Growing media, or substrate, is the term used to describe the material used to grow a plant. Growing media can comprise various organic ingredients (bark or peat) or inorganic ingredients (perlite or stone wool). It is vital to select a suitable growing media for optimal plant health as it will affect the water retention rate and determine how well the plants can take up air, water and nutrients.
Understanding the role of growing media in plant growth
As we discussed in our previous blog post, “What is the importance of growing media?” – growing media helps provide plants with aeration, mineral nutrients, water, and physical support. Different crops will have varying requirements regarding aeration, moisture retention and pH. Potatoes grow best in soil with a pH value of 5.5 to 6.5, for example, whereas sugar beets are more sensitive, so the ground needs to have a pH value of between 6.5 and 8.
Factors to consider when customising growing media
There are four main factors to consider when it comes to customising growing media, and these are:
#1 Crop-specific nutrient requirements
Every crop uses three primary nutrients: phosphorus, potassium and nitrogen, but the levels required of each are often in a ratio. Farmers need to have an understanding of this ratio to be able to produce high-yielding crops and increase crop health. Peas, for example, require no nitrogen as they form a symbiotic relationship with nitrifying bacteria, whereas brussels sprouts need 330kg of nitrogen per hectare.
#2 pH balance and adjustment
The pH level of the growing media will affect the nutrients available to the crop for growth. In highly acidic soil with a pH of 4.6 or less, there can be high levels of aluminium and manganese, which can be toxic to many plants. On the other hand, phosphorous and most micronutrients become less available in soil with a pH of 8.3 or more, making it too alkaline for most plants.
#3 Water retention and drainage
Water retention is one of the most important properties associated with growing media, as crops need water for photosynthesis and to transport nutrients. A growing media with a low water capacity will dry out quickly, which can damage plants. In contrast, a growing media with a high water capacity may lead to problems with root respiration.
#4 Aeration and root oxygenation
Crop roots require oxygen to respire and release energy to help them grow. If there isn’t enough air in the soil, crops will fade as they can’t breathe properly.
The Role of Gelponics in customising growth media
We have developed our Gelponics substrate as a carbon and nitrogen-rich hydrogel, which uses algal biostimulants and soil amender biochar – both eco-friendly.
Our products not only help increase the carbon and nitrogen content of the soil but also improve a plant’s moisture-holding capacity and stabilise this moisture, offering better crop yields.
It can be used in various agricultural settings for different crop types to support your plants through the growth cycle sustainably. It is a more eco-friendly growth media than coir, peat and stone wool, as it is biocompatible and degrades naturally in soil.
To find out more about how our growing media can optimise plant health and maximise crop yields, please get in touch at 07867 502 247 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org