Plant Nutrients: Why Foliar Feeding is the Way to Go
The most common method of providing nutrients to plants is through the roots. This is done by placing nutrients in the soil at the base of the plant or through a root drench. Foliar feeding, an alternate method, provides nutrients through the foliage or leaves of a plant. Commercial growers, with the help of scientists, have been studying foliar feeding and incorporating it into their growing programs for many years.
A Quick History
Foliar feeding has been used to provide nutrients to plants by traditional farmers since the 1920’s. In the 1950’s, two professors at Michigan State University, H. B. Tukey and S.H. Wittwer, proved conclusively that foliar feeding is effective. Radioactive phosphorus and potassium were applied to leaves. A Geiger counter was used to measure absorption, movement and nutrient utilization. The rate of movement through all parts of the plant was one foot per hour.
How It Works
Foliar feeding is a method of applying nutrients to plants through its leaves and stems, not its root. Nutrients are sprayed on the leaves and stems and are absorbed by stomata, the epidermis and bark of woody plants. The nutrients then move from the place of absorption throughout the entire plant, including the roots, within one day. Referencing the professors above, it’s about a foot an hour. Foliar feeding works with gravity (from the top of the plant down) instead of against gravity (from the roots to the top), which is part of why it works more quicky and effectively.
Foliar applied nutrients can also make elements, such as iron, available to plants when they are not available in the soil, water or hydroponic nutrient solution. Dispersed along the plant’s leaf surface are small pores called stomata. Stomata are pores on the leaf surface that serve as channels for gases and liquids to pass through. They may occur on either side or both sides of leaves, but most plants have a greater number on the underside of their leaves. Some plants do not have stomata on the upper surface of their leaves, so it is important to spray the underside, just in case.
When sprayed on foliage, the nutrient ions of solutions like Spray-N-Grow and Bill’s Perfect Fertilizer pass through these pores and affect the plant’s physiology. Anything the plant is genetically capable of is greatly enhanced.
There are many advantages to foliar feeding. Foliar feeding provides fast absorption of nutrients- results can be almost immediate. It is 8-20 times more effective than root feeding but is not just a quick fix for deficiencies. It provides additional nutrients to increase yield and quality and can successfully reduce the nutritional stress situations of plants. Micronutrients, calcium and supplemental fertilizer are often applied to plants through foliar feeding. With most plants, foliar feeding augments- not replaces- a standard root feeding program.
Simply put, this approach works better and is easier on plants. Nutrients and a sprayer are the only equipment needed.
Wetting Agents: for Hairy Situations and More
In addition to stomata, some plants have trichomes or hairs that grow from the epidermis of the plant like the dense “hair” growth found on a tomato plant’s stem and leaves. This makes the plant hard to “wet”. The addition of a good nonionic wetting agent, such as Coco-Wet, allows whatever is being sprayed onto the plant to penetrate this hairy barrier and establish a water film on the leaf surface. This greatly aids the passing of foliar spray through the stomata into the plant.
A Terrific Trio
Foliar feeding supplements root nutrition. Spray-N-Grow and Bill’s Perfect Fertilizer make an outstanding team, feeding the plant as well as the soil. The solution that falls to the soil activates dormant microorganisms in the soil and multiplies the available bacteria. The working of these bacteria frees up the nutrients and makes them more readily available to the plants, as needed.
As was stated before, foliar feeding is an alternative to root feeding. It is another method to get nutrients into a plant’s transport system. The Perfect Blend combination of Spray-N-Grow, Bill’s Perfect Fertilizer and Coco-Wet are the best source of all the essential elements of a plant nutrition and utilize a better delivery system through foliar feeding. University testing has proven this to be true. Home gardeners have witnessed the results. Now it’s your turn, see for yourself.