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The importance of standardized raw materials for hydroponic nutrients – Part I: manure and molasses

In a nutshell, both raw materials are considered organic. With manure, it’s sourced from animal feces and often times, additional items such as straw or strawdust from the animal’s bedding. Unfortunately, on occasion, urine will get mixed in with the manure. That being said, the organic matter that comes from manure is exceptionally high since animals have already broken down the anaerobic bacteria when digesting their food.

As for molasses, it comes from sugarcane, grapes, or sugar beets which are beaten together into a sugar mixture. Most people think of baked goods when they hear the word molasses as it’s often used as a food sweetener. However, farmers have also been using molasses for a while now, adding it to compost tea, as the sugar is a source of food to its microbes, responsible for further breaking down organic matter. Molasses is also used because of its ability to chelate nutrients so that they are directly absorbed and used by the plant. It also has high levels of potassium, although a better option is to use kelp when needing to supplement with potassium. Molasses has been more widely used as a good substrate for soil.

The risk for soilless farmers
Manure - With manure, soilless farms run a high risk of E.Coli contamination. While this example is focused on soil-based farming, it’s still very relevant. Over the last few years, the US has seen an outbreak of E.Coli outbreaks from the consumption of romaine lettuce. Only recently did the CDC as well as the US FDA announce that the third outbreak of an E.Coli strain was over. 

Molasses - The problem that farms may face when using molasses as a raw ingredient for their organic hydroponic nutrient is the tendency it has to contribute to foam buildup when not correctly preprocessed. This is due to the fact that it is feeding bacteria in a soilless farm’s water reservoir because it is not broken down the same way as it is in soil, which is an efficient method that nature has perfected. 

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