Silicon is a beneficial plant nutrient that can increase plant strength and improve a crop’s ability to fight environmental oxidative stress. Silicon is an element that, like calcium, potassium, or zinc is used by the plant to complete physiological processes. Similar to calcium, silicon plays a critical role in cell wall structure. Silicon has also been linked to phenolic compound synthesis. When silicon is deficient we do not necessarily see funny colored leaves or odd plant structure. We do, however, see more tender plant tissue that does not withstand stress.
Silicon deficiency symptoms are readily seen in grain and grass crops. Weak cell walls lead to weak stems that are less resilient to wind resulting in lodging and yield loss. Another place where silicon can be notably deficient is in crops grown in artificial media such as greenhouse-grown berries and lettuce. In these crops, silicon deficiency results in soft fruit issues and more tender leaves. Not all crops show an obvious issue like these mentioned, but we do see that under stressful growing conditions crops that having silicon considered in their fertility plans stand up better to environmental oxidative stress.
Silicon can be a challenging element to keep in solution and plant available. Silicon is found in solution generally as salisic acid which readily bonds with ions. This can make it challenging to include in tank mixes and blended fertilizer applications. Reacted versions of silicon are available on the market that mitigate these issues and provide a more available and easier handling product with less concern for negative interactions in the spray tank or irrigation lines.
Silicon should be considered as a fertility input when environmental oxidative stress and/or quality are a concern.