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Water, Air, Sunlight, Media, Nutrients and Fertilizers

Why is growing media important?

Growing medium- material where plants grow Media

Provides nutrients by absorption through roots Anchors plants Contains pore spaces which provide oxygen for roots Provides favorable environment for microorganisms

What are the different types of growing media?


Thin layer of earths curst that provides for growth of plants



Contains no topsoil Usually made of:


Heat treated mica Holds moisture


Volcanic material Provides drainage and aeration


organic compounds

Loosen the medium Create larger air spaces between the particles Include:

Peat Moss

Sphagnum Moss

Leaf Mold



growing plants in a nutrient solution consisting of water and dissolved nutrient salts
Complete control of nutrient solution Greater yield per unit area through closer spacing of plants Less spreading of roots Reduced need for control of weeds, disease, and insects due to absence of soil


systems are classified according to substrate systems

Substrate systems
Sand culture- plants grown in sterilized sand with individual drip irrigation Gravel culture- involves irrigating plants grown in gravel for mechanical support Bag culture- uses plastic bags that are filled with substrate, such as rockwool, peatlite, and sawdust. Drip irrigation used to supply nutrient solution

Bare root systems:

Aeroponic system
Involves plant roots suspended in air with a fine mist of oxygen-rich nutrient solution sprayed on them a regular intervals

Continuous flow system

Involves using shallow pools with panels containing plants floating on the surface

Nutrient film technique (NFT)

Involves using a recirculating, shallow stream of nutrient solution that moves through channels in which the plants grow. The roots are usually covered with a plastic sheet

What are the contents of soil?

Mineral matter
Formed from inorganic sources, such as rocks and minerals

Organic matter
Decayed or partially decayed plant and animal matter; high in nutrients

Water Air

Kinds of mineral matter

Large particle Assists in drainage but may not hold enough moisture for plants

Medium-sized particle Preferred mineral component in most situations

Smallest particle Holds water and keeps soil moist May be too slow to dry and may be too compact

What is the structure of soil?



Coarseness or fineness of soil particles Affect many properties of the soil and its usefulness Medium-textured soil is most preferred


Physical arrangement of soil particles Contributes to aeration or the movement of air into the soil

Soil profile
Vertical cross-section of the soil at a particular location Makes visible the different layers of soil referred to as horizons
A horizon- topsoil; humus, roots, organisms, 10 B horizon- subsoil; fine particles, leached materials, some roots, 30 C horizon- parent material; weathered bedrock and some leached materials, 48 R horizon- bedrock; underlying solid rock

What are the nutrients needed for plant growth?

Macronutrients Micronutrients


Primary- nutrients needed in large amounts

N- nitrogen P- phosphorus K- Potassium

Secondary- nutrients needed in very small amounts

Ca- calcium Mg- Magnesium S- sulfur

Nutrients B-

needed in very small amounts

boron Cu- copper Cl- chlorine Fe- iron Mn- Manganese Mo- Molybdenum Zn- Zinc

Soil test

to determine which nutrients are present in the soil and to what degree to determine the availability of




you what nutrients are deficient and the kinds and amounts of fertilizer needed to replenish the nutrients

Primary Nutrients

Determines greenness color and density in plant Needed for chlorophyll, which is needed for photosynthesis Improves plants ability to resist disease and tolerate effects of heat, cold, and drought Deficiency symptom: yellowing of leaves called chlorosis


Helps plants hold and transfer energy for metabolism Affects cell division, root development, and flowering Deficiency symptom: purple coloring of leaves or stems

Activates enzymes Regulates opening and closing of stomata Regulates water uptake by root cells

What is pH?

pH- measure of amount of alkalinity or acidity in soil pH scale

1 to 14 1 is extremely acidic 14 is extremely alkaline 7 is neutral

pH affects the availability of nutrients to plants

How is pH modified?

pH can be lowered or elevated depending on present conditions of the soil and the pH requirements of the plant crop To lower pH- add sulfur To increase pH- add limestone Most plants require a pH of 5.5 to 8.0

What is fertilization and fertilizer?


any material used to provide nutrients plants need cultural practice of adding plant nutrients to the soil or other growing media



Complete fertilizers- those containing all three primary nutrients (N, P, K) Incomplete fertilizers- lacks one or more primary nutrients Active ingredient- total percentage of nutrients being applied Inert ingredient- carrier of filler ingredient

Fertilizer Analysis

composition of active ingredients in a fertilizer formulation fertilizer with an analysis of 16-4-8 has an analysis of:
16% Nitrogen 4% Phosphate 8% Potash 72% Inert material

A. To calculate the nutrient/fertilizer material needed Amount of nutrient needed = Weight of fertilizer material X % Nutrient 100 Or Weight of fertilizer material = Amount of nutrient needed X 100 % nutrient

Problem: A fertilizer recommendation calls for the application of 30 kg N per hectare. How much Ammonium sulfate (200-0) or Urea (45-0-0) would be needed?

Calculations: Weight of Ammonium Sulfate = 30 X 100 20 = 150 kg. of 20-0-0 per ha. = 30 X 100 45 = 66.7 kg. Urea per ha.

Weight of Urea (45-0-0)

What is the association between soils and nutrients?

Downward pulling of nutrients through the soil by percolating water

Available nitrogen
Affected by pH and amount and form of nitrogen present N is lost by leaching, removal of plat material, gaseous loss by volatilization of ammonia, and denitrification

Available phosphorus
Affected by pH and generally immobile in soil May be tied up in insoluble forms

Available potassium
Affected by pH and is readily soluble in water Leaching losses can be high in sandy soils

How is fertilizer used?

Apply fertilizer so that you dont waste it Apply fertilizer when the plants can best use the nutrients Apply small amounts of fertilizer frequently Be careful not to over fertilize

Forms of Fertilizer

Apply with a sprayer

Apply with a spreader

Application of fertilizers through an irrigation system

Key Questions

What are the different types of growing media? What are the contents and structure of soil? What nutrients are needed for plant growth? What is pH and how is it modified? What is fertilization and fertilizer? What is the association between soils and nutrients? How do you use fertilizer?