Nordetect’s Data Farmer Digest is a knowledge center designed to support members of the AgTech industry through shared resources and knowledge. It's where we gather our most valuable learnings on leveraging data and technology for farms. Our goal is to enable growers, consultants, agronomists, and other AgTech professionals to improve their growth strategies.

This month we’re exploring the benefits of adding silica to industrial hemp and the best methods for application.

Indoor soilless cultivation is gaining traction in the plant breeding industry because it gives the breeder enhanced control over the environment and feeding regimes. Soilless growing also supports healthier plant growth because there is no threat of soil-borne diseases. For high-value plants like industrial hemp or medical cannabis, these advantages help maximize crop quality and output.

Like traditional growing methods though, soilless hemp cultivars still require keen attention, care, and nutrient dosing. Making small changes in the nutrient management of your soilless system can directly influence plant growth and crop quality. Enter: Silica.

Silica & Hemp Growth: A Budding Relationship

Even though cannabis plants don’t require silica to survive, when added the chemical enhances several physiological traits:

  • Builds disease resistance and manages powdery mildew
  • Protects against pests and environmental pollutants
  • Improves abiotic and biotic stress tolerance
  • Mitigates heavy metal toxicity, especially important for medical help
  • Improves nutrient uptake
  • Enhances plant metabolism
  • Strengthens overall plant structure, strengthening cell walls

For hydroponic growers, adding silica to your nutrient solution could help you see accelerated growth because of the immediate access to nutrients your growing method delivers. Silica application can be more complex in hydroponics, but you may find the growth reward worth it!

Why does Silica have such a positive effect on hemp?

Cannabinoids are produced in the trichomes, those tiny hairs that are found on the surface of plants. The trichomes are usually found on the above-ground portions of the plant and they provide disease and pest protection and help maintain optimal humidity, so the plant doesn’t dry out. These trichomes accumulate Silica! This means adding Silica to the roots stimulates trichome growth than in the absence of it.

Choosing the Right Silica Supplement

There are a variety of commercial options for your Silica additive, not all are equally effective though. Keep in mind that the higher the silicon dioxide concentrate (get a minimum of 8%), the more available the chemical becomes to your plant’s roots.

Another alternative is Wollastonite, a natural mineral and a great source of Silica. You can add it to a solution and get a slow release of Silica exponentially higher than peat moss, perlite, coconut coir, and vermiculite.

Bruce Bugbee’s lecture on the Cornell SIPS YouTube Channel talks about the Wollastonite method more and gives great insight into the science behind Silica and hemp’s relationship.  Watch it here!

Need more help with your nutrient management system in your cannabis crops? Contact our team to learn how our analyzer helps you optimize crop performance.

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