Foliar Feeding Explained
What is Foliar Feeding?
Most information you read regarding nutrient uptake refers to root feeding, that is applying the nutrient solution directly to the root zone. However, it is also possible to feed plants by applying nutrients to their leaves or foliage, a technique known as foliar feeding. This technique was developed in the 1950s by Dr. H. B. Tukey and S.H. Wittwer at the Michigan State University department of agriculture. Their research debunked the conventional belief that it was damaging to get a plant’s leaves wet with nutrient solutions.
Why Foliar Feed?
A nutrient solution must contain a very delicate balance of nutrients, correct temperature, and correct pH levels for the plant to be sufficiently supplied with nutrients. Sometimes, even when it appears that all of the conditions are optimized, the plants may not receive all of the nutrients they need. In these instances, many growers choose to foliar feed to ensure that their plants get all of the nutrients they need to grow to their potential.
In other instances a plant’s roots may become damaged either through overwatering, underwatering, or disease. As it recovers from this damage, your plants will likely struggle to get sufficient nutrients because of the loss of root mass. Again, foliar feeding offers gardeners an opportunity to give their crops nutrients that they are not able to get otherwise.
How to Foliar Feed
The nutrient solution should be applied using a finely atomized drifting mist. This can be accomplished by using something as small as a hand pump sprayer, or something as large as a 16L knapsack sprayer, depending upon the size of your farm or garden. The fine mist should be thoroughly applied until it begins to “run off” of the leaves. Make certain that it applied to both sides of each leaf. To get the nutrients to stick to the leaves, and thus increase uptake, use foliar fertilizers with sticker formulas such as Hyfer Plus Green Growth Enhancer or Hyfer Plus Red Bloom Booster. If you’re using a different formula, you should include a surfactant sticking agent such as 3SE Seaweed Concentrate.
Your plant’s leaves will receive the nutrient solution through “stomata,” or pores mostly used for gas exchange. For this reason, you should only foliar feed in slightly cooler conditions such as in the evening or early morning. If the environment is too hot the plant’s stomata will be closed (to preserve water), and your plants will receive very little of the solution, or perhaps none at all.
Common Reasons For Foliar Feeding
Damaged Roots – Root damage can be devastating to your hydroponics garden. Most commonly, it is caused by root rot from overwatering, but it can also be caused by disease or the presence of pests. If your roots are too severely damaged, your plant will not be able to soak up the nutrients it needs to survive, or else it simply will result in smaller yields. Many hydroponics growers who identify root damage early immediately begin foliar feeding on a regular basis. This way, your plants will still be able to receive the nutrients they need to grow to their potential as they recover.
Overcoming Deficiency – The balance of factors in a hydroponic garden is very delicate, so it can be fairly easy for your plants to suffer a nutrient deficiency. Perhaps the nutrient balance isn’t optimized, or the pH level is either too high or too low. It can also be commonly caused by having a nutrient solution that is too hot or too cold, or using a medium that does not hold the nutrient solution and moisture well enough. Whatever the cause is, you can use foliar feeding as a way to make sure that your plants are receiving sufficient nutrients while you identify the source of the problem. This technique can save you a lot of heartache and hassle should something go awry with your hydroponics system or nutrient solution.
To Give Your Plants a Boost – Something doesn’t necessarily have to be wrong with your plants for you to choose to feed them with foliar fertilizer. Many choose foliar feeding for their plants simply to give them the extra nutrients that they need to grow to their potential. This is particularly popular for smaller growers, because of all the ways you can help increase yield, this is one the easiest and most affordable. With foliar feeding, all you need to give your plants an extra surge of nutrients is a simple spray bottle and well-balanced foliar spray.
What To Include In Foliar Spray
If you want to try an easy and simple way to get the most from your plants, you really can’t go wrong with a good foliar spray. But what exactly goes into a foliar spray? Typically it is the same kind of essential nutrients that you would find in a reservoir. But if you want to get the full benefits, you should also consider what kind of supplements you want to add to your foliar spray. Balancing the right kind of nutrients and organic material ensures that you are getting the absolute best benefits from your nutrient solution. Here are few things people typically put their foliar spray to get the best results from this advanced feeding technique:
Beneficial Bacteria – If your plants are growing too sterile for their own good, you should probably invest in a hydroponic product that contains beneficial bacteria. These kinds of bacteria can “fix” atmospheric nitrogen so that it can be absorbed more easily for your plant, increase overall nutrient uptake, and ward off any harmful bacteria. Most people only use it in their primary nutrient solution, but it works well when added to a foliar spray as well. It will enhance the nutrient solution by making them more easily absorbed by the leaves.
It can also make the foliar feeding process much safer. By introducing all that extra moisture to your plants, you may risk encouraging the formation of harmful fungi. The presence of symbiotic bacteria can head this off by making conditions for these fungi less favorable.
Plant Boosters – Plant boosters aren’t just useful for your reservoir; they can also be extremely beneficial for use in your foliar spray. Most plant boosters contain one more or more B vitamins that can help encourage vigorous growth all the way to harvest. Unfortunately, if your plants are only receiving these vitamins through their root zone, they may not be absorbing these helpful supplements to their full potential. Adding them to your foliar spray helps optimize uptake, and bigger yields once it comes time to harvest.
Fish and Kelp – The base material of ENERGYC is composed of the extract of the fermentation processes of fish emulsion, molasses, and soya beans. Rich in amino-acids, nucleic acids, organic acids and other vitamins in its natural form, ENERGYC is easily absorbed via the plant’s stomata . Plants use amino-acids to compose various kinds of enzymes that are required by the plant to grow into its full potential.
Amino acids have various prominent functions in plants. Besides their usage during protein biosynthesis, they also represent building blocks for several other biosynthesis pathways and play an important role during signaling processes as well as in plant stress response. Amino acids influence a number of physiological processes such as plant growth and development, intracellular pH control, generation of metabolic energy, and resistance to both abiotic and biotic stress.
Get BIG Results!
When farmers and gardeners want to give their plants the boost that they need in order to increase yield, the first choice they make usually is to apply a quality foliar fertilizer such as Hyfer Plus. This is entirely reasonable, as using a good foliar spray is perhaps the most cost effective way to give your plants the boost of nutrients that they need to grow to their full potential. But you would be doing both yourself and your plants a grave disservice if you did not learn every way in which you could make the most out of your foliar fertilizer. To make sure that you investment doesn’t go to waste, simply follow these simple extra steps.
Increase Humidity – While using a foliar fertilizer, your plants will benefit from an environment that is slightly cooler and slightly more humid. The idea is to allow as much of the foliar fertilizer to be absorbed into the plant as possible, and allow for as little as possible to be evaporated or transpired. Spray foliar fertilizers in the evening or early morning when humidity levels are higher and temperatures are cooler.
Spray Your Leaves with Water Afterwards – After you initially use your non-sticker formula foliar fertilizer, the spray will slowly dry up and leave a small nutrient residue around the leaves. To make certain that your leaves take up as many of the nutrients from your spray as possible, spray your leaves with water over the next couple of days. The water will combine with the residue and make it easier for your leaves to absorb the extra nutrients. As always, make sure that the water that you use is properly pH balanced. If you are using tap water, make sure it doesn’t contain too much chlorine to damage your plants.
Use Surfactant Sticker Formulas – Sticker formulas in foliar fertilizers make sure that the nutrients “stick” on the plant’s leaves and forms an oily film that allows the nutrients to be absorbed over a longer period of time than non-sticker formulas. Products such as 3SE Seaweed Concentrate is a great addition as it provides the surfactant sticker formula while containing seaweed trace elements.
Get the Undersides of Leaves Too – The reason foliar fertilization works is because leaves contain “stomata,” which are open pores that are primarily used for gas exchange. But when sprayed with a nutrient solution, these pores can also be used to absorb nutrients. The majority of the stomata are on the underside of the leaves, so you should make sure to spend extra time spraying that section. As you can imagine, the underside is also where the majority of the runoff occurs. So you would probably benefit from adding a sticking agent to your foliar spray.
Use a Fine Mist, Not a Stream – Find a spray bottle that allows you deliver the foliar fertilizer in the form of a very fine mist. This will help ensure more even and thorough applications. If your spray bottle is only able to deliver in a powerful, liquid stream you will dramatically increase runoff and less of the solution will be absorbed.