This is because nutrient manufacturers have made great strides in developing user-friendly products that work well. Growers of high-value plants, along with other gardeners, have become complacent in some ways because of the general effectiveness of the fertilizers on the market today.
It’s true that a basic understanding of N-P-K combined with modern hydroponic nutrients is really all a grower needs to produce adequate results. However, growers looking to grow large quantities of an extraordinary product need a heightened knowledge of all the essential elements.
Calcium (Ca) is one essential element that deserves as much attention as N-P-K. Growers of high-value plants who understand the crucial role calcium plays in their gardens will consistently produce larger, healthier crops.
One of the biggest reasons growers of high-value plants need to understand calcium is that most of the hydroponic fertilizers do not contain sufficient amounts of calcium. This is because the manufacturers are assuming that the grower’s water source contains some calcium already. This should be a red flag for any indoor horticulturist because all water sources are different. Each will contain different elements in different amounts, including calcium. This can cause big problems for the unsuspecting grower.
Calcium’s Role in Plants
Much of a plant’s structural integrity is influenced by calcium. Calcium is vital for vigorous growth and overall structural development.
When calcium levels are too low, a plant’s cell membrane can become weak; this causes leakage that results in the loss of cellular compounds. Sufficient calcium levels are required for cell wall development and cellular division. Strong stems and branches are a result of proper calcium levels. Many varieties of high-value plants will develop hollow stems when the calcium levels are insufficient. A gentle squeeze of a lower branch can help growers identify hollow stems before it’s too late.
Calcium also acts as a secondary messenger that helps to regulate cellular functions and assists in general plant functions, like nutrient uptake.
Calcium stimulates the protein channels within a plant’s rhizosphere. These channels aid in nutrient uptake. If there is not enough calcium present, this process will not function properly and nutrient uptake will be slowed down.
In this way, calcium works very similarly to the hormones that regulate various cell functions. Although it is uncertain, calcium is thought to help the development of proteins that make it possible for a plant to tolerate stress caused by excess heat. The stomatal function of a plant’s leaves are improved with sufficient calcium levels. This also directly impacts a plant’s ability to mitigate stress.
A grower whose water source has little calcium or a grower who is using reverse osmosis (RO) water where the calcium is removed needs to supplement calcium into the nutrient regiment. Remember that the calcium contained within the base formula is usually not enough, so a specific calcium supplement should be used.
By ensuring an adequate amount of calcium in their nutrient formulas growers of high-value plants can rest easy knowing that their plant’s structural integrity and vitality are in check.
Fast growing annual plants are most affected by calcium levels. Plants that are provided with the proper essential elements, including calcium, will grow vigorously as they create the structural foundation necessary to support enormous blooms.
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Tuesday, 25 June 2013