While silicon (Si) is not considered a macronutrient for plants, it is an important nutrient and one that helps plants adapt to hostile environments. Various published research papers have concluded that Si is an effective antidote to pests and diseases caused by fungi and bacteria. Si has also been found to positively impact plants under various abiotic stresses including salt stress, metal toxicity, drought stress, radiation damage, nutrient imbalance, high temperature, freezing etc.
Silicon is an important nutrient and one that can help your plants thrive.

What Silicon Does

Until recently, Si was not recognized as an essential element for plant growth. However, recently, Epstein and Bloom (2003) have ventured to offer a new basis for including Si in the list of essential elements as Si deficiency causes various abnormalities in the plant. Beneficial effects of Si include increased photosynthetic activity, increased insect and disease resistance, reduced mineral toxicity, improvement of nutrient imbalance, and enhanced drought and frost tolerance.

Si has been reported to prevent the incidence of powdery mildew disease. In strawberry, when the Si content of leaves increased, the incidence of powdery mildew decreased (Kanto 2002). Silicon deficiency in barley and wheat leads to a poor growth habit and increased powdery mildew susceptibility (Zeyen 2002).

Foliar application of Si has been reported to be effective in inhibiting powdery mildew development on cucumber, muskmelon, and grape leaves (Bowen et al. 1992. In turfgrass, several diseases were also suppressed by Si application (Datnoff et al. 2002).

Water deficiency (drought stress) leads to the closure of stomata and subsequent decrease in the photosynthetic rate. Si can alleviate water stress by decreasing transpiration. Transpiration from the leaves occurs mainly through the stomata and partly through the cuticle. As Si is deposited beneath the cuticle of the leaves forming a Si-cuticle double layer, the transpiration through the cuticle may decrease by Si deposition. Silicon can reduce the transpiration rate by 30% in rice, which has a thin cuticle (Ma et al. 200la).

How Silicon Works in Plants

How does Silicon help plants adapt to environments and do these amazing things? Silicon like carbon can form four chemical bonds. Carbon is found in all living things used to make proteins, sugars, and DNA. Some scientists believe that life on another planet might be silicon-based instead of carbon-based (all life on earth is carbon based).

To protect plants from pathogen and pests plants incorporate silicon into their cell wall making it stronger. This stronger cell wall is harder for insects to pierce and bite.

Silicon also helps the plant adapt to abiotic stresses like salt and drought. Both of these stresses have to do with water. Because of its electrons silicon binds with water, holding on to it. When the plant is drying out more water is held in the plant by the silicon than if the plant didn’t have it. Plants with silicon have more water in them, allowing them to keep their shape, continue conducting photosynthesis, and increase the chance of survival.

There has been a considerable amount of work on the effects of Si under chemical stresses including nutrient imbalance, metal toxicity, salinity and other environmental stresses. Silicon can help plants adapt to these stresses.

13E is one of the first nano scale (particle size of 1-30 nm) foliar fertilizers to become available in the US market. It contains a balanced mix of primary nutrients (P and K), secondary nutrients (Ca, Mg and S) and micronutrients (Fe, Mn, Zn, Cu, B, Mo and Co) adsorbed on a nano-silica base.

In 13E, Si is both a nutrient as well as a carrier for other nutrients and micronutrients, preventing them from complexing and making them bioavailable to the plant.


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