Root Zone Management with Stonewool Grow Media

Posted on October 29, 2020 by Red Rock Block

Root Zone Management: Better Control Through Stonewool

Stonewool has become one of the most popular soil less media substrates for commercial hydroponic operations worldwide.  This material has its origins in the construction industry with its excellent properties as an insulator to be used in walls and attics. However, in the late 1960’s scientists looking for alternative growing mediums turned their sights on stone wool and on its abilities to be used in the horticulture industry as a growing medium. After extensive testing and data collection, it was found that with some modification, to be an excellent growing media for a wide range of plants both large and small. This material is the direct result of melting basaltic rock and spinning it into thin, yet strong fibers into various shapes ideal for growing plants. Since the development of stonewool material to grow crops in, this media has grown in popularity across all areas of production both in small scale and large scale commercial operations.

Most modern day operations use stonewool especially in the hydroponic operations. This is in part to its reliability and overall easy access to the material. This makes it truly worthwhile. This media is composed of basalt rock and chalk that once heated and spun can be shaped into various cubes, blocks, and more. One of the major benefits of stonewool is the ability to easily transplant crops into large grow areas without stressing the root system. Stonewool can have customized holes cut in larger blocks or precut holes that smaller cubes and blocks can easily fit through. By not disturbing the growing area, a plant is none the wiser in its move and is thus not stressed. This leads to more steady and consistent growth rates. Growers may wonder, it is possible to control the root zone of plants and truly monitor the entire area for optimal growth. The simple answer to this question is yes, stonewool gives a grower the perfect opportunity to control and monitor the root zone aiding in direct optimal growth.

Basics of Plant Growth

In the process of growth, plants undergo a continuous process called photosynthesis and respiration. In these processes, CO2 enters the plant through the leaves in stomatal openings or pores. Water is also needed and can enter the plant through the roots and as a vapor through the stomata on the leaves. The main area of the plant that water enters, however, is in the root zone. Sunlight or supplemental light is then absorbed through the chloroplasts to gather light energy. With these ingredients, photosynthesis is able to occur. This allows a plant to produce sugars or energy. Through respiration, the sugars are broken down and used in plant processes such as growth and reproduction. With stonewool cubes and stonewool slabs, a grower is able to do what is known as precision growing. With precision growth, the goal is to maximize production and growth, while still maintaining or improving overall quality. In the process of precision growth, a grower is doing more with performance while lowered costs and environmental impacts. The three main pillars in precision growth are genetics, climate management, and root zone management. By meeting these pillars, an operation is able to maximize growth efficiently and accurately.

Pillars of Precision Growth
  • Genetics
  • Climate Management
  • Root Zone Management

Root Zone Management

stonewool-root-zone-developmentRoot zone management is an integral part of the precision growing approach as the root zone is a major part of the plant. This area is responsible for absorbing the needed water and nutrients, as well as support and anchor the plant throughout the growth cycle. An unhealthy or poorly managed root zone, will lead to overall poor plant health and quality. There are many benefits of root zone management such as improved plant product quality, minimal inputs of energy, labor, and plant nutrients, as well as increased environment and stability performance of the overall operation.

Stonewool has the ability to allow a grower to accurately and effectively control the root zone of a crop without too much of a hassle in comparison to more traditional methods such as soil. Stonewool growing media has the interest of the overall interaction of water and EC interactions. Stonewool is an inert material, meaning that it is sterile and has no organic matter to worry about before growing plants in the material. These fibers have a unique surface chemistry and once the material is prepared through soaking in neutral water, the pH is balanced and ready to grow crops for the duration of the growing season. Stonewool also has the ability to increase irrigation efficiency by allowing for water to pass through easily, but still hold enough to ensure roots stay happy and moisturized. The range of water and nutrients can be changed easily as the material has great drainage and aeration.

Overall by changing the water content, EC, and nutrient levels, as well as overall application times, a grower can effectively control the vital root zone that can so heavily impact a plant’s growth and development. For example, if water content is increased in the root zone, the overall effect is vegetative and allows for more vegetative growth. On the other hand a decrease in over all EC would have an effect on the vegetative growth as well. With stonewool being a blank slate at the start, a grower has the ability to fully set and customize the root zone area specific to individual crop needs. There is not a need to add amendments like with soil. A general guideline to ensure proper root zone management is through monitoring what goes in and out of the root zone through timed testing and observations. There may be a time based on the stage of growth of the crop and the changing needs, that changes will need to be made to the root zone. Stonewool allows for an easy transition between stages of growth allowing for quick changes to the root zone.

Overall stonewool gives the grower and operation the ability to fully control the root zone allowing for the effective and accurate management of the roots. Healthy and happy roots make for a happy and healthy plant. When roots suffer or are not supported well, the plant will not perform to the best of its ability leading to decreased yields and quality.  For any questions or concerns about proper root zone management, be sure to reach out to the staff at RedRock Block. RedRock Block is backed by decades of combined in the field experience. With the ability to make recommendations, installations, maintenance, and more a grower can be rest assured that all the needs of the operation can be fully met.

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