One practice that has been gaining traction in agriculture over the past few years has been to add sugar to fertilizer. Many growers wonder what the point of this is. I was first told about the practice from the late Dr. Skow. He claimed that it increased biological activity in the soil, that nutrient uptake was impacted by the amount of soil life. By adding sugar you could increase bacterial counts and activity and improve nutrient mineralization. He warned that too much would increase fungal growth and cause problems.
Last night I found this article on Science Direct: The effects of glucose loading rates on bacterial and fungal growth in soil (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0038071713004446).
Some highlights from the Abstract:
- Microbial activity in soil is usually limited by the availability of carbon (C). Adding an easily available C source, like glucose…
- Most such studies have relied on respiration to study microbial dynamics, with few following the explicit growth response. We determined the response in bacterial and fungal growth, as well as respiration, to additions of glucose (0.5–32 mg C g−1 soil)
- Bacterial growth was similar to the unamended control, while respiration was 8 fold higher during this period.
- At concentrations exceeding 4 mg glucose-C g−1 the relative stimulation of fungal growth surpassed that of bacteria, with the highest amendment rates, 32 mg C g−1, resulting in mainly fungal growth.
- Lower loading rates than 4 mg glucose-C g−1 appeared to stimulate mainly bacterial growth.
So it appears that the good Doctor new his stuff. You can slightly increase bacterial counts and their activity, which should improve nutrient mineralization and nutrient uptake. Add too much sugar though and fungal growth takes over.
According to Dr. Skow’s business partner and student, Jon Frank, “There are lots of fungal diseases and rot rots that can take hold and reduce yields if you over apply sugar. However trace minerals are also important to managing proper bacterial counts. Copper manganese and zinc should also be considered when looking to use a sugar source.”
At Calcium Products we have been promoting the use or sugar and available carbon for a few years. The development of Triplicity combines sugar, carbon and calcium to create a revolutionary product. Since the sugar is complexed with calcium and carbon you won’t be in danger of over applying sugar. For more information on Triplicity contact us today!