Amino acids may be some of the most important supplements available to give your plants, yet not much is commonly known about their role in plant physiology. Amino acids are quite literally the foundation of life, especially when it comes to plants.
As far as we know now, in all life on earth, out of the millions of proteins that help form every species of plant and animal there are more than 100 amino acids that are the building blocks for these proteins, only about 20 of which are found in humans and animals.
Whether the goal is to get bigger flowers, a record-breaking pumpkin, or just a ton of vegetative growth, amino acids are critical! The results they deliver are due to the extreme quantities of the cells whose foundation consists of amino acids being produced by the plant. It takes energy for plants to synthesize the amino acids required to create those cells.
If your plant can utilize supplementary amino acids without having to create them itself out of oxygen, carbon, nitrogen, hydrogen and sometimes sulfur, your plant has much more available energy to use where it deems necessary. This helps it maintain not only vigorous growth but pest and disease resistance as well.
The quality of the amino acids, or more importantly, what living thing originally synthesized them, plays a significant role in the strength of the cells they become. Their quality helps to determine what three-dimensional structures can be formed by these amino acids as well as the strength of these structures when utilized, or placed within a cell. This is why you only want to use plant-based amino acid supplements in your garden.
Amino acids also help with many symbiotic processes that improve many aspects of plants, soil and microbiology. In the soil, they are amazing chelators. They can be activators or precursors to beneficial growth auxins and phytohormones.
Amino acids also improve the beneficial microflora in various ways such as by strengthening the outer walls, allowing them to withstand harsher conditions. Happier, stronger microbial colonies help produce better nutrient uptake, as well as a more extensive and healthy root system that can fight diseases and maintain effectiveness in adverse environmental conditions.
Although amino acids have many positive benefits in the soil, many amino acids can only be absorbed through the stomata of the plant via a foliar feed or spray application. When amino acids are properly applied, the impacts are profound. Some of the most notable impacts include the following:
1. Amino Acids and Stress Resistance
Stress factors such as high temperatures, low humidity, frosts, pest attacks, hail storms or floods have a negative effect on plant metabolism with a corresponding reduction in crop quality and quantity. The application of amino acids before, during and after stressful conditions supplies the plants with components directly related to stress physiology and thus has both a preventative and recovering effect.
2. Amino Acids and Improved Photosynthesis
Amino acids are fundamental in chlorophyll production; chlorophyll being the driving force behind photosynthesis. Amino acids help to increase chlorophyll concentration in the plant, leading to a higher degree of photosynthesis, which in turn leads to even more available energy.
3. Action of Amino Acids on the Stomata of Plants
Beyond external factors such as light, humidity and temperature, the stomata of the plant open and close with the help of internal factors including, you guessed it, amino acids. This opening and closing helps control the moisture balance within the plant, but maybe most importantly, it also helps with the facilitation of gasses like carbon dioxide, which is required for extreme continuous growth.
4. Amino Acids and Their Effect on Pollination and Fruit Formation
Amino acids help with the fertility of pollen and thus are essential for pollination. They increase pollen germination and the length of the pollinic tube, which improves fruit set, strengthens cell walls for longer shelf life and helps improve the ripening stage of fruits, benefiting flavor and terpene production.
Read also: The Do's and Don'ts of Foliar Feeding
Application of Amino Acids
The best application rates/methods of aminos are going to be debated for many years to come, but I have personally observed a wide range of benefits from my own testing of more than 30 different species of fruiting and flowering plants including bananas, passion fruit, dragon fruit, citrus, carrots, beans, peas, celery and others in my test greenhouse with various concentrations and intervals of applications.
My research has concluded that for the best results, applications of amino acids should be done every one to three weeks in the soil, and applied to the foliage every five to seven days. Soil drench concentrations can and should be much stronger than foliar applications.
It does not take as high of a concentration of amino acids in a foliar application to fill the amino gaps and requirements of plants as they are the only thing utilizing them. However, in the soil it’s not just the roots that use amino acids.
Microbial life and even physical soil components themselves will be taking advantage of your generous offering. Keep in mind that amino acids contain high amounts of nitrogen within their structure and due to the high solubility of amino acids they are to some degree a nitrogen fertilizer themselves. Adjusting your fertilizer program slightly may be necessary to compensate for this.
As for the time in a plant’s life where you do not want any extra nitrogen, amino acids are still going to be beneficial. Just concentrate on applying light amounts in fine mist sprays more often. This way your plants should receive all the physiological benefits without the risk of excess amino acids being treated as a nitrogen fertilizer by your plant.
During vegetative stages or just on vegetative plants that require or can utilize nitrogen fertilizers, amino acids are exceptional at providing this nitrogen in a recognizable, high-quality form.
There are numerous ways to supply your crops with amino acids, although some are better than others. The good news is that amino acids themselves are completely water soluble so they can be easily incorporated into your garden in many ways through many different systems.
As I stated before, they are incredibly effective natural chelators of nutrients. You will find a chelating agent used in many fertilizers that contain micronutrients, especially the water-soluble ones.
Some of these products are using amino acids as their chelating agent. This not only helps make these nutrients more available but also supplies some amino acids along with them.
The problems with relying on this for your amino acid supply are:
- There are usually only a few amino acids at most that are used in each product, therefore your plants would not be obtaining the benefits a complete-spectrum amino acid supplement could give them.
- These fertilizers tend to be on the expensive side.
- You are limited to getting amino acids only as often as your plants are fed.
There are also many bloom boosters or PK boosters out there that are incorporating amino acids, but using these products for their amino content present the same problems. You can also supply your soil with plant-based proteins as an amendment and allow the microbe life in the soil to break them down into their base amino acids.
This is better because you should receive a complete amino profile and in theory they would be time-released. The problem with this method is that you really don’t know exactly what is going on underneath the soil surface throughout the season. The plants also lose many benefits from not getting the amino acids on the leaves.
Amino acids play such an important role in plant health that it is my feeling you need to know with 100% certainty that your plant has access to them as often as it needs.
The best way from my experience to get the most benefit is to use a full-spectrum, 100%-soluble, plant-based amino acid supplement. You will have complete control of where, when and how much you apply, thus allowing you to find the perfect application rate that allows your crop to reach its full potential.