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Welcome To The Kingdom of Growth

  • Disastrous Diseases - Leaf Diseases (Part Two)

    Leading on from our introduction to diseases we take a closer look at three common leaf diseases and how you can identify them in your hydroponic growing environment.

    The most common plant diseases you'll find in your greenhouse will be moulds and mildews - there is no better home for these fungi to thrive in.

    1. Powdery mildew

    Powdery mildew appears on the front of the leaf surface and resembles a fine white coating; these are actually thousands of tiny spores. Powdery mildew comes from a family of diseases that include podosphaera, microsphaera, erysiphe, sphaerotheca and leveillula - all are a form of fungi.

    It's actually quite easy to control an outbreak if you notice it early enough, but it's a disease you need to monitor regularly, especially in indoor gardens and hydroponic gardens. You may not lose your crop to a powdery mildew infection but it can heavily affect your plant yield outcome. Some research indicates a thirty precent reduction in yield from a heavy infection.

    You can expect leaf spotting, bud abnormalities, discoloration, stunted growth, reduction of foliage and upturned leaves.

    If you increase the air movement in your greenhouse you can hold a level of control over powdery mildew outbreaks. Another tip is not packing your plants into your hydroponic channels like they pack sardines into a can. Otherwise you restrict the air movement between the plants and their leaves. Remember - mildews love a humid environment.

    2. Botrytis

    Botrytis or grey mould as it's commonly known, has a greyish brown appearance on your plants leaves and looks quite furry. Infection can spread rapidly if not dealt with quickly and once grey mould gets out of hand you can have trouble getting it under control.

    Tomato crops are particularly susceptible to grey mould when cultivated indoors.

    Grey mould spores appear in humid environments and are spread from leaves and petal’s to a plants fruit, eventually covering the entire plant if left to its natural course of action.

    Characteristic symptoms are greyish brown spores in a consistent covering (as opposed to the spotting of powdery mildew), rings around fruit (known as ghost or halo rings) and wilting above the infected area.

    To avoid botrytis in your indoor hydroponic garden make sure you keep the area free from cuttings and dropped leaves, the fungus can be spread by the old, infected cuttings touching any part of a remaining plant.

    Infection in new plant stock generally comes from spores travelling on the wind or spores spread through air circulation in your hydroponic greenhouse. Make sure you remove any dead plants from the hydroponic grow room before you begin any new pruning. And check new plants when you are buying them, make sure they look healthy all over.

    Again sufficient ventilation is a must to keep grey mould at bay. If you do opt for a spray make sure you spray the entire plant including the underside of the leaves.

    There are two schools of thought on Botrytis - some recommend trying to gently wash the leaves while scraping off the mould and then others recommend removing the infected plant all together to avoid spreading the disease through your hydroponic equipment and crop – at the very least cut away the infected area of the plant.

    Either way, you should boost your plants immunity by dosing it with a product like Nutrifield Herbal Boost or Defence System - You need to build your crops immunity so it can resist re-infection. Your plant has suffered stress through these diseases and will need a boost to encourage vigorous health and abundant growth - plus it doesn't hurt to safe guard increased yield potential. A healthy plant is a happy plant after all.

    3. Alternaria leaf spot

    Alternaria leaf spot is known as a major plant pathogen, you might also hear this fungus called early blight or target spot.

    It appears on your plants leaves in varying shades of brown. Light brown to tan to dark brown with a distinct spot in the middle that can resemble something of a bullseye. These brown spots are known as necrosis.

    It can cause the leaf tissue around the infected area to turn a light green to yellow colour and in severe cases cause defoliation of the outer leaves. The discolouration occurs because the pathogen kills off the surrounding leaf tissue.

    The best cure is always prevention and planning from the seedling stage is your best bet. Incorporate a defence system into your hydroponic schedule that will build resistance to disease and infection and make sure if you are working from cuttings, that the mother plant is free from disease before planting. And remember to keep your hydroponic equipment and greenhouse clean.

    If you do find indictors of alternaria leaf spot, trim the infected leaves and dispose of them carefully. This fungus can make its way into your hydroponic garden via infected seeds, debris in soil outside and even from weeds unexpectedly brought in on the bottom of shoes or from a slack nursery assistant.

    Interestingly enough, it can also cause common allergens in people and be the culprit of hay fever or hypersensitivity which can both lead to asthma.

    Get to know the plants you are cultivating, know exactly what a healthy species looks like, and then when problems show themselves you can identify and treat them quickly. Those first tiny little spots or spores are when you want the problem brought to your attention.

    Find books and reliable photographs of the plant species you are cultivating. Or if you know someone who has a disease outbreak, see if you can have a look first hand, it could help you identify your own plant diseases in the future.

    Happy Gardening!

    - NF

    

  • Disastrous Diseases - Root Diseases (Part One)

    In this two part series we take a look at some common root and leaf diseases that can find their way into your hydroponic garden.

    The perfect growing conditions for your plants in a greenhouse are also the perfect conditions for harbouring diseases. Not only is your hydroponic crop at risk of disease from the people working in your indoor garden but you risk disease from pest infestation, viruses and fungi…

    It's important to maintain your indoor environment at optimal 'plant friendly' levels, the problem with these warm and humid environments are that they are also the conditions that fungi and mould thrive in too. But there is an up side - if you do experience issue with disease in a hydroponic environment or an indoor garden, they are generally fairly easy to clean up and control.

    Knowledge of what a particular disease looks like and how to effectively treat it is the key and just like with our bodies, the best approach is prevention.

    If you keep your indoor growing environment clean and sanitary you will greatly reduce the risk of disease. And by keeping on top of any pests you will reduce risk of viral diseases.

    Pay attention to the colour and condition of your plants root mass. Healthy roots should be within the colour range of light brown to cream, any variation on this colour range and you more than likely have some kind of root disease or deficiency.

    Above ground signs generally appear long after the root disease has taken hold and remember, in a hydroponic environment disease can spread very quickly causing severe damage to your entire crop.

    Bio fungicide is another method that is becoming more popular for controlling disease. Basically you control infection by introducing naturally occurring bacteria and fungi.

    Before propagating it's a good idea to treat your crop with a product like Nutrifield Defence System. Not only will it accelerate growth and encourage abundant root development but it will improve your plants bio health.

    Meaning it will improve internal resistance to disease by restoring and developing bio balance within the plants cells and tissue and help to protect the plant from infection. It’s a great disease prevention method with the added bonus of encouraging higher yield and stronger, more vigorous root systems.

    Here are a few tips to avoid root and leaf based diseases.

    • Purchase or take cuttings from healthy plant stock including the roots
    • Apply an additive like Nutrifield Defence System that builds a plants resistance to disease
    • Make sure your growing environment, including channels and all equipment are sterilized and free from dead or dying plant tissue before you plant
    • Use a medium with appropriate draining, aeration and nutrient retention abilities
    • Avoid over watering
    • Add accurate quantities of liquid fertilizer
    • Make sure your water supply isn't harbouring diseases. (especially if using tank water)
    • Dispose of infected plants carefully
    • Consider increasing the air movement inside your indoor garden.
    • Try using biological controls - products that contain the likes of the Trichoderma species

    The common thread in treating diseased plants is to remove any infected tissue from the growing area and treat the remaining plants with an organic growth promoter that will help boost the bio balance of your plants natural immune system. Nutrifield also have Nutrifield Herbal Boost which you can use as a foliar spray to really kick things into gear.

    There are just too many different types of diseases to cover all of them in this article – we could fill a large book if we were to go into every detail on plant disease – but some are more common than others, especially in a hydroponic garden. Feel free to drop us an email through our Garden Problem Solver if you want information on another form of plant disease.

    Here are 3 common root diseases to keep an eye out for;

    1. Phythophera

    Phythophera loves wet and humid conditions. These types of root rot are generally caused by water moulds and mildews. Traditional soil grown plants are just as susceptible as indoor hydroponic or protected cropping plants.

    Basically, and this goes for all water mould diseases, too much water causes poor aeration around the roots causing them to literally rot away. Heavy soil or poor quality, tightly compacted mediums can also cause root rot.

    Phythophera takes hold in the roots and crown, but it firstly affects the finer roots - they discolour and decay, turning a reddish-brown colour. In dire conditions even verging on black. As the condition worsens the discolouration can spread to the crowns and larger roots.

    Keep in mind the healthy root colour spectrum we mentioned earlier when assessing root mass in your hydroponic crop - that light brown - cream - tan colour range. One of the best advantages of hydroponic gardening is that you have easy access to your plants root mass - don't neglect them.

    Once above ground signs have appeared you can be pretty confident that the root disease has well and truly taken hold of you plant in most instances but here are a few symptoms to keep an eye out for.

    An infected plant generally has discoloured foliage verging on chlorosis, (yellowing of the leaves) brownish or greyish colours on the stem; the branches could start to drop and die off, loss of the lower leaves and of course wilting.

    Severe root rot can also cause the plant to become unstable and move around in the medium.

    The remedy for Phythophera root rot is to cut away the infected root portions and then, to safe guard survival of the plant and lower the risk of the disease returning, hit it with a dose of Nutrifield Herbal Boost or Defence System.

    2. Phythium

    Phythium is another form of root rot that is common and fast spreading in nice warm and humid hydroponic greenhouses.

    Phythium and Phythophera are closely related and can infect most species of plants, both can survive for a long time in rotting plant matter so thorough cleaning of the growing environment is highly recommended. In a hydroponic growing environment the diseases are just another reason why sanitary equipment and sterilisation should be a number one factor in your hydroponic routine.

    These types of water moulds are pathogens and use what are called zoospores to spread infection. A zoospore is a swimming spore that can move around in your growing medium or soil if it has an excess of moisture. The biggest problem with these spores is they can live in favourable conditions for years without dying off.

    It's important to choose a quality medium that allows for sufficient drainage while giving your plant the correct measure of water holding capacity and nutrient delivery. It's an intricate and delicate balance.

    You have probably heard of the term damping off - a common result where Phythium is concerned. Damping off can become a major problem in seedlings – it’s where an organism kills off a young plant and also causes seed rot. Fruits and some vegetables like potatoes infected by Phythium will be squishy, soft and rotten inside.

    In a hydroponic garden this disease can spread quickly causing poor root development and root discolouration, in severe cases they will become black and die off. Above ground noticeable symptoms include yellowing and wilted leaf tips, weak stems, stunted growth and even branches might start dying off. Again the disease will probably have a pretty strong hold on the plant by the time you notice these symptom above ground.

    3. Fusarium

    Like bacterial and viral diseases, Fusarium is easily spread through nutrient solutions and should be kept in check in a hydroponic gardening environment - it is more common in a nutrient film technique hydroponic system.

    Fusarium root rot can cause some major problems where plant yield potential is concerned and can drastically decrease your crops yield.

    Stem canker is another problem caused by the disease Fusarium. It can kill off any plant with a woody stem and produces a dead area that looks something like a lesion on the stem.

    Most fungal or bacterial pathogens enter your plant through some kind of wound or opening, for example the opening left when pruning branches.

    In particular Fusarium pathogens will cause wilting because it prevents water movement from the roots up to the leaves. Especially in crops like tomatoes.

    Other symptoms include wilting, necrosis, chlorosis, damping off, early leaf drop and stunted growth. But it's is important to note that these symptoms do depend on the type of Fusarium pathogen your plants are carrying. Certain symptoms will present in certain plants - try to learn which symptoms will present in your plant variety.

    Once again this pathogen can live and is spread in, decaying plant matter so it's important that you clean your growing environment between plantings and remove any infected tissue from the crop or discarded tissue from the growing area, including leaves and stems, then spay with a disease fighting, immune system booster.

    Remember - your hydroponic medium is another place that can harbour and encourage infection, it needs to be high quality with excellent draining and aeration capabilities. If you want to try a biological option, Trichoderma has a proven track record for managing plant diseases.

    Abiotic diseases are another common issue in plants. Abiotic means non-living, so it could be caused by drought or a nutrient deficiency or even environmental stresses like a pollutant in the hydroponic growing room.

    Disease can also be brought into your hydroponic garden through pest infestation. For example aphids are a common pest that spread disease and infection. We will take a look at the damage pests and abiotic diseases can do in a future article.

    To be continued...

  • Nutrient Deficiencies - Might be time to test your nutrient levels!

    Some nutrient deficiencies can cause major setbacks while others only mild symptoms that will barely touch the surface of your hydroponic crop. Either way, nutrient deficiency is a situation any grower should be knowledgeable on and avoid at all costs.

    Although soil in today’s world is far from an optimum growing medium due to intensive farming practices and negligent growing practices, it still contains trace quantities of many diverse elements.

    A hydroponic medium on the other hand - doesn't. These mediums are inert so all growers who chose to use them avoid any kind of contamination, but you also avoid the full range of elements, no trace quantities of calcium or cobalt or manganese - unless you add them to your hydroponic nutrient schedule yourself.

    There are the obvious major deficiencies in gardening that really affect the outcome of your hydroponic crop. Deficiencies in the collective group of macro and secondary essential plant nutrients can lead to anything from minor annoyance in early deficiency levels to absolute heartbreak at major deficiency levels. Nutrients like Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium, Calcium, Magnesium and Sulphur are the quintessential elements a plant requires to not only survive, but to thrive throughout its lifecycle.

    Let's take a look at Nitrogen as an example.

    Being a macro nutrient - your plant cannot live an abundant life or preform at its peak without a sufficient supply of this essential element. And not only does it require Nitrogen, it requires it in different quantities at different times of the plants life cycle.

    With some plants, you should increase the Nitrogen levels throughout the crops vegetative stage for optimum growth. Or you may start to see signs of a Nitrogen deficiency.

    Nitrogen deficiency signs include slow growth, chlorosis, thin and elongated roots and thin spidery plants with stunted shoot growth. A quick and easy way to reverse a Nitrogen deficiency is to add a product like smart garden growth burst, it directly fixes plant ready Nitrogen onto the plants leaf surface so it can be absorbed quickly.

    A deficiency in beneficial mineral elements can also effect the growth and yield potential of your crop, just not to the same degree as the macro and secondary nutrient class of elements can. These consist of elements like silicon, nickel and cobalt.

    One of the reason it's important to avoid a beneficial mineral element deficiency is because many beneficial elements can actually neutralise toxicity caused by some other elements. Another reason is that some of them can replace or compensate for other mineral elements.

    But all in all, regardless of your opinion of beneficial mineral elements, they all have a special role to play and without them included in your plants hydroponic nutrient schedule, you may have a nutrient deficiency that's affecting you plants growth in some small way. Which means your crop isn't performing to its highest yield potential.

    Other causes of deficiency can be related to pest infestation, these harmful insects can spread disease, lowering your plants immunity, damaging the delicate root systems and limiting its ability to uptake nutrients.

    Or from abiotic influences, issues resulting from environmental stress can cause deficiencies, again limiting nutrient uptake and absorption.

    Visual attention is the most powerful asset you have when it comes to detecting a deficiency in your hydroponic garden, most commercial growers swear by their eyes and their hands. Scout the crop regularly and pay attention to what’s happening in your medium. Look for dryness, pay attention if it looks too moist. Question the causes of the changes.

    The main visual signs of nutrient deficiency include;

    Chlorosis – yellow of the leaves
    Necrosis – browning of the leaves
    Stunted or abnormal growth
    Poor root development and colouring
    Unusual colouring - Purple or reddish hues on stems and branches, lighter greens
    Abnormal, brittle or early dropped leaves
    Overall drooping or limp branches
    Anything out of the ordinary basically

    As you build your experience, you will find you'll pick up on the problems that arise earlier and earlier, but keep in mind these symptoms can be tricky and many a deficiency presents with the same or similar symptoms. Keep diagnostic tools on hand, there are some great ones on the market now and test your media regularly. A stash of reference books on your chosen plant variety will be also be a helpful diagnostic tool.

    Even commercial growers send samples of their hydroponic nutrient mix into laboratories to be tested at certain intervals and although they manly rely on their eyes initially, they still run onsite tests. When you're certain you know the root of the problem, a deficiency can be rectified. If you're not sure, contact your local hydroponic supplier or give Nutrifield a call. Their trusted and knowledgeable staff will point you in the right direction to rectifying your deficiency issues.

    Plant yield and final profits rely heavily on nutrient uptake and supply, get it wrong, and you'll be crying all the way to the bank, but get it right, and your yield mass will be so abundant the bank might just come crying to you!

    Welcome to the Kingdom of Growth!

    - NF

  • Micro Nutrients

    Next we arrive at Micro Nutrients or Trace Elements. Just as important as the macro or secondary nutrients these seven elements are required in even smaller amounts.

    Other factors to keep in mind when considering your hydroponic nutrient schedule are the indirect implications and interdependence with other mineral elements and the symptoms and deficiencies each one can create. For example a Boron deficiency could result in an Iron deficiency.

    It’s important to keep on top of these additives to produce an optimal crop.

    The seven nutrients that are commonly referred to as micro nutrients are;

    Iron (Fe)
    Copper (Cu)
    Chloride (CI)
    Boron (B)
    Manganese (Mn)
    Molybdenum (Mo)
    Zinc (Zn)

    Iron - The photosynthesis catalyst

    Iron plays a part in the synthesis of chlorophyll and is required for photosynthesis.

    It’s fundamental to enzymes assisting in plant growth and the respiratory system. Iron is especially important in the early stages of the growth cycle and it’s crucial for Nitrate and Sulphur reduction and assimilation.

    Iron has low mobility and deficiency signs first show on the youngest leaves. In severe deficiency the leaves can turn completely white and develop necrotic spots.

    An iron deficiency is as bad for your plant as it is for your body resulting in poor growth with acute chlorosis and an effect like tip burn.

    Deficiency signs

    • Stunted or slow growth
    • Interveinal chlorosis in young leaves
    • Acute deficiency can cause the leaves to turn white and eventuate in necrotic spots

    Copper - The hormone mover

    Copper plays an important role in reproductive growth and pollen production. It’s responsible for hormone signalling and is involved in several metabolic processes.

    Along with being an important enzyme activator, Copper aids in root and Nitrogen metabolism and helps utilise proteins. Copper’s major role in photosynthesis makes this an element that plants cannot survive without.

    Deficiency signs

    • Wilted young leaves
    • Darker green coloured foliage
    • Limp terminal branches
    • Yellowing of the leaves (chlorosis)

    Chloride – The water and uptake mineral

    Chlorides main responsibility is the movement of water within plants (osmosis)

    Chloride balances the uptake of other minerals and in particular it assists potassium in controlling the stomata openings. It's also thought to aid in plant metabolism and photosynthesis.

    A scientific note on Cl – Cholrine in its natural state is a gas so in a hydroponic environment it needs to be introduced as a soluble compound.

    Deficiency signs

    • Wilted leaves
    • Thick and stunted roots
    • Chlorosis over entire plant
    • Necrosis over entire plant in acute deficiencies
    • Possible bronze colourings in acute deficiencies

    Boron - The new development mineral

    Along with Calcium, Boron is essential in cell wall structure because of its ability to bind Pectin in the primary cell wall.

    Sometimes referred to as the micro nutrient with macro effects it plays an important role in general plant growth and can assist in new leaf production, bud development and root tip development.

    Boron is responsible for hormone regulation, sugar transport and synthesising some enzymes and it can increase flower or fruit production and retention.

    A deficiency in Boron could also cause an Iron deficiency and Boron aids in the movement of Calcium, but it can become the limitation on its movement. A deficiency can also negatively affect plants reproductive organs.

    Deficiency signs

    • Possibility of twisted or brittle leaves
    • Terminal bud death
    • Chlorotic leaf bases
    • Discoloured root ends and leaf tips
    • Stunted growth

    Manganese - Chlorophyll producer and water splitter

    Manganese plays out a role in photosynthesis through its involvement in enzyme activity and production of chlorophyll. Manganeses many roles in photosynthesis include the splitting of water, electron transport and nitrate assimilation.

    Manganese’s involvement with enzyme activation also aids the breakdown of carbohydrates and forms other compounds used for plant metabolism along with aiding in the formation of vitamins.

    Manganese is available from most natural mediums but is generally not plant available in its natural form. Once the element is absorbed by the plant it is relatively immobile.

    Deficiency signs

    • Necrotic leaves between veins
    • Drooping leaves
    • Foliage discolouration
    • Light interveinal chlorosis
    • Under developed root system
    • Grey spots in acute deficiencies

    Molybdenum - The metabolising element

    Molybdenum is an essential component of the enzymes responsible for the metabolism of nitrates into proteins or building amino acids.

    It aids in the use of Nitrogen and in Sulphur metabolism.

    The initial symptoms of deficiency are similar to those of Nitrogen deficiency but symptoms can show themselves differently depending on the type of crop in your hydroponic system, it's helpful to know your plants requirements.

    Deficiency signs

    • Twisted young leaves turning upwards
    • Interveinal chlorosis

    Zinc - Critical to enzymes and Auxins

    Zinc is the only mineral element that is a component of all six enzyme classes and is a requirement for all plant life.

    It plays an extremely important role in the growth hormone Auxin which is associated with many growth and behavioural processes in plants.

    Zinc is associated with proper root development, starch regulation and carbohydrate formation. Zinc also helps other elements carry out their duties and is thought to play a role in DNA transcription.

    Low pH levels can lead to fast leaching of Zinc in your hydroponic medium resulting in deficiency.

    Deficiency signs:

    • Short internodes
    • Thickened leaves
    • Stunted leaf growth
    • Dis-coloured leaf tips, perhaps yellowing of younger leaves
    • Interveinal necrosis

    Take Your Growth to the Next Level!

    - NF

  • Macro Nutrients

    The largest quantity of nutrients or mineral elements your plants require fall under the title of Macro Nutrients. They are the main elements plants need throughout their life cycle.

    It's worth the time and energy to research the right macro nutrient blend for your crop.

    Marco Nutrients are:

    o Nitrogen (N)
    o Phosphorus (P)
    o Potassium (K)

    These three elements make up the fertilisers you find at your local hydroponic supplier and are classified by the N - P - K reading on fertiliser labels.

    A good choice in fertiliser is one that shows a proven track record of research and the use of quality raw ingredients.

    The right fertiliser product will consist of a two-step process because plants need different ratios of particular nutrients at different stages of their cycles. Look for fertiliser products like nf coco or Elements. Elements consist of two products, Elements grow A and Elements Bloom A.

    For example, through-out the vegetative stage some plants require higher amounts of Nitrogen and Phosphorus and during their bloom stage they require more Phosphorus and Potassium.

    So what do these essential elements do?

    Nitrogen - The Growth Nutrient

    Nitrogen is vital to life; it's a fundamental component of amino acids and of proteins which include the green light-harvesting pigment, chlorophyll, essential to the photosynthesis process.

    Nitrogen is also necessary for a plant to grow productively and deficiency of Nitrogen seems to be considered the most common deficiency in most plants, whether soil or hydroponically grown.

    Nitrogen is a major component of hormones and vitamins and is a key factor in metabolism, cell growth and reproduction of all plant life.

    It is also the element that generally produces the greatest dry matter yield response in plants.

    Interestingly, Nitrogen is one of the most available elements we have, it makes up about 75% of the earth’s atmosphere, but it's not 'plant available' in its current form.

    Types of Nitrogen - There are three forms of Nitrogen available to plants

    • Ammonium (NH4) - Ammonium ions bind and travel slowly through the medium, it's readily plant available but can be extremely harmful if oversupplied.
    • Nitrate (NO3) - Nitrate ions are easily absorbed by plants but leaching occurs quickly.
    • Organic Nitrogen - Most Nitrogen is organic but needs to be converted by microorganism for plant uptake.

    Deficiency signs

    • Slow growth
    • Yellowing of the leaves, especially in the older leaves, if the younger leaves are starting to turn yellow then you have major on-going deficiency problem (chlorosis)
    • Thin roots that are too long
    • Stunted shoot growth and thin spidery plants

    Phosphorous - The Root Stimulator

    Like Nitrogen, Phosphorous is a vital mineral and plays several key roles in the health and vitality of your plant.

    It's a key component in plant structure and an essential part of the enzymes for storing and transferring plant energy and an integral part of the nucleic acids, or the building blocks (DNA) of plants and is present in all living cells.

    Phosphorous carries genetic information to each new cell and aids in cell division. It's also associated with shoot growth, increasing stem and stalk growth, stimulated root development, early growth spurts, enhanced flower formation, seed production and developing a stronger resistance to disease.

    Phosphorous needs to be added early in the plants life for vigorous root development, but it is considered an immobile element in soil mediums, which means only about 20% of applied phosphorous will be absorbed by the plant.

    Phosphorus uptake is also facilitated by the presence of mycorrhizal fungi.

    A deficiency of phosphorous can be difficult to diagnose visually, but keep an eye out for the following.

    Deficiency signs

    • Possibility of dark green foliage
    • A hint of purple on the stems and possibly the entire plant
    • Stunted growth and slow growth
    • Brown spots (necrosis)

    Potassium - The Regulator and Quality Element

    Potassium is absorbed by plants in large quantities and acts as a regulator in plant growth.

    In particular, it's associated with root growth and regulation of the rate of photosynthesis by activating the sixty known enzymes that are directly involved in plant growth - It directly affects the transfer, utilization and storage of sugars and proteins in the photosynthesis process.

    Potassium is also linked to fruit quality and production.

    Potassium is important for water and nutrient uptake because it is responsible for pH stabilization, respiration and transpiration (stoma openings) within plants. Without the regulation of these openings the exchange of Carbon Dioxide, water vapour and Oxygen is inadequate.

    Crop quality is commonly associated with Potassium due to its effect on factors such as size, shape, colour, disease resistance and yield.

    Deficiency signs

    • Thin stems
    • Brown spots on older leaves (necrosis)
    • In advanced deficiency brown spots between the main veins
    • Slight yellowing of leaves (chlorosis)
    • Leaf dryness
    • Leaves can curl or crinkle

    Your yield and profit rely heavily on the nutrient choices you make so make sure you make the right decision when it comes to brands and products.

    Contact our knowledgeable staff at Nutrifield and they will put in contact with someone who cares as much about your crops as you do.

    Welcome to the Kingdom of Growth!

    - NF

  • Pesky Problems - Diseases caused by Pest Infestation

    Pest infestation can cause more trouble than a few nibbled leaves and some holes in crops fruit. In fact insects carry some pretty nasty diseases that can easily be transferred to your entire hydroponic crop.

    Luckily it's fairly easy to spot flying insects in your indoor hydroponic garden or greenhouse, but it's the ones that burrow into hydroponic mediums and nest on the underside of leaves that can cause you and your plants some major stress and create some pretty adverse conditions your greenhouse.

    In our series on common hydroponic and greenhouse plant diseases we also need to consider diseases introduced and spread by insects and pest infestation.

    Australia has some pretty nasty pests to contend with on the crop management front and just because your plants are grown in a protected environment, away from the elements, doesn't mean you're safe from these parasitic nasties.

    Bugs can carry and spread a multitude of harmful bacteria and once introduced to you hydroponic greenhouse can cause you some major headaches.

    Insects are carriers of viral diseases and pest control should be a high priority in any garden, be it hydroponic gardening or traditional soil gardening.

    Viral diseases are spread through sucking insects like spidermites which damage your plant by puncturing plant cells when feeding. Spidermites breed at very high rates and once they begin their breeding process will spin a very fine silk web to prevent predatory attacks against their offspring. Biological control is a great natural pest control option and keeps things with the organic gardening spectrum.

    Thrips are another common and ever increasing concern to gardening.

    Although some thrip species are considered beneficial because they are the natural predator of certain mites and insects, most thrips can be a nuisance to your hydroponic garden. They puncture the cells and suck out vital internal fluids, drying out your leaves from the inside out.

    Worldwide thrips are a major problem for all gardeners and apart from causing damage from feeding they also spread disease like the tomato spotted wilt virus.

    Fungus gnats are another problematic, disease spreading bug in greenhouses that spread fungal pathogens.

    As you can see it's important to be aware of what lives in your indoor garden alongside you crop, here's a few things you can do to avoid a pest invasion.

    • Ensure strict hygiene measures are in place including clean hands and footwear - it's easy to introduce a detrimental bug on a shoe unnoticed.
    • Clean and sanitise hydroponic equipment between harvests
    • Scout your crop on a daily basis looking for insect signs - including the underside of the leaves
    • Avoid using gardening tools that have been used in soil
    • Thoroughly check new plants for signs of pests before you introduce them to your indoor garden
    • Ensure air filters are intact - it's a common loop hole insects use to enter indoor hydroponic gardens

    Healthy and high performing plant immune systems can keep a pest related disease at bay for a little while so it’s a good idea to incorporate a product that helps to deter insects and build the immune system. Nutrifield developed smart garden defence system to assist your crop in these situations and effectively turn-on your plants natural defence mechanisms against pest attacks.

    Biological Control Through Beneficial Pests - Bug eat Bug

    More and more commercial growers are incorporating the integrated pest management (IMP) system into their greenhouses and gardens to control and avoid pest infestations.

    IPM is not a difficult program to incorporate; the general idea is to introduce plant beneficial bugs into your hydroponic environment that eat the bugs that cause damage to crops.

    It's the most natural form of pest management introduced in agriculture and an excellent advancement in the industries goal of organic gardening.

    This brings us to a major issue on the pesticide front. Many of these parasitic insects are becoming immune to pesticide sprays and their immunity develops quickly, this why the introduction of naturally occurring predators is the newest trend on the pest management front.

    For example: Let’s say you come across some leaf aphids that have travelled in on the wind and are happily destroying your precious crop, you could introduce the aphids natural predator, the Lace wing to rid your indoor garden of this pesky little problem. As the Lace wing feasts on the aphids the next thing you know all the aphids have disappeared and you have avoided chemicals, withholding times and minimised the damage to your indoor hydroponic crop.

    Generally speaking the IPM program works really well - if you have an indoor garden that is suitable to this type of pest management. Just keep in mind seasonal influences can have effects.

    Chemicals may still play a small role occasionally in your pest management ritual but have been moved to a supportive role as opposed to a lead role and should only be employed if really needed.

    You could also introduce insect traps to you indoor gardening environment to help monitor what is and isn't entering the greenhouse.

    The best advice though, is to monitor the bugs that are currently an issue in your local area, good and bad bugs, and what the recommended treatment for each species is. www.Sardi.gov.au is an excellent resource to keep up to date with all your required insect news and advice and www.goodbugs.org.au can keep you abreast of who eats whom!

    Welcome to the Kingdom of Growth!

    - NF

  • Coco Vs Peat

    With so many media options available in today’s market let's take a look at the ups and downs of growing in coco coir and peat.

    Every medium has advantages and disadvantages but in the end we are all looking for a growing medium that will not only support our plants stems and roots but encourage high yielding crops.

    One factor that has significant importance in today’s environmental conditions is sustainability.

    Research has indicated that peat is greatly under threat as a dying breed of organic gardening material. It takes thousands of years to form, which now classes peat as a non-renewable resource and it's been prophesised by industry experts that the cost will rise and we may experience a major shortage within the next century or so.

    In fact it's reported that sphagnum bogs only grow by one millimetre a year, this fact only increases the need to change our perspectives and our preferences on the old school, popular choice of a peat medium.

    Coco coir on the other hand, is derived from the outer husk of the coconut and as we all know where there's a tropical climate - there's generally an abundance of coconuts. Regardless of the requirements of soilless growers, people will still consume coconuts.

    Something needs to be done with the discarded coconut fibre, and could there really be a better use than giving it back to the environment by way of an organic growing medium. It's the ultimate circle of life.

    Water retention is an important factor to take into consideration when choosing a hydroponic medium - Many growers find that, although peat has good moisture retention, it performs better when mixed with a product like perlite or topped with an expanded clay pellet to increase the peats water holding capacity. Coco coir naturally has excellent moisture-retention abilities while maintaining air porosity - which is essential in healthy plant growth.

    On the other side of the coin you can't really over water coco coir as you can with a peat based media. Coco will hold the maximum amount of water possible (between seven to nine times its own volume) and the excess drains off. Coconut fibre has great advantages when it comes to minimizing nutrient lock out too.

    The way a medium compacts is another issue, if it compacts heavily with use your plant will experience oxygen starvation, which can result in undesirable root rot. Coco coir is a cellulous material so it won't compact or decompose with extended use.

    On the topic of longevity - coco coir will last up to three times longer than peat.

    On the up side both are fairly close in terms of pH balance and if the medium is treated correctly in the processing stages won't give too much trouble.

    We should also take a quick look at those dreaded little plant diseases.

    Diseases are quite a common issue in a peat based indoor garden - Now I'm not saying you will avoid disease completely if you use a coco coir media in your hydroponic gardening, but it is thought that a quality coco media has better resistance to fungi and pathogens.

    Detrimental plant pests love peat moss too, although by mixing peat with a pearlite product or even adding a layer of expanded clay pellets you can reduce the risk of pest infestation.

    A general consensus emerging from growers who have made the switch from peat moss to coco coir is that coco seems to have better nutrient retention and when the right blend of nutrients are applied, coco tends to utilise the liquid fertiliser better - facilitating rapid plant growth and maximising yield potential.

    Peat moss sourced form sphagnum bogs has been used as a reliable hydroponic and indoor gardening medium for many decades and is still a viable option for an abundant hydroponic crop, although it's no longer really a sound ecological choice. As time goes on and new research is conducted into the performance and sustainability of media sources we should take these findings into consideration and just maybe, coco coir is peats modern and ecologically superior answer .

    One of the things you should look for when buying coco coir is that it should be certified by the RHP - to guarantee quality and be a buffered product to prevent calcium and magnesium lockout. Check out Nutrifield's range of Coco Media - buffered, premium grade organic coco mediums.

    Welcome to the Kingdom of Growth!

    - NF

  • Coco Coir - What makes Coco Coir a quality product for gardening?

    There are some definite advantages to using a coco coir medium in your hydroponic garden. The benefits you will experience range from aeration quality through to environmental sustainability. It’s the perfect choice when it comes to soilless gardening.

    Firstly, it comes from a renewable source. Coconuts are widely grown in many parts of the world and the coconuts we purchase from our local stores are only the internal part of the whole coconut.

    Something needs to be done with the coconuts external layer and over the centuries these coconut fibres have been milled into ropes, door mats, twine and brooms. But of particular interest to indoor gardeners is the coconut fibres role as a reusable and reliable hydroponic growing medium.

    But as with everything in life coconuts aren’t just coconuts! Or should I say - treated fibres aren’t just treated fibres - quality handling and the way these coconut fibres are processed is a major concern, and if you want healthier growth and greater yield you need to invest in a quality product that has been treated effectively and undergoes a superior treatment process.

    For starters, here’s a rundown of the advantages of using coco coir products:

    • Better water retention
    • Better aeration properties
    • pH stabilised
    • Clean and pest-free
    • Holds between 7 to 9 times its volume in moisture
    • Low EC
    • Renewable sources
    • Recyclable
    • Organic based
    • 100% natural and bio degradable
    • If buffered - can prevent nutrient lock out

    Other advantages of coco coir media include its ability not to shrink during a plants growth cycle, maintaining root and structural support throughout all stages of plant development and in particular, coirs ability to support a plants complex air and water requirements. A medium like nf Premium Coco has advanced physical attributes to allow for large quantities of water absorption and still ensures the essential 30% air prosperity is maintained.

    Watch out for coco that is enriched with neem, it will generally be an inferior grade of coco. A superior grade coco will contain the naturally beneficial microorganisms trichoderma - the predatory microorganism that devours detrimental fungi and pathogens which eliminates the need for neem to be added to control disease and parasite infestation. Added neem is a good indication you are holding an inferior product in your hot little hydro hand.

    Also coco that has been aged and treated properly will have longer lasting physical properties and will prevent the media from decomposing around your plants precious root mass while in use.

    So here's what you want from your coco coir products. These are important if you want a thriving hydroponic environment.

    Look for a buffered coco product. Pre-buffered coco coir not only destroys any harmful properties that may be lingering in the coconut by-product, but it results in a more consistent growing medium with reduced sodium and potassium levels that will help to prevent nutrient lock-out.

    You also want a product that has been washed thoroughly throughout the manufacturing process. Coconut fibre can retain high levels of salt and if this is not washed away properly your plants will suffer. Cheaper coco coir mediums aren't thoroughly cleaned of their sodium content.

    They might even be washed mainly in salt-water, being immersed and held in the sea with insufficient clean water rinsing of the coconut fibres. You will need to test and wash them thoroughly before use.

    Coconut husks that have been harvested inland can be of benefit here. The soils are richer and they are generally grown around freshwater lakes so they have a lower salt content than coconuts harvested from coastal areas.

    Another way to assure you are using a quality product is if the coco carries the RHP mark. This mark ensures the coco coir product you have selected meets the Dutch Certification Scheme's requirements for a high quality product.

    And as for those recyclable attributes I touched on earlier, when you’re finished with the coco coir in your hydroponic growing system, try turning it through your soil in the garden - it’s a great option for organic gardening.

    Or if your garden suffers with heavy, dense or sandy soil conditions, mix a bag through like you would compost or manure, you will be amazed at the difference in soil condition and water retention. It's particularly handy in times of drought and water restrictions.

    One more thing to remember – Organic plant mediums like Coco coir require specific nutrient blends – make sure you are using the right liquid fertilisers in your hydroponic nutrient schedule.

    Welcome to the Kingdom of Growth!

    - NF

  • Additives - Stimulate Growth, Yield and Productivity

    Don't overlook the importance of additives in your hydroponic nutrient schedule, they help to build a healthy plant growth environment and in turn, build healthy abundant crops that produce maximum yield responses.

    Additives are designed to be used in synergy with base nutrient mixes. They don't replace a macro and micro nutrient blend. Plants all require different nutrients and beneficial supplements and additives throughout their life cycles and it would be impossible for anyone company, regardless of how many extraordinarily intelligent scientists they employ, to produce one magic elixir to fulfill a plants nutritional requirements at every stage of its growth.

    That's why we have a range of additives available to us that should be used at specific times for specific reasons to achieve certain plant growth responses.

    And if you are a yield driven gardener, not only should you invest in a great additive product, you should find one that will stimulate beneficial microorganisms and promote their multiplication.

    If the right quantities or types of additives aren't added at the right times, major issues can arise. Add the wrong amounts and you could reduce yield potential, and negatively affect the growth and development of your plant. It's important to follow the instructions on the packaging.

    The correct quantities at the right times can also help to avoid nutrient deficiencies as many of the ingredients in a complete additive recipe will be of the beneficial mineral variety, which means that they can, in some shape or form, compensate for other lacking nutrients or neutralise a possible toxicity.

    Take a look at Veg Ignitor as a benchmark - it contains, among other things, seaweed extract, natural hormones, amino acids, enzymes and phytonutrients all of which preform daily miracles like cell wall strengthening, improved cell division, greater yield potential, nutrient uptake, increased vegetative growth, better root formation and did I mention higher yield?

    These products are like a super growth enhancer!

    Certain additives promote root growth - making root systems thicker and stronger, and since roots are so delicate to begin with, any extra vigour is a bonus. They help roots with nutrient uptake too, which is important because as we know, nutrient deficiencies will impact the size and quality of crops and yields. An ideal product for stimulating your roots is Root Nectar. Bigger roots = bigger fruits!

    Other additives are thought to revive diseased and dying plants while others boost and activate a plants natural defence system, turning on their immune system, so to speak.

    Then we have additive blends that aid in chelation, boost structural strength and encourage better growth.

    Most quality additives will be derived from organic sources and are a step in right direction towards organic gardening practices.

    Additives are considered even more important in hydroponic gardening practices than in traditional soil based farming – although it’s a certainty that the quality of our soil has great depreciated over the years and additives are a welcomed relief to today’s stressed soils– it does still contain traces of what these additive blends contain. Which all in all is better than nothing, but since with hydro our medium is inert, it falls to the grower to build an active life force within the hydroponic environment.

    Good additives will also stimulate the growth of beneficial microorganisms and encourage their multiplication, which in turn will develop a hydroponic growing medium that's teaming with life and a replica of an abundant soil environment - only much, much healthier!

     

    Welcome to the Kingdom of Growth!

    - NF

  • Give Your Crop Some Love!

    A hydroponic crop suffering from a chronic deficiency can cause major heartache and stress. Luckily, plants show all kinds of visual abnormalities when deficiency looms!

    Deficiency symptoms and plant stress can be caused by a multitude of reasons - mostly the problem will probably be related to some kind of nutrient deficiency, but other stresses, like environmental issues, can contribute to visual symptoms that might present in your crop.

    It’s a good idea to rule out some other common influences though.

    pH is good place to start. If it's not in the ideal range, you will run into all kinds of problems where nutrient uptake is concerned which may limit your plants growth in many ways.

    Another factor includes Electrical Conductivity (EC). Each plant responds to a preferred EC range. Environmental stress is another factor and water and environmental temperatures can all play a vital role if your plants are showing signs of stress.

    Once you've ruled out pH, EC and environmental issues you should turn your attention to the quantity and quality of the nutrient range that you are using.

    Quality plays a major role in healthy plant growth. If the elements are of poor quality before the nutrient manufacturer even begins developing their nutrient product, nothing they do to it will improve the quality of the finished product.

    And of course quantity can be either the final nail in the coffin for a sickly crop or its valiant return to vitality and lustre. There are hand held testing devices available now that can measure what your hydroponic system is lacking or which nutrients have been overdosed on. The most accurate results come from lab tests though.

    Nutrient deficiency will result in poor quality fruit, slow and stunted growth, lower nutritional value and a weaker plant with cell and reproductive problems. I could go on and on - with the end result being death of the crop in extreme deficiency circumstances.

    Here is a list of some issues that can cause your crop deficiencies;

    • Poor quality nutrients
    • Inadequate nutrient concentrations
    • Nutrient interdependence resulting in an excess of one particular element    restricting the uptake of another element
    • Environmental stress resulting in the plant not absorbing or up taking nutrients
    • Poor root system or damaged filaments
    • Unbalanced pH levels

    And some signs of deficiency;

    • Obscure coloured foliage
    • Wilting
    • Abnormal leaf development and appearance
    • Stunted growth
    • Necrosis
    • Chlorosis
    • Abnormal root development
    • Root or tip death

    One more thing before your attention is drawn away, and I know we've said it before, but it's worth repeating - keep a record of your hydroponic nutrient schedule, your ongoing growth results and any problems that arise in your hydroponic garden along the way.

    If you don't, you will not have a reference point to compare your results to and you may well have had a similar deficiency problem in the past that's slipped your mind.

    This is just a basic overview of the conditions and influences of nutrient deficiencies and the problems that can arise from them. Stay tuned to our for more information in the near future!

     
    Welcome to the Kingdom of Growth!

    - NF

  • Amino Acids – A life force of the plant world

    Next on our hit list of plant growth regulators are Amino Acids, so, what are Amino Acids and what do they do?

    Carbon, Hydrogen, Oxygen and Nitrogen are the key elements that constitute Amino Acids and they are basically the building blocks of proteins. A sequence of Amino Acids forms proteins and proteins are fundamental to all life. In fact proteins are the essential core components of all living cells.

    This means that they are very important to a healthy and thriving plant - they are important to a healthy and thriving human body too, but today we are looking at the effect of Amino Acids on plants.

    The French were the first to discover Amino Acids way back in 1806 and they first identified them in asparagus - thus, the first Amino Acid was named asparagine - then followed Cystine and Leucine  sometime around the first quarter of the 1800's.

    Amino Acids are extremely important in nutrition and are regularly found in vitamin supplements, food technology and of course - a grower’s main interest - plant fertilisers.

    With today’s level of intensive farming practices stripping our growing environments of naturally occurring elements that aid in production of essential hormones, and with efficient growing methods like hydroponics becoming increasingly more popular, we must treat our crops to the full spectrum of growth influencing elements they require if we are to expect them to fulfil our expectations of high yields and increased profitability.

    To do this we need to consider using more organic based additive product in our hydroponic gardens that stimulate and encourage the right balance of plant growth regulators like Amino Acids.

    Most plants will produce enough natural Amino Acids through-out their life cycles to survive, but it’s a good practice to include a complete additive product that will increase the level of Amino Acids in your crop, especially where intensive agricultural programs are underway, in times of stress or at other beneficial times in a plants life cycle.

    The most important Amino's for plant growth come from the L form amino acids and there are twenty-one different types of L-Amino important to healthy plant formation.

    Some Amino functions include increasing root mass, stress fighting capabilities, assistance with nutrient uptake and improving plants metabolic activities.

    A quality additive will combine Amino Acids with other natural organic additives to promote a range of growth stimulants that will not only deliver your crop with L-Amino but a range of quality growth regulators – Nutrifield have developed Alaska Pure for this exact purpose.

    Alaska Pure is a potash product that is an exceptional source of natural plant hormones and contains 17 Amino Acids, promoting rapid cell division and allowing your crop to uptake larger amounts of water while improving its resistance to extreme weather conditions, diseases and pest infestation.

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