It is the second most abundant element in the earth’s crust and is a major constituent of plant tissue. However silica can’t be used by plants in just any form. Silica is essentially sand, which is not soluble in water. So first it must be converted into the soluble silica acid, which can only happen in the presence of moisture and the right acidity conditions in the grow medium. This soluble solution is then in a form that a plant can uptake through its roots and transport it to the stem, leaves and cell wall.
Although Silica has been used for centuries to prevent disease in agriculture (historically in the form of horsetail extracts), we are only beginning to gain a detailed understanding of the process and mechanisms at work and of its roles in plant physiology and health.
What we do know, though, is that without silica plants wouldn’t be as strong. They would wilt more easily. Their leaves would not have the toughness to widen and open, and capture enough light to photosynthesize efficiently. For hydroponically grown plants, the beneficial affects of adequate silica are tremendous:
• Thicker leaf cuticles helps reduce powdery mildew, fungus, and insects (like spider mites and leaf miners) by making it difficult to penetrate the leaf surface causing harm to the plant.
• Protection from plant stresses such as heat and drought
• Promotes better harvesting of light for faster growth
• Plants can better withstand temperature extremes
• Strengthens the plant stems allowing them to support heavier fruits & flowers (less trellising)
• Thicker cell walls on fruits and flowers = stay fresh longer, shelf life, etc.
• Overall increased growth in some plants
• Triggers natural defense mechanisms within the plant
• Helps to alleviate abiotic toxicities accumulated within the plant
Fortunate for us (and for you) silica is released from Growstone in a form plants can benefit from called Monosilicic acid. In fact, a recent trial study at the Applied Plant Research Lab at the University of Wageningen found some very positive affects of using Growstone as a growing medium rather than Rockwool (a perlite-like medium). The cucumber plants grown in Growstone were harvestable two days earlier than those in the Rockwool and exbitited much fewer downward curled leaves! Growstone provides a drier root zone, a requirement for many crops such as cucumbers, and the plant growth benefited from the usable silica found in the medium. Indeed, Dutch cucumber growers that visited the trial preferred Growstone over Rockwool in part due in part to its ease of use in various container systems, its high steer-ability, and its capacity to be steam sterilized.
Perhap’s most exciting, the Growstone plants had a much higher resistance to soil fungi such as Pythium. Only one plant succumbed to it, while 15 of those plants grown in Rockwool were infected and had to be removed. Past studies at UC Davis and the USDA have shown beneficial effects from adding potassium silicate to the fertilization regime. Because Growstone already contains silica in a form usable by plants, your plants have this built-in protection and growth promoter available right in the medium—without needing to add anything extra!
And as always, Growstone is the environmentally sustainable choice.
So be a plant doctor and make sure you are giving your crops the silica they need to stay healthy. Are you?