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On the use of CHC as substrate

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Brabantia

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Recently I had included this question in a subject which was covered approximately a year ago(http://www.slippertalk.com/forum/showthread.php?t=1850&page=6). Drowned in the innumerable ones discussed this question received only one answer.
I thus allows me to republish it in a new thread:
One year later, is it news about this subject? It is very interesting because we have a similar discution on a french forum. Is it new opinions on the use of CHC for paphs? Can we use CHC for Paph rothschildianum and sanderianum? Can CHC induce deprives in iron? Many thanks in advance for your news comments on this extreme subject.
 
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DavidH

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I've been using CHC for about 2 years. I use a west coast version of the MSU fertilizer and haven't noticed any iron deficiencies. Summer time has no problems, but in winter CHC stays a bit too wet. Some of the major growers I know on the east and west coast who were once proponents of CHC have switched back to fir bark. I am currently successfully growing roths in CHC and my sanderianums haven't done too well, but that could be because they are sanderianums. My phrags, on the other hand, really love the CHC, especially if I let them sit in a bit of water.
 
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Bolero

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I've been using it for close to 2 years and haven't noticed this being a problem. In fact it's the best media I've ever used, the root systems and growth rates on my plants are amazing.
 

SlipperFan

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I've been using CHC with diatomite and a little sponge rock for my Paphs and Phrags for over a year. So far, they like it just fine.
 
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Eric Muehlbauer

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As I said in another post, CHC gets gradually waterlogged over time. Its still a great medium, but you must add LOTS of inorganic aerating media...spongerock, lava rock, diatomite, whatever you prefer. While the mix may be able to be good for 2 years (multiforals can easily go 3 years in the mix) its probably safest to repot after a year. Take care, Eric
 
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Bolero

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In addition I've been growing my plants in it over 2 winters and have not noticed it staying too wet but it depends on your conditions and the plants. I grow mainly Parvi's and their hybrids and give them a watering rest, they dry out a bit never too much and the roots are growing well. Also my cattleya's are growing quite well which is actually quite surprising to me.

I will never go back to bark, it's too arid in my conditions, especially in summer.

P.S. It might get waterlogged over time but I repot my Paphs every 6 months at the moment so it doesn't get a chance to get waterlogged I guess.
 
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goldenrose

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I've been using CHC for about 2 years... but in winter CHC stays a bit too wet. Some of the major growers I know on the east and west coast who were once proponents of CHC have switched back to fir bark. I am currently successfully growing roths in CHC and my sanderianums haven't done too well, but that could be because they are sanderianums. My phrags, on the other hand, really love the CHC, especially if I let them sit in a bit of water.
Roths & sands like water BUT they should have an open mix .... this is probably why they went back to firbark. Most phrags, anything with bess in it, will prefer to sit in water & they're not too fussy about the media, as long as they don't dry out.
 

NYEric

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I decided to use CHC in my mix after I had a plant in CHC and one of my porthos grew into it. when I decided to remove it the roots were so numerous that I had to dynamite them out of the pot!
 
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Mrs. Paph

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I really prefer CHC's as a media...as for the comment about them holding more water over time...think about what Bark does over time! LOL, waterlogged would be an understatement for something that more quickly turns to Mush over time. As someone else said, I repot about yearly, sometimes more with small plants, and it tends to still be holding up Really well at that point, so I throw it into the mix for my 'other' orchids...my step 'chids I guess - Phals, Cats, etc. they're dutiful 'chids and don't complain about the handmedowns. As always though, quality of bark and CHC's varies.
 
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joan

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I have read that when potting orchids, fresh media should be used so as not to spread any disease, or fungus from one plant to the next. If the media, such as lava rock , is sterilized , then its ok to reuse it. :)
 

Roth

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CHC and a reply to the other post

I just noticed the other thread http://www.slippertalk.com/forum/showthread.php?t=1850&page=6 where parts of my emails have been quoted in it. Actually, I did not notice, so that's why I did not reply to it at that time.

About the trials, one has been conduced by the Netherlands largest orchid plug supplier, on phalaenopsis. This research has been watched by people from the largest consulting company in the Netherlands. It was an early one from 1998. A document of 38 pages give the summary for this research, and has been supplied to all of their largest customers only.

They compared bark/coconut with bark/coconut/sphagnum and bark/sphagnum, for a complete growing cycle ( from flask to bloom). The results showed clearly that the bark/coconut plant had much more roots, but many were chlorotic and stunted compared to the bark/sphag mix. The bark/spag/coconut mix was below average, but not as worse as the bark/coconut mix.

The sampling for each trial ( they even tred 4 different fertilizer as well at the same time) were about 400 plants of 5 clones for each sample. So it has to be pretty accurate.

At that time, an internal document in the Netherlands pointed out an excess of sodium and potassium in the coconut coir, CHC, whatever. They included a protocol to rinse the CHC, which I published on the OrchidWEB forum some years ago. After having been called a fool by one of this forum member, who incidentally published several PDF files on their website about the use of CHC as a potting medium, they posed on OrchidWeb their 'Discovery' regarding the fact that CHC after many rinses with pure water still holds a huge amount of unreleased sodium and potassium. They gave the same protocol I posed some weeks before.

I have to say that I do not blame them to have called me 'crazy', because the occurence of insoluble sodium salts like that is very, very, very rare, and some years before, I would not have believed it.

For the history, it is a laboratory in south Germany who made a mistake, they reduced the coconut chips in ashes, thinking that the customer ordered a destructive analysis, and then they found a very high rate of sodium in the analysis, with a fresh water extract of the fresh product giving an EC of 80 or 100µS...

Two others companies asked me to make a reasearch for that. One for paphiopedilum, and another one for phals again, to try to be able to use this material.

First, I have used for few years coconut products, in a blend sold by Bas van Buuren, that I ordered specially. Coconut pieces ( not exactly square chips, more shredded and irregular sized parts) + 3cm big washed bark + PG-Mix (micronutrients blends and fertilizer) + lime ( 3kg/m3 of Dolocal). It was working great, except some losses, and, I discovered lated, some permanent stunting of some of the plants. Abnormal growth occured from time to time, but I attributed it to the use of pesticides. The largest supplier of species orchids in the Netherlands was using a blend a bit similar, albeit smaller.

One year, I went to this nursery, and most of the plants were yellowish, stunted, and dead. I think he lost in a year about 30.000-40.000 plants, paying very expensive consulting fees. I will not go deeper in the details, but basically, that year, the coconut killed a lot of his plants.

He was followed, like every single Dutch plant grower, by a consulting team, who forwarded his case to the Wageningen University. They had a lot of headache, but he switched back to bark and sphagnum, and the new plants did not die anymore. The older ones were unrecoverable.

There were auctions on ebay and sales of compots and plants of paphiopedilum potted in the coconut chips, and I remember that I posted several times a big warning, because the plants looked heavily stunted and chlorotic, like the ones from the Netherlands. No one followed at that time my advise, of even did comparative tests.

Even the Orchid Zone plants were looking more chlorotic than a couple year before when I visited them. The leaf color was more yellowish, the plants
looked less healthy.

The 3 trials I did ( two for two companies and one for me), showed that initially the coconut products will promote great root growth, but after a while the plants will start to be stunted, nearly always. In commercial pot-plant production ( they are usng it a lot), it is not a problem because first they use a drip irrigation system for many of them, and the coconut is partially washed ( not completely, but it delays the intoxication heavily), so the plant collapse will occur after the plants are sold, much later. Some plants are tolerant of coconut however.

About the hormons that are not water soluble, in fact, many hormons are not soluble in pure water... Second, there are still some oils and similar water insoluble compounds that binds to the fiber, those can be washed off by using some very strong solvents ( and incidentally, the coconut starts to perform better, but I highly doubt many people will wash their coconut in boiling acetone, unless they want to quickly die !).

If people think a little bit, there is NO reason why plants would root "better" in CHC than other mixes if there were no chemicals present...

Regarding the last matter :

I have been asked to make a huge report, classified, that will be used in a court trial against several very large coconut products importers. At least in Europe, there are some regulations :

- Coconut products must be steam sterilized at 121°C. They never, never are...
- Coconut products must have a standard organic matter content. Here again, never seen
- Coconut products must have a level of sodium not exceeding a certain level. Never seen again.

I had to question most of those importers. I will not go deep into the details, but just give some "tips" :

- First, they prefer to get green coconut to make the chips. It is easier to cut than old, dark brown coconut. The green coconut chips have a lighter color than the ripe coconut. They blend it sometimes, to keep the customer happy. Try to repot a paphiopedilum in fresh lettuce leaves, and you will see what I mean... green coconut is highly unstable, and will be prone to many breakdown.

- Second, they do not respect any quality standards, except one company that is working exclusively for Dutch growers. The salts contents, organic matter content, absence of pathogens, rinsing ( yes, to add to the scam, many exporters of coconut from Sri Lanka claim now that their product is sterilized and washed with calcium nitrate, they provide fake analysis certificate...)

There were many others problems as well ( presence of a huge load of fusarium and pseudomonas in one batch, from ground contamination, etc...)

There might be serious coconut products exporters in Sri Lanka, but I have yet to see them. Some of them even went to the extent of manufacturing fake bags with a famous Dutch Brand, a RHP logo, and some ISO9001, European Standard agreements and so on.

In the tropics, people use coconut pieces from ripe coconut, and according to the countries, I think there are varous qualities depending on the coconut variety, planting soil, etc... There can be very good results then with it. Thai people have used it for quite a while ( even if they can be the Gods of the pesticides, most of the time).

My general conclusion regarding CHC products is that it is a product that is too unpredictible to use in any valuable culture. It is fine for pothos plugs or tomato hydroponics ( and even, not always...), but for orchids I wound never advise its use.

I have noticed with a big smile that the people who first promoted the CHC use in paphiopedilum potting mix now advise the use of bark based mixes. Their plants actually looks very nice in the bark mixes.

Now, to the people who claim to have wonderful plants of paphs in coconut, please post pictures of your plants that have been potted for a year in coconut. "Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder" sometimes !

I just typed in coconut chlorosis, and I got already one:

http://www.usu.edu/cpl/PDF/CoconutCoirPaper.pdf


If any more specific question, feel free to ask, I am tired of typing now...
 

Roy

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To add to this discussion, I have been told recently by some Soil Scentists that have done some experiments with Coconut and found that, like the composted Pine bark we use in Oz, extracts large amounts of Nitrogen from your fertilizer and stores it. The Nitrogen is then Not available to the plant. There is more work being done on Coconut at present and I believe a paper is to be released maybe early next year on the results.
 

Brabantia

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I thank all the people having answered to my request and more particularly Sanderianum for his very concise informations. :)
 

papheteer

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I really prefer CHC's as a media...as for the comment about them holding more water over time...think about what Bark does over time! LOL, waterlogged would be an understatement for something that more quickly turns to Mush over time. As someone else said, I repot about yearly, sometimes more with small plants, and it tends to still be holding up Really well at that point, so I throw it into the mix for my 'other' orchids...my step 'chids I guess - Phals, Cats, etc. they're dutiful 'chids and don't complain about the handmedowns. As always though, quality of bark and CHC's varies.
U mean you reuse media? I din't think that's a good idea.
 
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Bolero

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Well I don't care, my plants that have been growing in it look great and considering I see a lot of plants when judging, my plants look as good if not better than other growers in bark. A large number of nurseries in Australia also use it quite a lot.

I understand you have done extensive research but none of my plants are stunted and they all are growing and flowering well. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder? Of course but I have an objective view of the thousands of plants I see every year when judging as well as the thousands of plants my friends own and they are being awarded.

It's an interesting article though and I will be mindful of it when my plants eventually fail as you predict. For over 2 years now however they have been growing well and flowering as well as they ever did in bark. Maybe it's my regular repotting and not waiting 3 years to repot them that does it.

I will try to remember to take pictures later today.
 

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