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12 months on K-Lite results

Discussion in 'Orchid Culture' started by Raven, Feb 2, 2022.

  1. Raven

    Raven Well-Known Member

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    Wanted to share my experience with K-Lite fertilizer. 14 months ago I switched to it from MSU RO water because I've heard a lot of good things. Well, people say for a reason if it ain't broken, don't fix it. For the first six months, my plants were growing really well, I would say even better than on MSU. And then their health started deteriorating rather fast. I've had several major fungal and bacterial outbreaks and it seemed like no fungicide/bactericide would help. The new growths of many plants became chlorotic and generally weak. My regular bloomers would refuse to bloom. I also grow a pretty large collection of gesneriads and tropical Ericaceae (Vireyas and Neotropical Blueberries) and they were experiencing similar symptoms of nutrient deficiency.
    Two months ago I switched back to MSU RO water and already seeing some major improvement. I'm not saying K-Lite is a bad fertilizer, there is evidence that it works for some folks (maybe with supplementation of some other things) but didn't work for me.
     
  2. Tired

    Tired Member

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    Following; that's what I'm using, and if I need to adjust things, I'd like to know. I haven't been using it long enough to see any potential nutritional issues yet.
     
  3. Ray

    Ray Orchid Iconoclast Supporting Member

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    Raven, why not start with details of your irrigation and feeding regimen?

    Your implication is that diseases you saw were the result of some sort of deficiency, but unless you were underfeeding in general (i.e., insufficient nitrogen), deficiencies in P & K - the only elements in reduced levels compared to MSU RO - are not known to affect plants in that way.

    “Chlorotic”, “weak”, and “unblooming” are classic results of a nitrogen deficiency, not P or K. I will add, however, that if you have been grossly underfeeding while using RO water, it is possible that, in addition to nitrogen, your plants might be experiencing issues with the calcium, and/or magnesium supply, as they are both in greater concentration in K-Lite than MSU RO.

    For the most part, in slow-growing plants like orchids (I cannot speak to the issues with gesneriads or blueberries, as the formula was really not designed for them), nutritional deficiencies limit the growth rate - if you consider each mineral a “building block”, the rate of growth is determined the element in least supply, but both P & K are fully mobile in plant tissues and stored within plants at levels far greater than they need.

    K-Lite has been around for over a decade at this point, and I have not heard a single report matching yours, so I have a difficult time seeing an cause-and-effect relationship between fertilizer formula and disease.

    Another reason I suspect underfeeding in general is my own experience. When I grew in a greenhouse, feeding was regular and constant - 25 ppm N at every watering, with the application frequency varying depending upon the season and weather, but generally speaking, they got about 75-100 ppm over the course of a week. When I moved to NC, where I have no greenhouse, my plants are out on my deck from April to October and in an enclosed porch over winter. No more automated feeding, so I use a hose-end sprayer to apply a 100 ppm N solution weekly, just using my tap water, which is close to “RO with added calcium” for irrigation in-between.

    I must admit, however, that I was not particularly conscientious about the feeding part last year, and I’d be generous to say that my feeding rate dropped well below half of what I planned, and I experienced some of the same chlorosis issues that you described, with some phalaenopsis. Once I brought them inside for the winter and they are in closer proximity to my living space, I became far better about my feeding regimen, and I, too, saw an improvement in a relatively short time. No change in formula, but a definite increase in nitrogen.
     
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2022
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  4. Raven

    Raven Well-Known Member

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    Ray, I get your point and I honestly don't have the answer to why it didn't work for me. I fertilize all my plants at 75 ppm nitrogen once a week using a battery-powered sprayer. I used MSU RO at 75 pm nitrogen and I used K-Lite at 75 ppm nitrogen. I could've skipped it once or twice during the year but I don't think it would've mattered much. I'm not a plant physiologist and I don't really have time to dig deep into the feeding specifications, I'm just saying that I didn't change much in terms of feeding concentrations, etc, and got rather different results.
    You made me think of what else could've contributed to my results and the only thing is that I used to add Inocucor to water once a month and stopped after it became unavailable. I resumed supplementing my plants with a probiotic (a different brand since Arbico Organics is not shipping Inocucor to my state) two months ago, simultaneously with my switch back to MSU RO.
     
  5. Raven

    Raven Well-Known Member

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    I forgot to say that I only use RO water.
     
  6. Tired

    Tired Member

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    If you really want to test it, sounds like you need to discontinue the probiotic again and see if the plants start having problems. Maybe just pick a couple of guinea pigs you aren't as fond of and toss them on the altar of science.
     
  7. Raven

    Raven Well-Known Member

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    I'm not going to test it. I lost over 150 plants last year. I also fertilize all my collection together and it would be difficult for me to have some guinea pigs with a different fertilizing regime. Again, if K-Lite works for other folks, I'm happy for them. Maybe it would've worked for me as well have I kept using the probiotic. But I didn't and I learned my lesson. Since MSU RO works great with a probiotic (from my personal experience) I'm going to stick to it.
    I also need to add that I have a very diverse collection and some orchid groups were growing on K-Lite as great as on MSU RO - Laelinae, Vandaceous, Zygopetalinae, Lycastes. Most problems occurred with Bulbophyllums, Dendrobiums, Angraecoids, Pleurothallids.
     
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2022
  8. Marni

    Marni Well-Known Member Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Having had something similar with badly formulated batch of fertilizer, it can take a very long time for the problem to resolve. Some things bounced back pretty quickly, but others have been much slower. I now rotate with 3 unrelated fertilizers just in case.
     
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  9. Ray

    Ray Orchid Iconoclast Supporting Member

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    Raven, I am at a loss to understand the issue, but it just doesn't sound like a nutritional issue to me.

    By the way - I can ship Inocucor to you...
     
  10. Marni

    Marni Well-Known Member Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Well, Ray, it makes total sense to me. After 18 months with the bad fertilizer, my plants were looking terrible and dying at an alarming rate. Within a few of weeks of switching fertilizer I saw new white roots on many plants. Things have continued to improve. I have no doubt it was nutritional. It has been a year now and things continue to improve. But there is still a way to go.
     
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  11. Ray

    Ray Orchid Iconoclast Supporting Member

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    Marni, I agree with you - if it was a bad batch of fertilizer - as that suggests poisoning, not a nutritional deficiency.

    From its inception through about 2015, I was the sole retail outlet for K-Lite, which, by the way, was formulated by the PhD that did so for the MSU formulas, and is made in the same factory, Greencare Fertilizers in Illinois. While there was some variation in the sources of raw materials, making the texture somewhat variable, the chemistry was always solid (it’s far more uniform these days.) As I was retiring and planning to shut down First Rays, I got Kelley’s Korner to pick it up, and during my “moving hiatus”, before I was asked not to shut the business down, several others picked up the product. I do not know if they’re actually selling the same product or just using the name, but I have not heard of a bad batch being reported among those I’ve ever carried.
     
  12. Marni

    Marni Well-Known Member Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Ray, stopping fertilizing during the trouble did not make a difference and if it was poison it seems removing the poison would make a change. It wasn't like Benlate poisoning. The problem came on very slowly which also doesn't make me think of poison. It wasn't until I switched to another fertilizer that the problem began to resolve. My thought is that there was something missing or something in excess that prevented the proper uptake of nutrients which could lead to deficiency.
     
  13. Ray

    Ray Orchid Iconoclast Supporting Member

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    I suppose “toxicity” might have been a better word, and I think your thoughts on the imbalance in the ratios may very well be possible.

    Certainly an overdose in trace elements can really screw up a plant, but what may have happened is an imbalance among nutrient ions that can compete for the same site within the plant’s anatomy, and in both cases, it takes a while for the plant’s internal chemistry to readjust back to normal.
     
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  14. Marni

    Marni Well-Known Member Staff Member Supporting Member

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    I know that orchids with damage from sodium can take up to two years to return to normal once the sodium is eliminated from the water.
     
  15. Tired

    Tired Member

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    I grow a small number of carnivorous plants. As carnivores, most of them are adapted to live in bogs and other low-nutrient environments, and have lost the ability to filter out minerals in the water. If you give them water with minerals in it, the minerals build up in their leaves. In small amounts, this damages the older leaves slightly, but is tolerable. In large amounts, it weakens and eventually kills the plant. They can't clean the minerals back out of their leaves, the affected tissue just weakens and usually dies. I wonder if the same concept applies here?
     
  16. Ray

    Ray Orchid Iconoclast Supporting Member

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    Orchids vary all over the map in their tolerance of minerals.

    Raven stated “Most problems occurred with Bulbophyllums, Dendrobiums, Angraecoids, Pleurothallids”. Of those, only the pleurothallids would strike me as being likely candidates for potential issues, but in reality, there is SO much variability in all those genera that it’s impossible to generalize.