Silicon – the mediator of soil-plant nutrition

Better soils
with Brett Petersen
Kiwi Fertiliser & Golden Bay Dolomite

Silicon is a much-underrated nutrient ignored by mainstream agriculture to our detriment. It is like a mediator that evens out the highs and lows of soil-plant nutrition.

When we rely too heavily on chemistry, chemical reactions in the soil between applied products and resident compounds can lead to wastage of the applied substances if they are the wrong products to use. ‘Cheapest is best’ may turn out to be the worst decision that can be made. All plants – including orchard trees – can be affected by conditions that include iron chlorosis, which results in poor photosynthesis and is seldom diagnosed. Silicon can mitigate most of these flaws we unknowingly accept as part of the cost of doing business. Follow the trail below.

Based on current literature, silicon shows its significance for the life of plants and the performance of crops in the following aspects, but not confined to these.

1. Essentiality for some forms of life. Animals, Diatoms, Bacillariophyta, and plants such as horsetails (Equisetaceae).

2. Enhancement of growth, yield, and quality, up to and during handling, transport, and storage.

3. Promotion of mechanical strength, plant erectness and resistance to lodging.

4. Better light interception and promotion of photosynthesis.

5. Improved performance when insufficient sunshine or too much shading.

6. Effects of plant surface properties.

7. Potassium is required by, and promotes, fungi and non-rhizobia bacteria.

8. Resistance to plant diseases involving fungi, bacteria, viruses, and nematodes.

9. Resistance to herbivores ranging from phytophagous insects to mammals.

10. Resistance to excess metal toxicity.

11. Resistance to salinity stress.

12. Inhibition of transpiration and resistance to drought stress and inefficient water use.

13. Resistance to high temperature and chilling or freezing stress.

14. Resistance to UV radiation or monochromic exposure.

15. Enhancement of root oxidizing power and root activities and hence alleviation of reduced toxicity under low Eh. Oxidation-reduction conditions as measured by the redox potential (Eh), expressed in volts.

16. Effects on enzyme activities.

17. Alleviation of stress from other mineral deficiencies or excesses. Froe example, potassium, phosphorus, manganese and iron, nitrogen, cadmium, arsenic, chromium, lead, zinc copper and boron.

18. Promotion of nodule formation in legume plants and hence promotion of N2 fixation.

19. Promotion of formation of long-term stable carbon and hence, having implications in carbon bio-sequestration of atmospheric CO2 and global climate change.

20. Used by earthworms to grind up soil parent materials.

21. Biology is stimulated by calcium but may then run short of silicon. Silicon not only stimulates the biology but sequesters aluminium, sparing magnesium and phosphorus that otherwise would have been tied up, or complexed by bicarbonates.


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