Wes Addison has supplied me the text from his recent IPA article and authorized me to post it here. We are posting it as a courtesy, but encourage everyone to do themselves a favor and join the IPA (http://www.phal.org/
). The article is as follows:
Nutritional Supplements for Orchids
By Wes Addison
Around four year ago Alan Koch of Gold Country Orchids came to Tucson and delivered one of his classic presentations on orchid culture to the Tucson Orchid Society. During his presentation Alan introduced us to his use of seaweed extract as a supplement to his normal nutritional program. Many of us left the meeting high on the potential benefits that awaited our orchids once we were able to integrate seaweed extract into our growing regimens. And so the quest began.
I consider myself to be a normal orchid enthusiast constantly looking for new potting materials, supplements, pots, stakes, chemicals and any other gadgets that might help me grow orchids better. Because of my enthusiasm I immediately purchased the seaweed extract recommended by Alan and started foliar feeding as well as drenching my orchids at least once a month. I continued with the use of the seaweed extract for another year and was very satisfied with the results. Of course Alan didn’t stop with his lectures on other supplements which he was discovering and other growers were constantly coming up with new supplements also. They all seemed worthy of trying. By then I was using my regular fertilizer, seaweed extract, superthrive, Rootone, iron products, methanol and other products all in an attempt to grow better orchids. Unfortunately, I messed up somewhere along the line and I started producing inflorescences with fewer and smaller flowers. It was time to take a closer look at what the heck I was using on my precious orchids that would cause them to suffer so much. This is where the research started.
At the time, I knew why I was using each of the supplements. Unfortunately, my knowledge was based on what other people had told me. I hadn’t done any research myself on how the supplements I was using would help my orchids and I definitely hadn’t researched any negative interactions between the supplements or what were the acceptable levels of concentrations which could be used. By no stretch of my imagination do I consider myself a scientist nor for that matter do I for one moment believe that some of my explanations will not be questioned. What I do know is that my research has helped me grow orchids better and understand why I’m using the supplements I now use. My research has also reduced the number of supplements I use.
My research started with seaweed extract. Seaweed has been used by plant growers for centuries, but the reason for beneficial results has only recently been attributed to the naturally occurring growth regulators and micronutrients in the seaweed. Brown seaweed contains many naturally occurring plant growth regulators, namely cytokinins, gibberellins, and idoles. In addition, it contains essential micronutrients such as iron, copper, zinc, molybdenum, boron, manganese, and cobalt for healthy plant growth and development.
My main interest was in the cytokinins and idoles. Cytokinins are a class of plant growth hormones active in promoting cell division, and are also involved in cell growth, differentiation, and other physiological processes. There are two kinds of cytokinins, adenine-type cytokinins including kinetin, zeatin and 6-Benzylaminopurine, and phenylurea-type cytokinins like dipenylurea. The adenine-type cytokinins are involved in many plant processes, including cell division, shoot and root morphagensis, chloroplast maturation, cell enlargement, auxiliary bud release and senescence. The ration of auxins to cytokinins is crucial during cell division and the differentiation of plant tissues and auxins are known to regulate the biosynthesis of cytokinin. In laymen terms it promotes better cellular growth.
Having discovered what function cytokinins contribute to plant growth I thought I should research auxins since the ratio of cytokinins to auxins appeared to be important. Auxins are a category of plant hormones that regulate growth with strong benefit on root development. The three most common important auxins are Indole Acetic Acid (IAA), Indole Butyric Acid (IBA) and Naphthalene Acetic Acid (NAA). Most rooting products on the retail market contain IBA and NAA. Rootone and Superthrive are both products formulated to assist in the development of roots and both are primarily IBA and NAA. I had been using Rootone to help develop more roots.
After reaching this point in my research I decided that my problem with fewer and smaller flowers was most likely related to my using the seaweed extract and Rootone in a ratio that was detrimental to both of them functioning in the most favorable manner. I decided to eliminate the Rootone. I no longer have the flower count and size problem.
During my research I also stumbled across Fulvic Acid. Fulvic acid is a part of the humic structure in rich composting soil. It is an acid created in extremely small amounts by the action of millions of beneficial microbes, working on decaying plant matter in a soil environment with adequate oxygen. It is of low molecular weight and is biologically very active. Because of its low molecular weight, it has the necessity and ability to readily bond minerals and elements into its molecular structure causing then to dissolve and become mobilized fulvic complexes. Fulvic acid usually carries 70 or more minerals and trace elements as part of its molecular complexes. These are then in ideal form to be absorbed by plant roots and interact with living cells. Plants readily absorb high amounts of fulvic acid, and maintain it in their structure.
Humic acids also have the ability to act as chelating agents for many micronutrients, making them more available for plant growth. Fulvic acid is particularly good in this role of natural chelation as it has the ability to enter the plant and move throughout its tissue. Fulvic acid concentrations of as low as 25 ppm have been shown to be beneficial to plants through both foliar and drench treatments. Fulvic acid enhances the availability of nutrients and makes them more readily absorbable. It also allows minerals to regenerate and prolongs the resitence time of essential nutrients. It prepares nutrients to be utilized by cells. It allows nutrients to inter-react with one another and break them down into the simplest ionic forms chelated by the fulvic acid electrolyte. Fulvic acid also acts as a biostimulant by promoting the production of nuclecic acids. Fulvic acid improves enzyme activity and catalyze biochemical processes such as respiration and photosynthesis.
The final supplement I researched is an enzyme named Hygrozyme (Orchid Champion). Hygrozyme was developed and manufactured by Sipco Industries, Inc. it was developed using a proprietary bio-fermentation process, made from all natural ingredients that produce a supply of bacteria free enzymes and complex amino acids. The function of Hygrozyme is one of acting as a refined natural facilitator/cleaner. Hygrozyme aids in the removal and conversion of dead organic materials by facilitating and expediting the natural breakdown progress. The benefits of Hygrozyme are; bigger and stronger roots, accelerated growth cycle, increase volume of foliage, inproved microbial activity, more availability of nutrients, faster breakdown of residual dead matter, and many others. Hygrozyme is currently being used in Australian orchid nurseries with good results.
After doing all this research I decided to put my knowledge to work. I had available a couple of flasks of a cross I made of Phal. Red Magic x Brother Purple. I divided the seedlings into equal groups of five (as equal as I could determine without a scale). All seedlings were planted in three inch pots with 1/3rd of the pot filled with Styrofoam peanuts and the rest of the pot filled with loosely packed New Zealand sphagnum moss fines. All plants were watered on the same day. The timing between waterings depended on the dryness of the moss. RO water starting at 10 ppm was used to mix the supplements. The control fertilizer was ½ tsp per gallon of Peters Lite Fertilizer. Nine tests were run. The first was a control using the fertilizer alone. The second was the control plus Superthrive at ¼ tsp per gallon. The third was control plus seaweed extract at 1 tsp per gallon. Fourth was control plus fulvic acid at 1tsp per gallon (Grandma Enggy’s). Fifth was control plus Hygrozyme at 2 tsp per gallon. Sixth was control plus Piranha at 1 tsp per gallon, Piranha is a mycorrhizal fungi. Seventh was control plus Hygrozyme plus Piranha. Eighth was control plus fulvic acid plus Piranha. Ninth was all of the above. The experiment was started on June 27, 2005 and ended in April 2006.
The result of the experiment was that the most growth occurred with the control and Hygrozyme. The leaves were bigger and thicker and four of the five plants were in spike at the end of the experiment. The control with fulvic acid and the control with the Piranha and the control with the seaweed extract were next in leaf size and two out of five plants were in spike with the fulvic acid and the Piranha tests but no spikes were evident with the seaweed extract. None of the other tests exceeded the control by any appreciable amount. I was unable to determine why the combination groups didn’t grow very well.
After seeing the results of the test I decided to use the Hygrozyme, fulvic acid and seaweed extract in a monthly rotation with all my orchids. In February 2006 I received 43 flask from my lab. I potted the seedlings in a mixture of 1/3 New Zealand sphagnum moss fines, 1/3 perlite and 1/3 #2 diatomite. The plants were watered when needed with the 2 tsp per gallon of Hygrozyme, 125 ppm of fulvic acid, 1tsp per gallon of seaweed extract twice a month and 1 tsp per gallon of Peters Lite. The results were amazing. My seedlings had a 90+% survival rate even for the tiny 1cm seedlings. Their growth rate was double or more my previous rate and after ten months a few of the seedlings were spiking. In the past under my growing conditions in Tucson I was lucky to get some spiking by the third year out of flask. I expect over 50% of the seedlings deflasked in February 2006 to be in spike by their second anniversary. The majority of my mature phalaenopsis are doing well also. Now if only someone could tell me how to eliminate super mealybugs life would be great.