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ORGANIC CANNABIS & BAT GUANOPhoto Credit: White - UnsplashMadagascan Bat Guano TeamWe are importers and distributors of premium quality, high-phosphate Madagascan bat guano which is sustainably harvested in an environmentally sound manner in conjunction with Madagascan communities. Our website at www.batguano.co.za gives more detail and basic instructions on how to grow cannabis organically with guano but we’d like to give a deeper insight into how organic growing with guano benefits your plants and the complex processes involved.
Bat guano is the accumulated manure and the decomposed remains of bats harvested from the floors of bat-caves. It can have different colours, textures and nutrient content depending on the species and diet of the bats resident in the cave and the age of the guano. Well-aged bat guano is normally a fine, odourless powder, sometimes with larger calciferous pieces. View this excellent video by Dominatrix Genetics on the different varieties, textures and colours of bat guano and their use in growing cannabis As an organic fertiliser for cannabis, bat guano is legendary as any internet search will demonstrate. High phosphate guano is particularly prized because while there are many organic fertilisers containing good levels of the other major elements required for plant growth, phosphate is the exception and organic fertilisers that will break down quickly and make the phosphate readily bio-available are rare. Bonemeal and crushed phosphate rock, for example, are good sources of phosphate but are very slow release, while guano will release its nutrients rapidly and will be broken down completely in your soil in only 2-4 weeks. There is little freely available phosphate in soils, and plants obtain phosphate from various micro-organisms in living soils, which release organic acids that break down phosphate compounds into forms which are plant absorbable. Soil biologists are discovering increasing numbers of phosphate-solubilising bacteria and nitrogen-fixing bacteria. Some of these organisms are stimulated by the release of sugars formed by photosynthesis by the plant. Many feed the plants directly while others are grazed on by “herds” of different protozoa and nematodes. The waste products of these organisms containing essential nutrients are then taken up by the plants. Basically, the plant cultivates the bacteria for them to feed on and gets its nutrition from them in return. Other organisms assist in the breakdown of organic matter and the protection of the plants from parasites and disease.
It is mainly these beneficial bacteria which are the basis for the many “microbial supplements” which have exploded in the cannabis industry in recent years. Different companies claim they have found the perfect combination and cultivate large quantities which are then bottled and marketed. (Strain genera include, among many others: rhizobial nitrogen fixers: Enterobacter, azotobacter and azospirillum and phosphate solubilisers such as psuedomonas, bacillus and Citrobacter, together with strains that break down organic matter.)
Significantly, many of the same bacteria which are used in commercial products are found in the digestive tract and castings of earthworms. Worms, like humans and many other animals, need an active colony of the right bacteria in their gut to properly digest their food. There is growing evidence that earthworms are not just soil aerators but are bacteria regulators and a very integral part of the microbiome and soil ecology. The species of microbes in their digestive tract will vary depending on soil composition and the worms’ food sources. Everything is connected… and we are only beginning to comprehend the complexities of the relationships between plants and the other inhabitants of a living soil.
Probably the most productive and well known of the soil phosphate solubilisers is the mycelial network of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (MF) and our website instructions strongly recommend the use of MF with our guano. Decades of research have been done on MF and the symbiotic relationship which exists between plants and the MF is well understood. The plant stimulates the growth of the fungal mycelium throughout its root system and obtains the plant absorbable phosphate directly in return. MF is easy to use and freely available.
Dusting spores around the root-ball of your seedling or cutting is enough to start an active colony and the plant will do the rest by stimulating the MF to grow in the rhizosphere and help provide the phosphate the plant needs. Cannabis plants require phosphate at all stages of their growth but particularly when they are very young and later during flower. A good phosphate level is integral to strong early root production and no “supersoil” should be without it. When your young seedlings or cuttings are planted out into a living soil they will start to stimulate beneficial bacteria and fungi and there needs to be a good supply of organic and available phosphate for the organisms to work on.
Nitrogen-fixing bacteria draw nitrogen from the air (which contains around 78% nitrogen) but Phosphate needs to be made available in the soil. The fine texture and organic nature of high phosphate guano makes it the ideal source.
When your cannabis is in flower it really loves good levels of phosphate for bud production. Guano can be supplied by teas and top-dressings and there are numerous good internet articles about this process and basic instructions on our website. So… “Why bother?” you might well ask. Chemical nutrients can pump huge amounts of phosphate and any other essential elements into plant systems without the necessity for maintaining a healthy soil ecology and, in the case of hydroponics, without any soil at all. Can one not get impressive looking cannabis bud in hydro? Yes, one can, just as one can get impressive looking hydroponic strawberries, peppers, cucumbers and tomatoes, for example, but with very little taste or nutrient value.
Synthetic chemical fertilisers successfully mimic the natural nutrients in living soils. Plants are “tricked” into absorbing large amounts of chemical salt-based nutrients and can grow at high rates but there is always something missing in comparison to organic produce. What is very concerning is that not only do the chemicals not promote a healthy soil and soil-life, but the symbiotic relationships between the plants and the living soil are disrupted.
Studies of both mycorrhizal fungi and rhizobial nodes on the roots of legumes have clearly demonstrated that when inundated with chemical fertilisers the plants no longer stimulate the beneficial organisms to provide them with the nutrients they need because the chemicals have taken over the supply. This creates a vicious cycle as the natural relationships collapse and soil micro-organisms begin to disappear without the necessary stimulation from the plants. As the living network disintegrates, the plants themselves then become dependent on the chemical fertilisers, in an increasingly lifeless soil. Sound familiar? It is precisely what has happened to millions of hectares of farmland all over the world since the advent of cheap chemical fertilisers.
Any agricultural produce organically grown in a living soil is superior in every significant way. While organically grown food is very important, organically grown cannabis, particularly for medical purposes, is equally if not more important. There are many good reasons to grow your own cannabis, and why you should grow organically, on our website (www.batguano.co.za), together with basic growing instructions. We hope to follow up with articles on specific aspects of organic cannabis growing in the future.
Whether you are growing for recreational or medical purposes, you should try to grow as organically as possible.Photo Credit: Pixabay