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Nutrients - powders vs liquids

Interesting article from Cannafo on the topic:
https://cannafo.com/growing/techniques/PowdersVsLiquids

Do you agree with his points around powders always being superior to liquids or are there benefits to a premixed liquid on a commercial scale?

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As a chemist/biologist, I would argue that in most cases powders are indeed better than liquids. You save on shipping costs in a big way. You can control the concentration much more precisely. And powders last much longer.

The downside, however, is that powders aren’t idiot-proof. If you don’t know what you’re doing or not paying attention, you can screw things up royally. If you have a new hire or someone inexperienced with mixing powders, you can kill your plants and ruin your soil, or get someone hurt. With liquids, you know exactly what you’re getting and the worst you can do is dilute the stuff.

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Hunter,
Would definitely have to agree simply due to the logistics of shipping. Its just not economical to use resources to ship water around the planet. For example CropKing has a nutrient line called Leafy. Leafy is used on commercial agriculture and food crops. It wouldn’t be affordable for a cucumber farmer to spend large sums on say a expensive liquid nutrient line. And with shipping costs, forget it.

As cannabis moves toward becoming a commercial crop, investors may find benefit by implementing a specially formulated mix of power potash. I imagine that as we move forward there will even be nutrient mixes specifically for sativa strains, and specific mixes for indica strains as well.

Mosaic seems to be the leading supplier of raw nutrient potash powders for the US, also for advanced growers; they can experiment with mixing their own formulas.
http://www.mosaicco.com/
http://finance.yahoo.com/quote/MOS/?p=MOS

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So if I were to play the devils advocate I would wounder if only using powders loose the benefits of say the oils from fish emulsion or other essential oils that benifit the plant, And wether these benifisial oils are irreplaceable or not.

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You bring up a good point. The process of making a powder has to not affect the additives you use. This isn’t an issue for simple elements, but for more complex molecules or probiotics it could be.

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My thought on the matter is that when you’re using powders you keep those oils separate and add them in as needed.

That’s another complaint about powders – they do take more effort to get everything right.

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I have 25 years of experience in producing high end nutrients for our industry. Mostly all premium ingredients are liquid because of the production ways. Only in this way you get pure and clean plant food.
Powder nutrients are only, and I mean only, produced in chemical factories. They are called salts. Chemical salts.
They contain lots of pollutions and heavy metals.
Because we smoke or inhale our end-product, it finally gets into our brain… Do I have to explain more.
In an even stronger way this counts for pesticides. In the worst case we burn them and they get directly in our blood.
Dear growers i do not want to scare you, but go for pure food grade minerals, biologic, or for the best opportunity: go for Veganic.
My new 100% Veganic Line will be introduced at the MJ Biz in LV next week.
(please visit my booth 2028)

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Powders are salts and liquids aren’t? Sorry but I think you are very mistaken. Most liquid nutrients are salts just as the powders are. In fact most pre made liquid fertilizers are made from powders. Name a brand of nutrients organic or not i guarantee it has some salts in one form or another. Organic fertilizers do not contain nitrate or phosphate salts, but do contain sulfate salts. Buying liquid fertilizers like cutting edge, advanced nutes, general hydro, or any other synthetic fertilizer line you are essentially buying pre made stock tank. They are all made from the same powdered salts. Mono potassium phosphate, potassium nitrate, calcium nitrate, magnesium sulfate, micro nutrients are mostly all in sulfate form. Powders are without a doubt the way to go for fertilizers.

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From an irrigation perspective, powders can cause a lot of problems if you’re using a drip system. I see growers who want really precise, slow-irrigating drip emitters and then fail to mix their powders properly, resulting in clogs all up and down the line. We generally recommend that people only run powders through a drip system if they’re using specific emitters (spot spitters are notriously hard to clog, for instance) OR if they’re willing to put in the appropriate effort to dissolve everything and keep sediment from building up. Not exactly an argument as to which is better for the plants, but using powders instead of liquids can affect how you’re able to irrigate your plants.

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I love using powdered nutrients just for simple cost savings, but I’m a home grower. The problem you suggest is a VERY real thing, in fact I know many growers that use drip lines or products like autopots (I love these autopots, I have 8 of them lol (@DanAutoPot ) that run into the same problem of having sediment and sludge build up (and it doesn’t’ take long either.) Products like Drip Clean are usually recommended when running granules (removes grime and salt buildups from pipes, roots, etc.)

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We always suggest Drip Clean to people, but a lot of them seem skeptical and I’m not sure why. Some growers are even resistant to just flushing the lines with water after feeding!

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Are there comparable products to that? Does it act as like an emulsifier to the salts?

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Cleaning drippers is necessary even with bottles fertilizers. If you are using powders it is definitley neccessary to make sure everything is fully dissolved. But as I stated before the liquids are made from powders. Precipitates are what causes problems of clogging drippers. You can get precipitates with liquids just like powders it is all chemistry weather the nutrients are powder or liquid form. They can and will react with eachother. This is why attention to how these chemicals are added to a resevoir is so important weather they are powders or liquids. Nutrients are charges. Some are anions some are cations. Anions are negatively charged, cations are positively charged. Opposites attract. For instance if you have high ppms of phosphates in your reservoir and then add a concentrated form of calcium directly to the reservoir whether it be liquid or powder you can cause precipitates of calcium phosphate which is not soluable and can clog drip lines. Like wise if you add a alkaline substance like silicate to a resevoir it can bring the ph of the reservoir high enough to cause lots of different precipitates. This is why highly reactive substances must be diluted in the resevoir prior to adding the other chemicals. This goes for powders or liquids.

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One point that was touched on is logistics of powder vs liquid. Going “Green” is the future and lowering emissions from transportation is a point that should be considered.

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We use this same argument in the oil industry when it comes to transporting bulk :grinning:

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I don’t really know the chemistry behind it haha. All I know is that we see people not mixing their powders enough, which leads to clogs via sediment. There are still clogging issues with liquid nutes, sure, but it’s not due to sediment. In our experience we’ve seen far fewer clogs with liquid than powder.

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This might sound silly, but if you have a fine enough micron screen, I wonder if you could “tea bag” powdered nutrients into your reservoir? Like steeping grains when brewing beer (any home brewers on here?)

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Huh. That is a really interesting concept! That’d be a great way to cut down on sediment issues. I just wonder if “steeping” would be an issue. You’ve gotta leave tea in the cup for a while before it diffuses, so that might cause a problem.

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Ya I can see the issue with people not mixing enough with the powders. For the home grow or beginner I would suggest bottled pre made fertilizers for the obvious reasons. But for anyone producing commercially or larger scale, powders are the only way to go.

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I thought I spotted some of our pots in your grow photos :slight_smile:

Yes, we recommend a product like Drip Clean to keep everything running smoothly. Flushing the lines out once a week is also good practice and prevents sediment from settling.

Prevention is better than cure. So, the main advice is use a formula that is totally water soluble. We’ve used Veg Bloom and Greenhouse Powdered Feeds in our systems with great results. They’re both powders.

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