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07.22.2020

The Fertilizer Showdown: Dry v. Liquid

Article by Justin Gilbert & Melissa A. Bolin

When the decision to start growing high-quality cannabis is made, a major consideration is fertilizer selection. The current cannabis cultivation market is largely dominated by hydroponic growing practices, and there are essentially two choices we have, dry and liquid fertilizers. Both have advantages, as well as disadvantages, and we’ll help you, the cultivator, examine what works, and what doesn’t, so you can choose the best fertilizer for your operation in this Batch 64 Showdown: Dry v. Liquid Fertilizers.


Liquid Fertilizers



What Works?

Liquid fertilizers offer a high level of convenience. Typically they come premixed (or have two-part mixing instructions) and don’t require much in terms of equipment, except a measuring cup or syringe. The liquid concentrate can then be easily added to a reservoir or stock tank and then mixed into a solution without much work.


What Doesn’t Work.

Let’s talk size. Liquid fertilizers come in a variety of gallon sizes, from small jugs to massive vats, that contain mostly water and are packaged in odd-shaped containers and large barrels that require a significant amount of space to store. Generally, they weigh a considerable amount due to their liquid nature, hundreds of pounds for sizes needed to keep a large grow fertilized, and require a significant amount of energy and team planning to move them around from storage to the floor. Because of the heavy bulky packaging, it takes more energy to ship and greater costs. You can think of it as a juice product, you can buy a large ready-to-drink package from a warehouse club (if you have a large enough refrigerator to store), or you can buy a small can of juice concentrate, add water and mix it at home. In the end, both are essentially the same thing, but mixing it yourself at home alleviates some of the additional costs of logistics, shipping, labor, and storage (as well as lowering your environmental footprint as well.)

Time and accuracy. Oregon Bud Company, stated that they “never took a day off because no one else could be trusted to get this precise liquid nutrient mixture right over and over again.” They were struggling to find a way to achieve the precise consistency needed to grow their high-quality product while also keeping the business afloat. This inherited, legacy nutrient solution cocktail was great when the cost wasn’t an issue and cannabis prices were at an all-time high, but in today’s market what once helped them achieve their goals was now hindering their ability to continue growing and scaling their business successfully.

Now, what about spoilage? Liquids are prone to deterioration during storage due to evaporation over time. This occurs when a lid is left ajar, which can then concentrate the fertilizer, and in turn, throw off the amount that is actually needed to achieve your desired feed strength. In addition, there is the possibility of minerals falling out of the solution in a liquid fertilizer as time passes, which then changes the composition the manufacturer intended for best results, which then can lead to improper ratios of minerals getting to plants – causing a team to over or under fertilize their plants and potentially causing catastrophic results.

Dry Fertilizers



What Works?

Size Matters. As you just read above, size does matter. When considering storage, handling, and logistics costs, dry fertilizers have a major advantage. It’s easier to have a larger stock of dry fertilizers on hand based solely on the fact that it takes less space to store them at your operation. The weight of dry fertilizers, typically compound dry fertilizers come in 25-pound bags, makes them perfect to stack on top of each other and are easy to retrieve from storage by most people.

Customized Mixing.  When cultivators choose a custom-blended dry fertilizer, they can fine-tune their crop fertility system and potentially improve production efficiency and result in more profitable production. Mixing your own customized dry fertilizer program has major advantages, but it does require an accurate scale and precise weigh out when a unique formulation is required as there can be several different minerals to weigh out. In addition, getting the different parts of a dry fertilizer 100% into solution can be a bit more challenging, especially if cold water is used. There’s an easy step to avoid that issue – we recommend premixing the dry fertilizer in a small jug with warm or hot water and then adding that to the reservoir to make sure it has completely turned into a solution.

Shelf Life and Storage.  In terms of shelf life, dry fertilizers win the gold medal. Managing dry fertilizer storage, as you read above, is oftentimes easier than liquids.


What’s a Potential Challenge?

For the sake of total transparency, dry fertilizers do not come without their own set of challenges. Enter the caking phenomenon. This occurs when individual minerals in a compound fertilizer have varying degrees of hygroscopicity, or their ability to to attract and hold water molecules from the surrounding environment via either absorption or adsorption. The introduction of moisture from the environment can then lead to recrystallization, which in-turn leads to caking.

Caking can be easily solved though. To reduce the occurrence of caking, it is important to know the critical relative humidity of the fertilizer blend and the relative humidity of the environment where they are being stored. If the critical relative humidity of the fertilizer is lower than the air’s relative humidity, the hygroscopicity (the ability to absorb moisture from the air) goes up. It is always best to store both dry and liquid fertilizers in a cool, dark, and dry environment to reduce the chance of deterioration or alteration.

Remember though, when choosing either a dry or liquid fertilizer program it is important to follow the proper mixing instructions to avoid causing a chemical reaction, which can cause a precipitant to form (precipitates can form when two soluble salts react in solution to form one or more insoluble products), which then can lead to improper ratios of minerals getting to plants and potentially clogging lines and/or emitters.

The Batch 64 team truly believes in the advantages that compound dry fertilizers offer over liquid fertilizers and a custom dry feed regiment. Our Targeted Plant Nutrition is for multi-licensed and multi-state operating indoor, greenhouse and outdoor cultivators who are looking to maximize production efficiency. This full-cycle, dry-fertilizer program standardizes your fertigation routine from veg to flower, providing a two-step formula per grow cycle, eliminating the need for a complex fertilizer formula.

Targeted Plant Nutrition has been specifically designed for the cannabis cultivator who strives to reduce costs and improve efficiencies without sacrificing any quality or yield. We make it easy to use for you and your team while delivering a high-quality end product one might expect from a custom feed regiment at a lower cost than the majority of liquid fertilizers.

Curious about how a dry fertilizer program can improve your efficiencies and generate value for your grow? Email us at hcarignan@batch64.com.

Sources: Some Reasons for the Caking of Compound Fertilizer. (2019, January 16). Retrieved June 26, 2020.

 

 

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