No matter whether they live in California, New England or the Southeast, today’s nursery grower is concerned about water management.

Arborjet’s NutriRoot is a liquid soil applied fertilizer that consists of a unique blend of nutrients, seaweed extract, humic acid, surfactants, and humectants designed to increase root development and reduce water stress. It earned the USDA’s Certified BioBased Product designation by containing 86 percent renewable organic carbon.

We spoke with Matt Andrus, a technical specialist – horticulture with Arborjet, about how the product extends watering intervals and reduces run-off while supporting microbiology and stimulating root growth.

1 | What is NutriRoot and how can it help nursery growers?

NutriRoot is a registered fertilizer that has a unique component referred to as a humectant. The best way to describe it is an analogy: When it’s humid and there is a lot of moisture in the air and you go to use table salt, like a salt shaker, and the salt clumps up. Morton Salt coined the term, ‘When it rains, it pours,’ meaning that even in high moisture environments, the salt will pour out of the shaker. How does a solid piece of salt draw moisture to it? What is that chemical process?

2 | How does a humectant help plants save water?

We know salt can harm plants in high quantities so we decided to use a sugar that has the same qualities of drawing moisture to it. If you pour this powdered humectant out on the table, within 30 minutes it would become a puddle of water. That 30 minutes is based on the humidity percentage in the air, but that really just means it pulls atmospheric moisture to itself, to the point where it actually pulls humidity out of the air and condenses it. We decided to use that humectant as a base for our fertilizer.

Now when you add this fertilizer to the media, the plant has the nutrient immediately available to it. That means the humectant is distributed throughout all the media. As the moisture is being pulled up through the plant, the humectant remains behind and uses the surrounding humidity to pull moisture back into the pot.

This does a few different things. It doesn’t hydrate the plant. It’s not like you can stop watering because it’s in there. What it does is keep a certain percent of water in the pot. A good example of that is a dry dish sponge. Whenever it dries out completely and you run water on it; it will actually repel the water until it gets a little bit damp. Then it will accept water more readily.

Media or soil in the container acts the same way. Whenever the sun is beating down on the pots for days, weeks or years, that soil acts like a sponge and gets very hard. When you add water from a wand or sprinkler, the tendency is for the moisture to run off the media and down the side of the pot. It wastes the water and doesn’t hydrate the plant. It’s just a big waste of time, money and resources. But whenever you have a certain amount of water left in that soil, it accepts the water more readily, like a damp sponge. That allows the microorganisms to continue to function. They depend on water. Without water, these organisms die or stop functioning.

3 | What kind of results can growers expect from plants treated with NutriRoot?

There is a boost in microbiological activity which means that there are more organic nutrients available to the plant. That moisture allows the available nutrients to make its way into and distribute throughout the plant with the water.

Maintaining a certain percent of moisture in the pot is very important, no grower would debate that fact. But it’s generally done manually with frequency of watering. This allows you to space your watering out without compromising biological activity in the soil, or the plant drinking or feeding. If you started chemigating this in your media, from plugs or saplings, as you continue to transplant up, your chances of drought damage or stunting are reduced because of constant moisture available in the media. Plants don’t slow or stunt.

4 | How does NutriRoot work for ball and burlap growers?

In ball and burlap applications, it’s the same as the sponge analogy. The burlap tends to get so dry and hard that it’s tough to get water to penetrate burlap into the media below. But if you were to use NutriRoot plus the humectant, the burlap will accept moisture more readily rather than repel off and run down the side, wasting your water. It helps save so much water it’s ridiculous. Hydrating the burlap is not a common practice, but it’s a great product for that.

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