Calcium is needed for crops to grow and gain healthy structure in their cell walls. It also is used in the plants membranes as a type of cement fastening cells to one another, and plays a valuable role at the root. Calcium stimulates the protein channels in the roots that consume the nutrients necessary for the plant's success. In the absence of calcium being available the roots wouldn't be able to consume any nutrients. Calcium is mostly supplied in hydroponics through nutrient solutions such as calcium nitrate or calcium salts. A consistent supply is needed during development as once it is cemented into the plant cell wall it becomes rigid and consequently more is needed to continue plant growth.
Calcium deficiency in plants can result in leaf tip burn or problems in the fruit, called blossom end rot. As the calcium is determined by the volume of nutrients used or calcium compounds by the grower, deficiency is frequently due to other growing influences. Examples of which are as follows:
- An excessive amount of potassium, sodium or magnesium in the hydroponic solution. This can disrupt the uptake of calcium by the root because it is in competition with these substances.
- Excessive humidity. This can affect the movement of water and nutrients through the xylem tissue of the plant, and to the different areas of the plant. When humidity is excessive transpiration rates decrease which in turn affects the rate at which water and calcium is drawn up the xylem.
- An excessive EC electrical conductivity) of solution. A high EC signifies that there is a high degree of dissolved salts in solution, and this can affect the intake of calcium by the plant.
Calcium deficiency in hydroponics is often evaded by deciding on the correct nutrients for the plant type being cultivated and having an adequate level of calcium within the solution. The correct EC level is essential and must be measured frequently to ensure that calcium is taken up at the roots. Attempting to keep the environment consistent and constant is also essential as excess humidity can reduce calcium uptake and as a result the level of temperature should be carefully monitored. The use of fans to create a gentle breeze on the leaves can help to reduce humidity and promote transpiration and consequently helping the development of healthy plants and fruit.About the AuthorSarah is a hydroponic hobbyist having gained her knowledge from cultivating vegetable produce from her home. She has moved into hydroponics supplies via her website and shop for beginners and other hobbyists. For hydroponics supplies online or based in Yorkshire visit Hydroponics Yorkshire.