Semi-hydroponics bottom line

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Reviving an old thread here....

e-Spice - No, that wasn't me, and in truth, I don't even know who "Paphs-in-Rocks" is.

The bottom line is this:
  • There are LOTS of types of LECA available
  • Each has its own set of properties - wicking, absorption, how well it releases what it absorbed, etc.
  • Because of those differences, each brand will perform differently, but...
  • the properties of the LECA are NOT the entire deciding factors that determine if they will work well FOR YOU.
  • Orchid-growing success is determined by your entire culture - air, water, light, temperature, humidity, air movement, nutrition, and your personal watering tendencies - and the specific medium is actually a relatively minor aspect - especially when comparing LECAs (I'm assuming we're smart enough to compare similar sizes).
  • Old versus new PrimeAgra versus Hydroton, etc, makes very little difference on the whole, but one may work better in conjunction with the rest of an individual's culture.
Facts are facts - the smoother surface of PrimeAgra means better contact with the adjacent particles, so better wicking than the old stuff. The structure of the porosity and "cell walls" between the pores mean that the stuff will release what it absorbs more readily, and will tend to build-up minerals more slowly over time.

As an engineer, my attitude about pretty much everything is to try to implement improvements whenever possible. When I was approached by the manufacturer to help "design" an improved particle, I jumped right on the opportunity, and I was not alone. It was a scientific initiative, not an economic one. In fact, my cost is significantly greater now. In retrospect, I'll bet that for the others who participated, it WAS an economic decision, as some were commercial growers of hydroponic food crops in Europe and Canada. For them, improved properties probably mean a better yield.

The excess residues that show up in the crusting and pH issues were a big surprise to me, too. However, as has been mentioned, with the proper preparation, it's not an issue. (I also have plants in material that didn't get pretreated - literally potted up dry, then watered normally - and they're doing fine.) I honestly don't know if the binders used were changed between the old- and new processes, but I doubt it, and I would also guess that the non-potable water used to quench the pellets is unchanged, so maybe the improved release characteristics just allow the residues to come out faster and more noticeably.

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