Although not a major plant nutrient, silica is still considered to be important in any grow room. One of the most abundant components in the earth’s crust, silicon is a major contributor to the plant kingdom. It comprises of about 55-70% of soil mass and just happens that some plants have the ability to gather high levels of silica in their tissue. These plants have high levels of silica compared to minerals such as magnesium, calcium, and phosphorus.
In the past, agronomists ignored the use of silicon as fertilizer but lately, due to its benefits to the growth of a plant and its ability to improve plants resistance to disease it is becoming more popular with many plant growers who apply silica to their gardens for a wide range of plants.
The use of silica is common among hydroponic farmers who add it directly to the reservoir away from other nutrients since the mineral becomes sticky when added together with other concentrated salts.
In this article, I will be sharing with you a little detail about silica for plants, including plant sources and the benefits they add when they are included in fertilizer in the garden.
What is Silica?
Silica is what is commonly used to refer to the compound silicon dioxide. It is a major component of plant tissue and is formed when oxygen and silicon come in contact. A lot of plant growers believe that silicon doesn’t have any benefits when added to their garden since it isn’t part of the essential nutrients required for plant growth. But this certainly isn’t true.
Silicon Health Benefits
Silicon is needed as part of a balanced diet for every healthy individual. It plays a major contribution to bone and teeth development and as such should be included in our diet. The ligaments, joints, tendons, and tissues in the body require silica for strong and healthy development. The mineral also helps to balance the release of insulin by the pancreas. The skin, hair, and nails are not left out as they require essential minerals to be able to develop properly and apart from calcium, silicon also helps out in that department.
Now that I have mentioned some of the health benefits of silica, you should begin to see the reason why most plant growers add silica to their gardens to improve their plant’s yield. The next question you will be asking will be where these growers find the silica they add in their garden.
Sources of Plant Silica
For you to consider a quality silicon source, it needs to contain high levels of soluble silica, has physical properties that are safe for machine applications, readily available and shouldn’t be expensive to purchase or apply to plants. Although silicon is the second most available element in the earth’s crust, it is usually in combination with other elements. The best sources of silica for plants are the ones that are highly soluble but since most sources are insoluble, it may have to do a bit of work and research in finding a good source of plant silica for your garden.
Some of the available sources of silica for plant growers include
A by-product from the industrial processing of iron and other alloys, slag is used as a source of plant silica due to its high solubility and concentration. It is usually a combination of silicon dioxide and metal oxides, but it can also contain metal sulfides and other metals depending on the refining process. When making use of slag as a source of silicon for your rice or sugar cane farm it is best you ensure that it has a high silicon dioxide content so as not to expose your plant to other toxic metals that are not beneficial to its yield.
This is by far the most important source of silicon for plant and is best for soil application. Wallosonite (calcium metasilicate) is the most effective source in places where the soil is low in soluble silicon concentration. Another by-product of slag, gotten from the production of phosphorus in an electric furnace can be applied to soils with low silica contents in the cultivation or watermelon, sugarcane, rice and other crops.
Another good source of silicon for plants, sodium silicate often referred to as water glass has many industrial applications including textiles, ceramics, cement, silica gel and adhesives. It is produced by the treatment of quartz sand, caustic soda, and water in a hot steam reactor.
A common fertilizer used in Brazil, thermo-phosphate is also a good source of plant silica. Although it might be difficult to come by and expensive to purchase, it is highly effective in increasing the plant yield in gardens where there isn’t much silicon content in the soil.
Benefits of Silica in Plant
The addition of silicon to plant soil either in hydroponics or traditional gardening has a lot of numerous benefits and they include
- Helps to Strengthen Plant Cell Walls
Silica helps to provide the plant with a stronger cell wall, and this makes it possible for the plant to develop strong stem and branches that are capable of supporting fruit production when the plant reaches maturity.
- Strengthen Plant Immune System
Unlike animals, plants lack an immune system that can help them to resist the effect of environmental factors in plant growth. Adding silica to plants helps them to withstand the effect of climate and drought throughout the period of the plant’s life.
- Improves Plant Metabolic Function
The addition of soluble silica to plants provides them with a higher chlorophyll concentration where it is needed. This helps to reduce wilting in the leaves and improves leaf production. Also, there is a noticeable improvement in the health of the foliage when silica is added to plant soil.
- Increased Resistance to Pest and Pathogens
Feeding your plant with soluble silica helps to improve its resistance to pests and pathogens. It helps to fortify areas around the cell wall of the leaves making it difficult for diseases to get into the plant. It also makes it harder for bugs to bite and suck the plant thereby reducing plant damage.
How to Add Silica to Your Plants
Depending on the product you are using, you need to follow the dosage prescribed. During the early stages of plant development, it is advisable to feed them soluble silica at a slow rate and then up the application as plants increase in size and maturity.
You can apply silica to your plant either as a foliar spray or to the roots; but for maximum absorption, it is best you apply minerals with the aid of a foliar spray. Remember to dilute the silica and add the solution to the reservoir to avoid contamination with other elements.
When purchasing soluble silica for your farm, it is best you buy from trusted brands that sell grower feeds and tools so as you can be certain of the quality of mineral your plant is receiving.
If you have any questions on using silica for your farm or garden, let us know in the comment section and we will be glad to be of assistance. We encourage you to share this article if you find it helpful.