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Silica unlocked for Plantsqrcode

Feb. 22, 2023

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Feb. 22, 2023

There are numerous studies indicating the important role Silica plays in plant defense and growth. In this article I am not going into that subject and focusing on how we can provide Silica in the most efficient way possible to the plants. I have tried to keep it simple but could not avoid using some technical terms for the lack of alternative terms. Still, I believe this should act as a handy guide for everyone who is interested in use of Silica in crop care.

Some key facts about Silicon & Silica to remember before we go deeper into the subject.

Silicon is Si or the element, while Silica is SiO2 or Silicon Di Oxide. Thus, 60 gms of Silica (SiO2) have 28 gms of Silicon (Si).

Silica is mainly available in the crystalline form like sand, quartz etc.

Only a small quantity is available as Amorphous Silica like Diatomaceous Earth which are fossil remains of diatoms (algae). Amorphous Silica is more reactive and responsible for Dissolved Silicon (DSi) through microbial action or other natural forces.

Silicon can remain water soluble as Silicic Acid or some Silicate form.

Orthosilicic Acid (OSA) or Monosilicic Acid is Si(OH)4 is the most common form of soluble silicon or dissolved silicon (DSi) found naturally in ocean and earth. It can easily condense to form more complex silicic acid. It is normally agreed that not more than 0.8% Silicon (Si) can be found in a formulation of OSA. So by and large the best quality of 1000 ml OSA formulation Orthosilicic will have around 8 gms (.8%) of Silicon (Si) and around 27 gms (2.7%) of Silicic Acid or Si(OH)4.

Silicates is a large family of product which can be defined as x(M2O).y(SiO2). Here M can be Sodium, Potassium, Lithium, Calcium, Magnesium, Ferrous or any other mineral. Different values of x & y produce different grades of Silicates with distinct properties. Out of these only three - Sodium, Potassium and Lithium Silicates can remain in liquid form. Rest all the silicates are powdered forms. For agriculture purpose Potassium Silicate is of major interest.

How does plant uptake Silicon naturally?

With major dissolved silica available in OSA form it has been widely assumed that the plant uptake Silicon on OSA form. So simply speaking we can state that Si solubilizing microbes work on Amorphous Silica available in soil to convert into OSA which is then taken up by the roots.

Wait. The absorption and distribution are controlled by transporter genes in the plant. So, each plant will respond differently even in case of availability of Silica in the soil. Studies till now have identified LSi1 and LSi2 responsible for uptake and LSi3 and LSi6 for distribution control. Looking at the wide role of Si in plant it is believed that we have just started understanding Si in plant.

Is it not sufficient to provide Diatomaceous Earth in the farm along with Si solubilizing microbes?

Silica solubilization is a slow process. Most of the studies which have been done and has shown promising results recommend a use of around 400 Kg Diatomaceous Earth per Acre. This will become very expensive. Commercially it may cost in the zone of 600 USD or around INR 50K per Acre and hence not a viable proposition.

By and large similar challenges plague and limit the use of Precipitated Silica, Calcium Silicate, Magnesium Silicate etc.
Some people recommended use of Coal FlyAsh which also contains some portion of amorphous phase silica. Apart, it contains lot of heavy metals which can have many negative impacts and hence not advised.

What prompted the use of Orthosilicic Acid (OSA)?

It's a bold attempt to mimic nature by providing OSA directly to plants with an assumption that absorption from Leaves also happen the same as through roots. Use of OSA has shown good stimulating activity but complete supplementation looks non-viable through this route. There are two major issues and let me start with techno-commercial one first.

OSA formulation can have a maximum 0.8% Silicon (of almost 1.7% in terms of Silica equivalent). So, it is less than 17 gms Silica (SiO2) per Ltr of product. OSA is commercially available to farmers between USD 10 to 20 per ltr band. I need almost 60 Ltrs OSA to supplement the plants with just 1 Kg Silica. Commercially a very expensive proposition for proper supplementation.

Many users have also reported scorching in plant with repeated use. Though no specific reason is known to me.

Is Potassium Silicate a viable proposition?

It is definitely looks like a very tempting option. Most formulations of Potassium Silicate contain between 20-30% Silica. With the price comparable to OSA, it contains almost 15x more Silica plus substantial amount of Potash.

While it has shown positive results, it has also reported widespread cases scorching if used frequently or if used in slightly higher doses. The challenges are reported more from non-silica loving plant. Thought, the reason cannot be definitely stated, here is my hypothesis.

Potassium Silicate is not directly absorbed by plants and hence depends on the available microbes to make it available to the plants and availability of LSi1, LSi2, LSi3 and LSi6.

Most Potassium Silicate products are highly polymerized with high molecule size creating a non-breathable layer on the leaf surface. This subsequently leads to scorching.

Most Potassium Silicate contains traces of heavy metals which can create heavy metal toxicity in the plant if used frequently.
Here it is pertinent that some people have even used Sodium Silicate as well. Since the requirement of Sodium is very low in plant, it can create serious issues in the plant and hence definitely not recommended.

Does Organosilicon formulation fit the bill?

Organosilicon is the innovative formulation from us which uses biogenic silica derived from plants and formulated with herbal extracts and potassium. It brings the best of both worlds and tops it ups with more advantages:

It is readily absorbed by plants without the need to getting it converted into OSA form just like the OSA getting absorbed by the roots.

It delivers high amount of silica bringing in the economic advantage of potassium silicate. Economically it is priced in the similar band as OSA but delivers 15x more Silicon making it a very attractive proposition.

On top of it, it is absorbed even in the absence of LSi1 or LSi2 thus making it useful for almost all types of plants.

It can be used throughout the crop cycle even with repeated use with frequency as small as every 5-7 days without any fear of scorching.

This should give you the confidence to choose the right Silica for your crop. If you have been looking to introduce Silica for your non-toxic crop protection with ease, here is your go to formulation of Silica.

You can be in touch with me directly to know more about Organosilicon and how you can use it as a part of Biowall Surakha protocol for highly effective non-toxic crop protection.


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