Stage Zero of Cloning: The Secrets of Seaweed Extracts
The art of cloning starts long before the first cutting is ever taken. It starts with nurturing a healthy mother plant. So stage zero of cloning starts with selecting your very best plants as stock plants. The plants should be disease free and selected for the superior qualities that mean the most to you; whether it be color, flavor, nutritional value or yield. Once the mother plant is selected, it should be provided with a full-spectrum nutrient formula, without excessive nitrate-nitrogen. Organic bio-stimulants are also beneficial, improving the uptake of nutrients and improving the plant’s natural resistance to pests and disease. (See: “Plant Nutrition for Mother Plants”)
Seaweed extracts have a two-fold benefit for growing healthy mother plants. When used at the root zone, seaweed stimulates cell division of root cells, resulting in more lateral root growth and root mass. But when seaweed is used as a foliar spray, more lateral bud development is stimulated. More lateral branches mean stockier plants with more candidates for healthy clones!
The secret of seaweed lies in the natural plant growth hormones that it contains. Kelp is especially rich in a class of natural growth hormones known as cytokinins. “Cytokinesis” means “cell division”. So cytokinins are the hormones in seaweed that stimulate cell division. When used on the roots, cytokinins stimulate the cell division of root cells. But when sprayed on the leaves, cytokinins break the apical dominance at the growing tip, and stimulate the development of the side branches, instead. Cytokinins also attract plant nutrients into the tissue, improving the content of sugars, amino acids and minerals in the developing tissues. The new growth becomes a virtual storehouse of the nutrients that the clone will need once it is cut from the mother plant.
A final benefit of the natural cytokinins in seaweed is that they help to preserve the “juvenility” of the tissues in which they are found. For example, if you add a drop of water with cytokinins to a leaf, then cut off the leaf and lay it on the table, the entire leaf will start to turn brown… except where the drop of cytokinins were. An island of green will remain!
So to improve the health of clones at stage zero, mist the mother plant with a light application of seaweed extracts about two weeks before you take your first cuttings. For even better results, try adding a little fulvic acid, yucca and B-vitamins to your seaweed spray. Fulvic acid is an intermediate chelator, helping the plant absorb trace elements and amplifying the beneficial effects of the seaweed. B-vitamins speed up the metabolism of the plant and help prepare it for stress. And the yucca extracts act as a natural wetting agent, helping to spread the foliar spray more evenly over the surface of the leaves for better absorption.
Just don’t overdo it! Follow the dosing directions carefully. If you overdo it with seaweed foliar spray, it will over-stimulate cell division and potentially scorch the leaves. Also, don’t foliar feed your mother plant with seaweed more than once a week. Once every two weeks is plenty! Properly using seaweed on both the roots and as a foliar feed has a push-pull effect on the mother plant, paving the way for perfect clones. Used at the roots, the mother plant can take up water and nutrients more efficiently, and used as a foliar feed the seaweed will pull the nutrients into the growing tips. It couldn’t be better!
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