Silica – The Forgotten Nutrient
July 31, 2023
Silica is a very interesting nutrient that has been, and still is, underappreciated. But it has been slowly gaining some appreciation, and for good reason.
There are so many beneficial impacts that silica has on plants, that you could almost wonder if silica is the magic mineral. It isn’t, of course. But it does have some very beneficial roles in healthy plants, some of which we have alluded to in the past. Silica improves resistance to pests, reduces susceptibility to bacterial and fungal pathogens, improves brix, improves nutrient uptake, prevents lodging, and alleviates stress and toxicities.
How does all this work?
First and foremost, silica is critical for a healthy vascular system, something that we have talked about several times this past year. When a plant has enough silica during its early vegetative stage, large amounts of silica are deposited into the cell walls of the xylem tissues, which is where water and nutrients are transported through on their way from the soil up into the plant.
In other words, silica creates a more robust vascular system that can now allow uptake of more water and nutrients faster. This is critical at all times, but becomes increasingly so during periods of stress or hot weather, during which times the xylem, or vascular system, will start closing. Research is quite clear that silica may prevent compression of the xylem during heat, which is critical because plants need lots of water and nutrients during this time. Many plants are at peak fruit load during this time. Hugh Lovel has added that adequate amounts of sulfur and boron are critical for the silica to properly do its work.
Silica also adds strength to cell walls in stems, leaves, and fruit. This promotes plants that are stronger and more resistance to diseases and insects because they cannot get access to the inside of the plants. It also means that the plants are not as susceptible to lodging, or falling over.
We have seen silica especially helpful for downy and powdery mildew on cucurbits.
Silica adds energy to plants. In the absence of silica, the incorporation of phosphate into ATP and ADP is reduced and plants no longer have adequate reserves of energy. ATP equals energy!
Silica alleviates abiotic stress, including physical stress such as drought, radiation, high and low temperatures, freezing, and also including chemistry stress such as salt, heavy metals, or nutrient imbalances.
The bottom line is that it is hard to go wrong using silica. And there are so many benefits. Why not start using silica in your crop production? Obviously, biology can produce adequate levels of silica, but there are also other forms of silica that we can use in the meantime while we promote biology and soil health. These forms of applied silica will help you on your journey to achieving pest and disease resistance naturally.
Source: Melvin Fisher | Sponsored by Keystone Bio-Ag LLC