How Beneficial Bacteria Boost Plant Growth

Just as humans need bacteria in their bodies to breakdown and absorb nutrients and perform a myriad of other essential functions, the same is true with microorganisms in plants.

The rhizosphere, the zone in the soil where plant roots and soil meet, is alive with microbial activity. It’s where plants feed bacteria and where bacteria return the favor with a host of benefits to help plants grow and thrive.

Microbes, beneficial bacteria, micro-organisms—you’ve probably heard all of these and other terms used in relation to plant growth. A simpler and becoming more common way to think about these tiny biological wonders is as Plant Growth Promoting Bacteria or PGPB for short.

“The idea behind PGPB really is to understand and recognize importance of how microbes provide essential, vital, functional interactions with plants,” says John Wong, BluePlanet Labs’ Chief Science Officer.

Wong walks us through the key functions of PGPB, their symbiotic benefits and the traits that make BluePlanet’s strains extremely effective for cannabis growers of all types and sizes.

Essential Functions

In untreated soil, you have the impact of weather, chemical additives, random chance, and other factors. Many studies have been done about what constitutes a typical microbial makeup in soil, but the results vary widely, and therefore it is important to nurture a high level of bioactivity, Wong says.

What remains the same is a plant’s need to breakdown key nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus. Each of these nutrient cycles are tied to organic biochemical interactions. This is done through the various processes, such as nitrogen fixation-pulling nitrogen from the atmosphere and turning it into an absorbable organic form, or breaking down ammonia to nitrite and then to nitrate, or the solubilization of phosphorus and micro-nutrients such as iron. It is important to note that vital nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus take many forms in soil, many of which are not very accessible to plants.

“And while cannabis growers may be using all sorts of additives designed to do their best to make sure that the nutrients are present, the issue then becomes the mobility and bioavailability of these nutrients needs to be enhanced,” Wong says. “And that is where PGPBs, primarily bacillus and nitrifiers, such as Nitrobacter and Nitrosomonas, found in stable formulations in BluePlanet’s products do a good job of making nitrogen and phosphorus and other micro-nutrients more bioavailable.”

Hormone production is another key process for plant production. As plant, bacterial, and fungal signaling occurs in the rhizosphere, a fascinating communication process called quorum sensing, Wong says.

“When you enhance plant and bacteria ability to communicate and interact, you get an explosion of growth,” he says.

Using an all natural, time tested, organic nutrient regimen, BluePlanet’s ACF-420 compliments the entire process by enhancing the production of growth hormones specifically developed for plant growth and health.

Persistence Pays

While there are certain bacteria and fungi that are known to be beneficial for plants, that doesn’t mean they will be effective, especially long-term. Fungal additives, for example, have a very short persistence in soil, Wong says, meaning they are short-lived. If you add say Tricoderma one week, it is generally not measurable two weeks later, he says. You have to take a very close look at top-line hyped scientific facts, and understand the practical realities of what happens in nature.

Daily doses might make a difference, but that isn’t practical. A better solution is developing bacteria strains that persist for four to eight weeks that accomplish the same benefits, which is exactly what BluePlanet has done.

“BluePlanet has intentionally chosen beneficial bacteria that at the most basic level have been shown to have a greater persistence in the soil,” Wong says. “Nobody wants to add these additives on a daily basis, whether it’s a commercial farmer or a serious grower or someone growing a few plants.”

Stability and Reliability

Any grower purchasing a biological additive should know that it’s has spent time in a distribution chain, and therefore it must be judged on its stability, the quality and reliability of delivering a bioactive product.

“And what we’ve found is that many product formulas do not survive well through the distribution chain, let alone sitting for a week or a month on a grower shelf,” Wong says.

BluePlanet has been working on stabilizing techniques since 1996, resulting in a two-year shelf life for all of its products, including ACF-420. Having shipped products all over the world, that stability has been proven, Wong says. For growers using BluePlanet products within the two-year window, the bacteria has always delivered the promised benefit.

The Company also offers on-site brewing to help large-scale growers deliver PGPB more economically.

Regardless of your operation type, your soil, your prior treatments, Wong says, BluePlanet’s PGPB can deliver a difference.

“Everything that effects plant growth, in one way or another, is going to be involved in the area where bacteria interact with the plant,” he says. “When you utilize a product that is specifically designed to work in harmony with a holistic plant growth regime, we get it done.”