Welcome to the Growery Message Board! You are experiencing a small sample of what the site has to offer. Please login or register to post messages and view our exclusive members-only content. You'll gain access to additional forums, file attachments, board customizations, encrypted private messages, and much more!
Does anyone have any information about the advantages to using a soil-less substrate? I like the idea of a soil having nutrients as a natural part of it, and available to the plants, but I guess when you're already adding nutrients out of a bottle that doesn't matter so much....
So what's the deal with Coir and other soil-less mixes? One of the best things about soil is the symbiotic relationship from the microbes that live in the soil and the plant. It makes nutrients more readily available, easier to absorb, and contributes to overall health of the root system.
I know you can purchase organic nutrients that are rich in bacteria, but is it the same?
First off, soil-less medias have a much higher rate of aeration and they tend to allow for a quicker nutrient diffusion throughout compared to soil. pH is also easier to control, and root systems will grow more compact. The downside though, as you said, is the resulting loss of symbiosis and taste. The symbiosis can be easily replaced though with mixtures, but the taste is something you will have to learn to counter, some don't notice the taste thingy but I really do after all these years.
One of the major uses of symbiotic bacteria and fungi is to break down the organic material (soil) and convert it to a form plants can use. In a soil-less mix, there is no complex organic part for the microbes to break down. So while they are still present and helping you out, they aren't as essential.
That said, we move on to hydroponic nutrients. Hydro nutes are designed to work without the aid of any microbial activity, all of their nutrients are in readily available forms for the plants to use right away. This difference is why hydroponic growth is often faster than soil growth. If more nutrients are available right away (you don't have to wait for the microbes to slowly do their thing) the plants are able to grow more rapidly.
Now you ask, ok than why not just go all the way to hydro? But ahhhh with soil-less mixes you still get the simplicity of soil (just water and forget), the protection from temperature changes that can damage roots, and the security in knowing that you aren't totally tethered to your 'system' so you can weather minor power outages, landlord inspections, or other unforeseeable events.
As far as taste goes... I think the difference between hydro and full organic soil is very marginal at best. I have grown the same strain out (Bubblegum) in multiple different systems including full organic (happyfrog soil w/ AN mother earth tea) and full chemical hydro (full AN line including 10-day flush) and have been unable to tell the difference. If you treat a hydroponic system well, ie provide all of the essential soil elements as well as chemical compounds, and give them a complete flush, full flavor will follow.
One more thing about the mycorhizzal symbiosis though; There's a bit more to the relationship than just having microbes break down the nutrients... certain haustoria (coenocytic hyphae) will actually invade through the cell wall of root tissue and provide direct exchange for nutrients from host to fungi, and essentially expand the root system of the plant to include the mycellium and facilitate the range of nutrient uptake. You think the trade-off between having faster nutrient availability outweighs the extended absorption area?
That said; all this science talk don't mean much compared to actual results, and if hydro systems generally DO actually grow faster than soil in real comparisons (as you provided) then obviously they must work alright
Absolutely, there are a plethora of different organisms that go beyond organic decay many of which can certainly enhance plant growth. We are not eliminating this symbiosis in soil-less growing though (many hydro nutes even contain certain beneficial organisms) we just don't rely on it as heavily. If you use the right supplements we can introduce any number of beneficial colonies.