Organic Inputs in Hydroponics

Tara | October 13, 2022
Organic vs Mineral

There are two main types of nutrients: organic and mineral. The fundamental difference between them, is origin. Each type is formulated in its own way, and offers its own unique advantages. Organic nutrients are derived from plants or animals, while mineral nutrients are created through chemical processes; however, the components present in mineral fertilizer can also be found naturally in the environment.

Biological (organic) nutrients and additives are released slowly. Whereas, mineral nutrients and additives are released immediately and taken up very quickly. For this reason, organic inputs can be more forgiving than pure mineral formulations. Conversely, mineral formulations are fast acting and capable of addressing nutrient deficiencies as they arise.

The question of which is better depends on the growers desired outcome. However, there has been a shift towards organic inputs due to the belief that the fruit and flowers produced are higher quality.

Mineral Nutrients & Additives

Mineral fertilizers are composed of three main nutrients: nitrogen, phosphate, and potassium. The amount of each present in a mineral formulation is indicated by the NPK ratio on the product packaging. Other nutrients may also be included in small amounts, such as calcium, magnesium, or iron. Mineral nutrients are derived from mined minerals that have been through chemical processes.

Mineral nutrients contain inorganic salts in pure form that are soluble and can be added to plants while watering. Since the nutrients from mineral formulations are instantly available to plants, they can be used to aid a plant’s development at specific moments. In addition to being generally fast-acting, mineral nutrients offer the added benefit of being able to supply the exact nutrients a plant needs, in the moment it needs them. This means mineral additives can be used to address nutrient deficiencies in plants as and when they occur.

While mineral formulations offer many benefits, they should always be used with a certain amount of caution. If mineral nutrients or additives are applied incorrectly salts can accumulate in the substrate and damage a plant’s root system and lead to fertilizer burn. For best results, follow Glandore’s Feed Chart.

Organic Nutrients

Organic or biological nutrients are derived from living or formerly living things (plants or animals). It is important not to confuse organically derived nutrients with ‘certified organic’ products. Many organically or biologically derived products DO NOT meet the standards of organic certification. For example, cow manure is an organically derived nutrient, but if the manure is not produced by organic cattle, then that manure is not ‘certified organic’. Nutrients and additives that are ‘certified organic’ typically contain organic materials as well as acceptable additives such as nutritive rock powders, ground sea shells, seed meal or kelp, and cultivated microorganisms and derivatives.

Organic nutrients have several key advantages over mineral formulations. Organic nutrients are made entirely from plant or animal ingredients. They contain a wide range of macronutrients and micronutrients, as well as other compounds such as beneficial microbes and enzymes. These ingredients contain nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium which are released when microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi break them down. Some organic formulations use only plant derived ingredients and are therefore vegan, including the BAC range of organic products.

Organic nutrients also contain ingredients such as beneficial micro-organisms that would not survive in pure, highly concentrated mineral formulations. High quality certified organic base nutrients include BAC Organic Grow and Bloom, and Canna Bio Vega & Canna Bio Flores.

Organic additives can range from things like compost and guano, to certified organic liquid formulations such as BAC Daily and CANNA Bio Boost. These additives contain ingredients such as amino and fulvic acids, plant extracts, enzymes, fungi and bacteria that enhance metabolic processes, improve the absorption and transport of nutrients throughout the plant, increase chlorophyll production and protect against various deficiencies and diseases. Organic additives aren’t just good for plants, they’re good for the substrate too! For best results, follow Glandore’s Organic Feed Chart.

Key Benefits of organic formulations include:

  • Adds more organic matter to your substrate making it healthier and more fertile
  • Increases microbial activity in soil
  • Produces humic and amino acids
  • Increases resistance to disease and pests
  • They remain active for longer
  • Little to no nutrient leaching
  • No risk of root damage or burning
  • Reduced environmental impact
  • Improved flavour and aroma
Organic PGRs

Did you know there are organically derived plant growth regulators (PGRs)? These PGRs provide plants with an additional supply of auxins and cytokinins. Examples of organic PGRs include seaweed, kelp extract, bat guano extract and alfalfa extract found in products such as BAC Organic PK Booster and NTS Tri-Kelp. (See A Guide to PGRs in the Grow Room to learn more).

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