient. Recently, though, experts in the field have begun to rethink their positions.
Changing Tides in Scientific Consensus
In 2010, researchers Todd Cavins, Steve Marek, and Sophia Kamendiou published an article in the magazine Greenhouse Management that showed exactly how important silicon was to all plant species. Their research focused on the effects of silicon concentration and deposition in plant tissue.
The results showed that plants grown in containers and supplemented with silicon exhibited increased flower diameter, thicker, straighter stems, increased drought resistance, and improved flower quality compared to the controls grown in unsupplemented potting soil.
Although Cavins, Marek, and Kamendiou used several common species of decorative flowers, not marijuana, to conduct their experiment, the results can safely be extrapolated to all terrestrial plants.
Increased Drought Resistance
The reason plants that have access to sufficient silicon are more drought-resistant is that silicon helps to regulate transpiration rates. Plants that get plenty of silicon form a fine, waxy protective layer that increases leaf resistance and decreases transpiration, helping them retain more water even in the dry season.
Growers who want to go one step further can use silicon foliar sprays to form an anti-transparent film on their plants. This film increases leaf resistance and has a beneficial effect on stomatal conductance, a mechanism by which plants open and close their stoma to regulate water transpiration. Silicon foliar sprays have also been shown to inhibit the formation of powdery mildew on many varieties of plants.
Sturdier, Healthier Plants
The beneficial effects of silicon go beyond creating sturdier stems on your dosido strain plants and improving flower quality. Plants able to uptake sufficient amounts of silicon from soil or hydroponic media also exhibit increased resistance to insect infestations, bacteria, and fungal diseases. Growers should still purchase high-quality seeds, but even plants grown from the
best indoor seeds or outdoor seeds will not be as healthy if they are silicon deficient.
The Biomechanics of Improved Disease and Pest Resistance
Research performed in the last decade has shown clearly that silicon boosts all plants’ pest and disease resistance. Scientists now believe the reason plants respond so well to silicon is that they use the silicate ions found in this micronutrient to reinforce their cell walls, adding an extra layer of mineral resistance to prevent pathogens and pests from getting through. This is a similar property to that found in our mold resistant marijuana strains. Since plants don’t have immune systems, at least in the same form that people do, this passive protection measure can make a huge difference when it comes to maintaining health at the cellular level.
Fixing Silicon Deficiency in Soil
Healthy soil provides all the silicon outdoor marijuana plants need to grow, thrive, and protect themselves from pests, disease, and drought. Unfortunately, not all growers have access to perfect, healthy soil. Highly degraded soil that has been converted from agricultural production to marijuana production may be silicon deficient.
There are several effective ways to increase the silicon content of degraded soil. Growers can add diatomaceous earth to their gardens, apply silicate salts, or use liquid silicon. Some specialized plant foods designed specifically for growing marijuana also contain trace levels of silicon, but not all manufacturers are equally devoted to keeping up with relevant scientific research. Growers need to check the labels before purchasing new fertilizers or other soil amendments if they want to be sure that they contain this important but often overlooked micronutrient.
Fixing Silicon Deficiency in Hydroponic Media
While most outdoor soils and high-quality potting soils have sufficient reserves of silicon to keep marijuana plants healthy throughout their life cycles, hydroponic media rarely contain silicon. Instead, hydroponic growers must introduce silicon into their setups by choosing liquid nutrient solutions that contain trace amounts of this essential substance or amending their nutrient mixes themselves.
Supplementing silicon in a hydroponic system comes with some additional challenges not faced by outdoor or container growers. The minerals that contain silicon tend not to be water soluble at room temperature, which makes it difficult for plants grown in a hydroponic system to absorb them efficiently.
The best way to supplement silicon in a hydroponic system is to use sodium silicate (Na2SiO3), a water-soluble solution sometimes referred to as “liquid glass.” In this form, the silicon will be readily available to the autoflower or high cbd weed plants via their roots, just like it would be in a soil-based grow.
Cheap weed seed growers who want to use liquid glass should be careful about how they apply it to their hydroponic systems. Since silicates are typically insoluble and hydroponic systems tend to be slightly acidic, the silicate ions found in this substance can undergo chemical reactions. When this happens, the silicate ions form silicic acid and combine with other ions to polymerize and form solid silica gel.
The ability of silicon to polymerize is great news for plants when the process occurs in cell walls. This is what creates the beneficial protective layer described above. When liquid silicon polymerizes before it can be absorbed, all it does is create problems for growers by collecting on the surfaces of their hydroponic systems’ components.
The best way to avoid trouble when applying liquid silicon or liquid glass to a hydroponic system is to use it in small quantities every two to three days instead of applying large amounts all at once. At first glance, this runs contrary to some experts’ recommendations that hydroponic growers maintain a rate of 100 ppm. However, applying around 5 ppm of liquid glass every few days until the nutrient solution is changed will actually increase its bioavailability. Instead of staying in the nutrient solution for long enough to polymerize or undergo other chemical transformations, the majority of the silicon will be absorbed by the roots and go on to help the plants fortify themselves against disease.
Potassium silicate offers an alternative to sodium silicate. This liquid supplement contains around 3.7% potassium and 7.8% silicon. In soil-based grows, it is typically used in conjunction with fertilizer. However, hydroponic growers can also use potassium silicate to supplement their auto bruce banner strain or tropicana cake strain plants.
Growers who want to go this route should note that potassium silicate is highly alkaline. If they want to add it to their nutrient mixes, they should carefully monitor the solution’s pH to ensure that it remains within optimal limits. Most hydroponic growers aim for between 5.5 and 6.5, which means they’ll have to compensate for the alkalinity of potassium silicate.
Many hydroponic growers assume that foliar sprays are unnecessary since their plants get all the nutrients they need through their roots. Silicon foliar sprays are an exception to the rule. Since just about all hydroponically grown marijuana plants are silicon deficient, there’s no reason not to foliar feed them with specialized silicon foliar sprays.
Foliar feeding silicon comes with a few benefits and at least one drawback. The benefits are fairly obvious. Foliar feeding offers plants quick access to the nutrients they need, and it reduces problems with premature polymerization.
Unfortunately, hydroponic growers can’t just replace supplementing their nutrient mixes with applying silicon foliar sprays and expect it to work in the long term. They really need to do both, because unlike some micronutrients, silicon is not mobile. The plants can absorb it through their roots and send it where it needs to go, but they can’t just move it from the surfaces of their leaves to stems, branches, and flowers. It just doesn’t work that way.
Don’t Mineral-Based Substrates Contain Silicon?
By now, some hydroponic growers might be scratching their heads and thinking, don’t mineral-based grow media like Rockwool, perlite, and vermiculite contain silicon? The short answer is yes, but it doesn’t matter. Unfortunately, the solid silicon found in mineral-based substrates is not accessible to hydroponically grown plants.
It’s also worth noting here that organic grow media such as coco coir and peat moss contain no silicon. In fact, these plant-based substrates contain very few minerals, more generally. Growers who use organic media typically supplement their nutrient mixes to compensate for the lack of minerals. Those supplements should always include some form of bioavailable silicon.
The Bottom Line
Silicon is one of the most frequently underestimated micronutrients. Until recently, botanists assumed it wasn’t even necessary for healthy growth. Now that they know better, scientists have discovered that silicon increases plant health, pest resistance, drought resistance, and even yields.
Given that all terrestrial, soil-dwelling plants have access to silicon, it just makes sense that it would have a role to play in plant health. Outdoor growers who are lucky enough to have high-quality soil have been taking advantage of silicon the whole time without even realizing it. For everyone else, there’s always diatomaceous earth and liquid silicon supplements. They’re worth the investment. Just like its worth investing in good quality premium seeds available at i49 USA seed bank online.