Return to the Soil Forum | Post a Follow-Up

 o
Ocean Water and Growing Plants

Posted by captaincompostal z7 AL Bham (curetonw@vmcmail.com) on
Thu, Jun 14, 07 at 9:54

Question #1: Suppose you collect 5-10 gallons of fresh ocean water directly from a local beach. Then you add to it a few cups of mature compost plus an ounce of molasses. Then give it constant aeration for a few days.
What will be the effect of this liquid on growing plants, if it is used as a soil drench or foliar application?

Question #2: Can fresh plain ocean water be used as an irrigation source for areas of severe drought?

Question #3: What are the mineral benefits and microbial benefits of fresh ocean water?


Follow-Up Postings:

 o
RE: Ocean Water and Growing Plants

I'm not sure it would cause any problems in small quantities, but ocean water is too salty to use for irrigation.


 o
RE: Ocean Water and Growing Plants

Are not the 40-70 micronutrients in various seaweed species absorbed from the vast variety of micronutrients in sea water?

Are there not experimental sustainable research being done somewhere in the world, on soils using diluted sea water applications?


 o
RE: Ocean Water and Growing Plants

There are plants that are adapted to salt water and there are plants that aren't. Those that are adapted to salt water do well in it. Those that aren't don't. Salt buildup is a problem in arid areas, even though the irrigation water is considered fresh water. The problem is that even fresh water contains small amounts of salt, which is why the ocean water is salty in the first place. The fresh water with small amounts of salt flow into the ocean, but the only way it leaves is through evaporation, so the salt stays behind and builds up. An extreme example of this effect is the great Salt Lake. It has no outlet, so all the water flows into it and leaves via evaporation.

I don't know the answer to your second question. I've never heard of using diluted sea water for irrigation. I thought your original question referred to using it for irrigation undiluted.


 o
RE: Ocean Water and Growing Plants

Thanks for your info and comments, bpgreen.


 o
RE: Ocean Water and Growing Plants

"Are not the 40-70 micronutrients in various seaweed species absorbed from the vast variety of micronutrients in sea water?"

Yes, but they're only in the kelp in appreciable amounts through bioaccumulation. There are some folks selling condensed seawater toting benefits, and there are people that swear by it- I have no direct experience with it.

I doubt there would be any "microbial benefits" to adding seawater- animals, plants, and microbes in salt water often undergo terminal shock when they come into contact with fresh water, as the saline gradient causes severe osmosis. People that have put lobsters in fresh water know what I mean- yuck!


 o
RE: Ocean Water and Growing Plants

Thanks, pablo_nh !


 o
RE: Ocean Water and Growing Plants

Unless you are growing mangrove or coconuts it is a really bad idea to use sea water. The problem isn't just that it is salty, but that the major portion of the salt is sodium salt. If the salt was mostly potassium nitrate or something like that it would be a great fertilizer, but since it is mostly sodium it is toxic and bad for soil structure.


 o
RE: Ocean Water and Growing Plants

http://www.seaagri.com/

Captain,
How much research have you been doing on the subject? I have the same questions also. Have you tried the sea salts,discovered and experimented with Dr. Maynard Murray for over thirty years? I am debating trying some.I have read Charles Walters book, Fertility from the ocean deep and am very interested in it. The product is OMRI approved for animal and soil use.

I believe our soils are mineral deficient and with so much top soil running off into the sea we need to find a way to recapture the minerals that are depleted.


 o
RE: Ocean Water and Growing Plants

OMRI approved just means that in OMRI's view it is acceptable to be used in organic production (and their opinion is pretty darn good), it does not mean that OMRI neccesarily thinks it is a good idea. I have read the websites and tlaked to the salesmen at shows, and in my opinion it is pure snake oil. If you feel you need 160 elements or whatever in your soil (even though plants only use 1/10 of them)go ahead and use it, but don't use much because the high sodium content means you are poisoning your soil.


 o
RE: Ocean Water and Growing Plants

Thanks everybody for those great comments and observations.

Now I have another question in regard to high sodium levels in soils:

Most of the sodium levels in our organic soils that we have been talking about, are referred to via NaCl salt accumulations over time. Either by weather or climate, or self induced by the farmer or gardener over time. However I read somewhere that higher than normal available soluble sodium levels in soils (via NaCl salts), can be "buffered" or "balanced", simply by adjusting the available soluble and insoluble levels of magnesium, calcium, and sulfur in the soil. In other words the elements that directly efect soil pH acidity and alkalinity. Could this be done by something as simple as Epsom Salt (magnesium sulfate)?

Also the presence of magnesium, calcium, and sulfur mixed with humates and aerobic beneficial micro-biology (i.e. the ones that exist naturally in mature compost or aerobic organic biostimulants, like aerobic compost tea applications), can potentially buffer and balance high levels of sodium or even high levels of aluminum in organic soils over time. The presence of the aerobic micro-biology in organic soils is directly related to pH balancing and buffering too.

Can these simple things be done to "reduce" sodium available in organic soils?

Is this possible?


 o
RE: Ocean Water and Growing Plants

"Could this be done by something as simple as Epsom Salt (magnesium sulfate)?"

I don't know about magnesium sulfate, but I seem to recall reading that gypsum has some ability in helping desalinate soil.


 o
RE: Ocean Water and Growing Plants

You are talking about several concepts; your soils base saturation is how much of the soils cation exchange capacity is taken up by bases. The bases are potassium, magnesium, calcium, and sodium. Note that these materials are 'salts' and that they are all nutrients except sodium which is toxic to plants. The greater the % of bases on the exchange sites the higher the soils pH. So when you are talking about 'balancing the sodium' what you are really talking about is bumping it off the exchange sites and replacing it with something else. This is not real hard to do because sodium attaches weaker than the other bases. The object then is to flush it out of the soil. The gypsum thing is commonly misinterpreted; what it will do is give some structure to soil that has been rendered structureless by excessive sodium. Water can then get through to flush the sodium out.


 o
RE: Ocean Water and Growing Plants

That makes a lot of sense.

Thanks, fertilizersalesman !


 o
RE: Ocean Water and Growing Plants

  • Posted by paulns NS zone 6a (My Page) on
    Fri, Jun 15, 07 at 17:14

The thread below was on the organic forum.

Asparagus is the only 'salt-loving' - ie salt tolerant - plant I can think of. I bet it would thrive on all those nutrients in seawater. In fact I'm going to try it on part of a bed.

Here is a link that might be useful: sea salts


 o
RE: Ocean Water and Growing Plants

http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/tandf/bpts/2003/00000022/00000005/art00001

Soduim is not an essential plant nutrient, but is considered a functionalplant element. Do a google search on functional plant elements and you will see. Sodium, combined with other elements is not necessarily toxic to plants.


 o
RE: Ocean Water and Growing Plants

CaptainCompostAl,

Dr. Maynard Murray asked what you are asking about, to my understanding, in 1940. He questioned weather seawater could be used as an amendment to gain nutritional value from minerals from the sea by using seawater. His findings and pioneer work lasted until his death in 1984. What he discovered is that seawater, as well as the minerals found within, could be used on plants. Some who study "BRIX" as well as "remineralization of the earth" are well aware of how his discovery is being used.

As it relates to using seawater to deal with drought conditions, I am not sure one can use enough seawater without damaging plants to overcome drought. However, using a limited amount of seawater as well as "sea finds" produces vegetables and plants of high nutritional value in my experience with using them. Along with composting, Terra Preta (wood charcoal and other low burn ingredients), compost tea, and other soil amendments I have had the great pleasure of growing some of the most fantastic plants one could desire. You may find what Dr. Murray and others have to offer of tremendous benefit in the future. I have included a link that can better explain exactly what his discoveries are

Blutranes

Here is a link that might be useful: Dr. Maynard Murray


 o
RE: Ocean Water and Growing Plants

Thanks for the info on Dr. Maynard Murray!

I have briefly read some of his articles in "Acres USA" magazine. I never really fully understood all the concepts about the subject, however I though that the overall concept was interesting and intriguing for our troublesome times today with water management.

We are currently experience the worst drought in Alabama in decades! Many of my local sustainable farmer friends are looking for better and economical ways to conserve water for irrigation and recycling.

Happy Gardening!


 o
RE: Ocean Water and Growing Plants

http://www.soilandhealth.org/03sov/0302hsted/030201/03020100frame.html

Here is an online book written by Steve Solomon that you might be interested in.


 o
RE: Ocean Water and Growing Plants

From my understanding of seawater and sea solids is that all minerals that are either eroded, leached, or wind driven from the earth eventually end up in the sea. These elements then feed all life within the sea, with those entities enjoying perfect health due to the rich nutritional content of the sea. If ocean water is trapped on land during tidal waves and allowed to evaporate in a natural manner, without any rainfall, the resulting "sea solids" are the minerals from eons of land washing into the sea. These sea solids applied to well amended soil in small amounts bestows said minerals for microbes to feed to plants. Since the sea minerals are in perfect balance the soil will possess perfect balance (mineral wise) for plants. It is the harvesting of vegetables grown in such mineral rich soil that humans can then consume in a form nature intended. At least that is my understanding and why I choose to use sea minerals in my garden.

As it relates to the drought, I live a little over 200 miles southeast of your home, and I too have suffered from lack of rain. However, the concept of Terra Preta and the practice thereof has allowed for my soil to not lack in moisture. The addition of wood charcoal and other charred organic matter to my compost has given my soil the ability to hold a large amount of moisture for an extended period of time. Another added benefit IMO is the addition of wood charcoal to compost tea. When sprayed or soil drenched on plants the results are impressive. This is true for both edible foods as well as ornamental flowers. Why the Terra Preta thread was pulled from this site is unknown to me, yet other sites have been started for the reason of discussion of Terra Preta. All those who have taken to learning by experience using the Terra Preta model have commented about the same ability of the soil to hold large amounts of moisture, and the ability of plants to grow beyond belief (at least for myself).

Since we both are now getting some rain I know for myself I am feeling a sense of relief. Yet, my garden has not suffered to any extend from the lack thereof. It may be of benefit to research Terra Preta, as well, to look deeper into sea minerals as a soil amendment in case the present rain is just a teaser for the heat that is surly to follow for the rest of the summer. I trust your search for answers will result in success

Blutranes


 o
RE: Ocean Water and Growing Plants

Blutranes,
Can you please describe the kind of results you had/have using sea solids? What kind of soil are you working with?


 o
RE: Ocean Water and Growing Plants

Soil Lover,

The recommended rate of application of sea solids is 2.25 lb per 100 sq ft the first year, and 1.25 lb per 100 sq ft the second and third year. In a foliar spray or soil drench the rate is 1 (one) tablespoon per gallon of water per application. It is recommended to not use sea solids the fourth and fifth year. Since this is my third year of using sea solids I am using half the recommended rate in both soil application and foliar spray to be on the safe side. I also use Steve Solomon's homemade fertilizer blend (found here), replacing half the kelp meal with half the recommended rate of sea solids per 100 sq ft of garden. What all who see my plots notice immediately is the color of the plants and grass. They have a deep rich green color, with the vegetables having a color that is striking. The real payoff is to be found in the taste of the food. Since we all know food grown in compost has an excellent taste, to say food tastes even better IMO (as well as those who eat the vegetables) does not do the crop justice.

I have two plots that are well amended red Georgia clay that could best be described as "solid as a rock" when I started. The soil today is a soft black loam, easy to work, and there is no need to use tools when working the soil. Since adding the wood charcoal to the compost, watering is not an issue. Even though the base is clay there is no pooling of water during the infrequent heavy rain we have gotten. Tilling the soil is out of the question; there is no need. This year the bed is mulched with shredded leaves. I currently have planted Golden Queen Corn, okra, and potatoes. (Look here)

The other beds are lasagna beds, two are three years old, and the rest were made last winter. All beds are built on sandy loam soil infested with nut grass. Mulching with either shredded leaves or book hay has done nothing to stop the nut grass; I just grow on the beds anyway. Here is a picture of squash before rain: (Look here)

This is two weeks later after four inches of rain: (Look here)

My new problem is keeping up with the picking of squash and cucumbers. The tomatoes to the left will be another issue, later.

IMO, it is the combination of using cured compost, a good fertilizer blend, and mulch that gives my family the results we have become accustomed to. Since putting the focus on increasing the nutritional value of our crops we are starting to see an increase in the feeling of good health. I know my granddaughter is running around here like that "energizer bunny" banging on that drum; running everybody nuts with her antics, both at home and at day care.

Although all of my comments are based on my personal experience with my garden, I don't need any other proof that Steve Solomon, Terra Preta, cured compost, aerated compost tea, sea solids, mulch, and an investment of sweat will give this gardener all he can eat, and then some...

Blutranes


 o
RE: Ocean Water and Growing Plants

Blutranes,
Your garden is very nice. I too use Steve Solomons fertilizer mix and notice the difference. Next year I do plan on trying the sea solids. Anyone I talked to who uses it has nothing but good to report.

Humans need more nutrient elements than plants to stay healthy. And the only way we get it is through plants.


 o Post a Follow-Up

Please Note: Only registered members are able to post messages to this forum.

    If you are a member, please log in.

    If you aren't yet a member, join now!


Return to the Soil Forum

Information about Posting

  • You must be logged in to post a message. Once you are logged in, a posting window will appear at the bottom of the messages. If you are not a member, please register for an account.
  • Please review our Rules of Play before posting.
  • Posting is a two-step process. Once you have composed your message, you will be taken to the preview page. You will then have a chance to review your post, make changes and upload photos.
  • After posting your message, you may need to refresh the forum page in order to see it.
  • Before posting copyrighted material, please read about Copyright and Fair Use.
  • We have a strict no-advertising policy!
  • If you would like to practice posting or uploading photos, please visit our Test forum.
  • If you need assistance, please Contact Us and we will be happy to help.


Learn more about in-text links on this page here