We all know that sugar isn't the healthiest food for people, but for plants and the microorganisms that support them it is a valuable source of energy and nutrients, boosting both the quantity and quality of your harvest. We're not talking about ordinary table sugar here, but molasses, a by-product of sugar production. Before you grab a bottle of molasses from the shelf at your supermarket and pour it on your crop, here's what you need to know about where it comes from, how it works, and how to use it.
Molasses: What is it?
When sugar cane or sugar beets are processed, the pure sucrose is extracted, leaving behind highly viscous syrup. After that fluid is boiled, it becomes what's called "Barbados" or "mild" molasses. Very sweet and light in color, it's used to flavor hot cereal, tea, and other foods. A second boil yields dark molasses, an amber-colored syrup that's commonly used in cooking and baking. When boiled a third time, much of the sugar is gone and what's left is dark, strong-flavored – almost bitter-tasting – blackstrap molasses. It is used primarily in cattle feed and it's also a key ingredient in dark rum.
The repeated boiling concentrates nutrients, making blackstrap molasses a rich source of calcium, magnesium, potassium and iron. Because of the high mineral content, health-conscious eaters use blackstrap molasses as a supplement in their diets.
Sulfur is a naturally occurring mineral in blackstrap molasses, but manufacturers often add sulfur dioxide as a preservative that blocks microbes from reproducing, keeping the syrup from spoiling too quickly. While the sulfur dioxide may be a benefit to consumers, for reasons we'll explain the antimicrobial effect is counter-productive when using molasses to feed plants.
How Molasses Benefits Medicinal Plants Growth and Yield
One of the biggest advantages your grow gets from molasses starts with your growing media. Applied as part of a complete fertilization program or as your “secret ingredient” in plant teas, the natural carbohydrates in molasses support beneficial microorganisms at work in the root zone. Increased activity by healthy, well-fed beneficial microorganisms actually improves your soil, enhancing the movement and exchange of air, water and nutrients.
With molasses, the symbiotic associations taking place in your soil create a healthier environment that supports strong, healthy root growth and promotes improved nutrient availability and uptake, which further enhances plant vigor and plant strength. Healthier soil means healthier, stronger medicinal plants — and that means bigger, better yields.
While molasses helps your plants make better use of available nutrients, it also provides additional nutrition to feed your grow. Molasses contains potassium, an essential macronutrient that also helps support vigorous, healthy and productive growth.
Vital to photosynthesis, potassium enhances the movement of water, nutrients and carbohydrates within plant tissue. That leads to better root growth, stronger stalks and stems and improved flowering. With the added boost from molasses nutrition, your grow performs its best above and below the surface.
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