Sunday, December 20, 2009

Soil Nutrition Part 3 of 3: Zinc, Boron, Copper, Manganese (and maybe some Molybdenum!) (FINALLY!)

(I would like to note that I am not a horticulturist but have simply compiled a lot or research and resources and wish to share what I have learned in hope it helps others.  As there is a lot of info and resources in this, I have broken this article into 3 pieces and will list all the resources at the end of this last part)

(<-- This is the revised “I’m not a horticulturist warning” as it was terrible grammatically before.  Did it when I was lacking sleep and then forgot to re-read it.  Newb is I)
    Zinc is one of those elements that get little credit.  Seed savers take note however as zinc is necessary for plant metabolism, growth hormones, cell and SEED formation.  If you’re a health nut (no pun intended) you’ve probably heard of the benefits of eating seeds and nuts for their zinc content, so all this makes sense.  Like many of the elements before, zinc can be difficult for plants to uptake if the pH level is too high and thus remedied by the addition of an alkaline.

Sign of Zinc deficiency include:
-yellowing between new growth  while veins remain green
-smaller leaves and shortening between the nodes so that they are bunched and appear rosette-like.

“Natural” Sources of Zinc:
-Pennies:  Have a zinc core, so if you have a “Will it Blend?” blender… well….

         Boron is needed in the smallest amounts, but its deficiency in the soil can affect metabolic processes, cell division, germination of seeds, and a plant’s ability to flower and fruit.  It is often tied with calcium and like calcium soil moisture is necessary.  Treating a boron deficiency is tenuous as it can be easily over-added to the soil so be very conservative when treating especially as certain plants are more sensitive to boron than others.

Sign of Boron deficiency include:
-yellowing of leaves with green veins (like a light chlorosis)
-Stem and root growth poor
-Terminal buds may be affected and die
-Branching aka “Witches brooms” can form

“Natural” Sources of Boron:
-Borax: Can be purchased from the grocery store in the laundry aisle

Copper (it’s electric! OK, it’s not electric, but it carries it very well)  is considered to be a poison and nutrient at the same time for plants and like boron, it is very important to be careful of how much is added when a deficiency is noted.  Water transportation and proper leaf development is copper’s place in the plant world.
Sign of Copper deficiency include:
-yellowing of leaves with green veins (light chlorosis looking)
-limp young new leaves
-spots on leaves
- “bleached” appearance on mature leaves
-sunken spots on leaves
-small leaves

Natural Sources of Copper:
-Pennies:  are copper clad, so once again, if you have a “Will it Blend?” blender…

    You may notice, many of these micro-nutrients, though needed in tiny amounts, make a great difference in proper plant formation and growth with a tendency to reveal their deficiency in a light chlorosis type appearance and can easily be locked up in overly acid soil.  Manganese is no different and is vital to chlorophyll formation with young leaves showing yellowing first and then mature leaves taking on a netted appearance obviously affecting chlorophyll production and thus energy intake.  Manganese is needed in leaves, shoots and fruit production as a plant may fail to bloom with this deficiency.

Sign of Manganese deficiency include:
-yellowing of leaves with green veins (light chlorosis looking)
-metallic or purplish sheen on leaves
-dead or dark spots on leaves
-slow growth lack of bloom
-loss of fruit production

Natural Sources of Manganese:

-fruits for compost

       Molybdenum is one of those “huh?” elements that no one ever hears about and I wondered about even mentioning.  A nifty trick about molybdenum is that itsover use of it makes your plants bright orange! (Not recommended)

Sign of Molybdenum deficiency include:
-yellowing of older leaves similar to chlorosis while rest of foliage turns light green
-narrowing and distortion of leaves

Natural Sources of Molybdenum:
-No clue... help?

To reiterate:
     Though plants cannot apparently tell the difference between nutrient sources being organic or synthetic, I prefer to use organic methods by all means possible because it adds to soil matter and I feel it is safer for the environment.  Adding the above mentioned organic materials increases your soil’s biomass thus "volumizing" the soil (giving it some fluff)  aka drainage and reduces compaction of the soil in the process. So, it's not all just about simple chemical elements and poof happy plants!
         Chemical fertilizers also will not increase or attract biodiversity such as microorganisms and worms that will help breakdown and slowly release nutrients.  There are plenty of everyday resources and products made from natural materials within my budget (such as organic chicken manure, a great example of using all parts of an animal!). 
      I also choose organic because I am wary of residual chemicals in items like commercial bone /blood meal, or fertilizers which have been derived from the petroleum industry (petroleum is ‘natural’ but you know what I mean) as I am not thrilled with the methods used to create them and their effect on the environment.
         Chemicals can help your plants in a pinch, but over-application of any nutrient, organic or chemical is almost always over-kill. Though the pure chemical forms in fertilizers are easily taken  up by plants (as they are formulated for specific purpose) the source these nutrients are coming from is worrisome to me and if I believe if we have the ability to preserve the purity of our fluids… keep our bodies free of contaminants, why not do it?

Resources (thank you!): (great pics!)