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Pining for Organics by Cindy Rea

Reduce, reuse, recycle, grow organic, eat vegetarian, hug a tree, macramé a plant hanger! You've sorted through the rhetoric and decided where your 'environmental commitment' fits comfortably into your lifestyle. You do your part!  You sort your garbage; carefully separating recyclables by category, compost your kitchen scraps, and eat tofu on Tuesdays!  But is it enough?

It is an undisputed fact; chemical pesticides and herbisides have helped create unacceptable toxicity levels in our soil, rivers and lakes and homeowners are a major contributor to this problem.  The government monitors and restricts the use of pesticides like diazinon for agricultural use. However, it is widely used by homeowners and residential lawn care services. We are dumping an astounding amount of toxic chemicals on our lawns in order to have lush, green, weed free yards.  These chemicals leach into wells and groundwater and run-off into sewers, rivers and lakes. Homeowners use 10 times more chemical pesticides per acre than farmers do. We must take action now before we cause irreparable damage to our fragile environment. 

Many people have opted for non toxic, organically based solutions for their lawn maintenance. Up until recently this was an inconvenient, costly, labour intensive, moderately effective alternative to chemically controlled lawn care.  Researchers have developed more efficient, less expensive, ready-to-use organic fertilizers with pest control features.

One organic compound of particular interest to researchers is pine oil extract.  Pine oil is extremely effective because it possesses a high nitrogen level while being a major pest deterrent.  The active ingredients work as a pest repellent by inhibiting feeding however, it has no effect on pollinating insects like bees.  This makes it an ideal, multi-task lawn and garden fertilizer. Pine oil based fertilizers are currently being used by many golf courses and sod farms that have been restricted from using toxic chemical fertilizers.

Pine oil is completely (100%) natural and efficiently biodegradable and its environmental impact is negligible and hence more predictable  Being non-toxic in nature, leaching into water catchment basins and the water table is not harmful.  Unlike phosphate fertilizers the runoff water does not encourage the proliferation of algae.

The diversity and purity of pine oil based liquid organic fertilizers has come to the attention of the greenhouse industry with particular interest being given to hydroponic applications.  Its benefits make it a valuable contribution to hydro-organic horticulture. It can be used as a foliar spray without fear of overspray toxicity.  It is totally safe, biodegradable, and environmentally friendly.  The natural organic components that make up the pine oil based fertilizers allow plants to rapidly absorb and utilize the available nutrients and micronutrients resulting in increased growth and shortened growth cycle. 

Though the pine oil fertilizer has a very distinct pine odour, tests  have shown that there is no discernable trace of odour or flavour when it is used right up until harvest.  The fact that it won't promote algae is a bonus to the hydroponic grower. 

In any growroom the best way to control the spread of disease is through cleanliness.  Sterilizing tools and equipment between crops will help reduce the risk.  Removing old, dying or decaying vegetation from the room is crucial.  Pine oil's disinfectant quality ensures that tubes, pumps and trays are kept clean and free from unwanted contaminants.

Tests conducted in China in 2001 on one particular fertilizer that's primary active ingredient is pine oil found that strawberry plants treated with this product were 1 - 2 cm taller, had more leaves and produced better fruits compared with plants grown under conventional cultural practice.  Of particular interest was that plants suffered less fruit rots including anthraconose rot and gray mold caused by Botrytis cinerea when treated with this product, common problems encountered in a high humidity growroom or greenhouse.

Researchers Drs. Ting Zhou, Chris Youn and Rong Cao with Agriculture Canada and Agri-Food Canada, Food Research Program in Guelph, Ontario did extensive field trials on strawberries, western pumpkin, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and corn using the liquid organic pine oil fertilizer compared to a standard plot.  Their finding varied from a 28.3% increase in yield for the western pumpkin to a 0.4% increase in cucumber with regular use.

One of the major attributes associated with pine oil is its protective qualities.  When used as part of a regular feeding regime, the pine oil fertilizer enters the root system promoting strong healthy root growth.  Healthy roots mean healthy plants!  Strong, healthy plants are far less susceptible to attacks by predators and fungal disease, they are better able to withstand temperature fluctuations and are generally more tolerant of any adverse conditions. 

Significant results have been witnessed using the liquid organic pine oil fertilizer in eradicating many common greenhouse infestations:  Red mites, aphids, whiteflies, fungus gnats and shore flies, thrips and botrytis.  The need for sulphur may be eliminated as the pine oil has been shown to totally suppress diseases such as  powdery mildew, downy mildew, alternaria, pythium, rust and other foliar diseases.

Research Scientist, Raj Utkhede of Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada confirmed liquid organic pine oil fertilizer "inhibited the growth of all 4 pathogenic fungi (Botrytis cinerea, Pythium aphenidermatum, Fusarium oxysporum, Didymella bryoniae) that caused the diseases on cucumbers and tomatoes in laboratory experiments.  It also showed promise to control Botrytis stem canker of mature cucumber plants under greenhouse conditions."

In hydroponics the pine oil organic liquid fertilizer can be used as an additive to help boost nitrogen during the vegetative period while providing ongoing protective maintenance.  This is especially beneficial when used in the treatment of mother plants.  The protection acquired by the mother will be transferred to new cuttings ensuring them a healthy, viable start.  This is of major importance as systemic root diseases will be passed from the mother to her cuttings.

Nitrogen is not normally recommended during the flowering cycle, however, the protective benefits provided by pine oil may outweigh any adverse effects. Controlling molds, mildews, pathogens and pests right through to harvest is a challenge to many growers. 

Studies are ongoing at Guelph University and Ohio State University on producing consumer safe crops and post harvest crop protection.  Pine oil was proven to be an environmentally friendly, non-toxic plant defender, growth stimulator and liquid organic fertilizer that will have a positive impact on agriculture.

I suggest Homegrown's DNF Enhance.

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Click here to read the article Pine Oil Revisited