Are Your Plants Getting Their Vitamins?
The best organic gardeners have known for years that a healthy soil grows healthy plants. The secret lies at the root zone. Plants and beneficial microorganisms have co-evolved on the planet, helping each other in the struggle for life. From the beginning, beneficial bacteria and fungi have colonized the roots of plants and formed a mutually beneficial, or symbiotic relationship with their host. The plants leak sugars and nutrients to help feed the microorganisms, and the microorganisms produce biologically active molecules to help feed and protect the plant. B-vitamins are one part of the mix.
B-vitamins Stimulate the Metabolism of the Root Cells
Some yeasts and plant-growth-promoting rhizobacteria produce B-vitamins directly on the surface of plant roots. The B-vitamins stimulate the metabolism of the root cells, and help activate the plant’s natural defence mechanisms against environmental stress and foreign invaders. For example, scientists now know that thiamine (B1) activates the plant’s systemic acquired resistance in a process called “priming”. When treated with B1, the plant becomes highly “sensitised” so that it can respond more quickly against various pathogenic bacteria, fungi and even viruses. In one experiment, a single treatment with thiamine provided increased plant protection for up to 15 days!
Use B-Vitamin Before Plant Stress Occurs
The best time for a gardener to use a B-vitamin mix is before environmental stress or a pathogen attack occurs. Under normal conditions, plants produce all of the vitamins that they need, but under stress, plant cells at the growing tips tend to shut down to conserve energy. Therefore, under drought stress, heat stress, UV stress and salt stress, B-vitamin production may cease and growth rates become stalled. Adding a little B-vitamin blend directly to the nutrient solution or as a foliar spray before the stress occurs helps the plant recover from stress much faster, stimulating the plant to keep growing instead of remaining semi-dormant. So it might be best to think of B-vitamins as an insurance policy for your plants. A little extra B-vitamin blend in your feeding schedule can’t hurt, but it could make a big difference if things start to go wrong!
Several Commercially Available B-Vitamins
There are several commercially-available B-vitamins that act as plant biostimulants, but the most popular ones are B1, B2, B3 and B6 because of their positive effect on the metabolism of the plant. Science still has much to learn about the effects of each vitamin cofactor produced by beneficial microorganisms, but experience has shown that B-vitamins work better in combination than alone. For example, B1 induces resistance to plant pathogens, B2 and B3 stimulate cellular metabolism, and B6 is a powerful antioxidant. Together, they have a synergistic effect.
B-vitamins Amplify the Beneficial Effects when used in Combination with other Growth Promoters
Taking it one step further, B-vitamins amplify the beneficial effects when used in combination with other growth promoters. In addition to B-vitamins, plant-growth-promoting rhizobacteria produce natural growth hormones, amino acids, mineral chelators and other growth factors. When used in combination, they can have a dramatic effect on quality and yield. B-vitamins are commonly found as ingredients in cloning gels, root stimulants, amino acid blends, rockwool conditioning solution, and many other plant biostimulant products. A good B-vitamin blend should always be on the advanced gardener’s shelf!