How do enzyme cleaners affect the beneficial microorganisms in the soil?
Enzyme-based cleaners, conditioners, and additives are a great, all-natural way to help maintain a healthy soil or hydroponic system. Enzymes are specialized catalysts that bring about a specific biochemical reaction. Unlike other catalysts, enzymes will only increase the rate of a particular chemical reaction. In other words, aside from the reaction they specifically perform, they will not have any other effect in the soil or medium. This is not to say they cannot affect microorganisms, but the enzymes typically used in horticulture are the ones whose specific reactions are beneficial to horticulturists. In fact, most enzymes used in horticulture are actually produced by the beneficial microorganisms commonly found in soil. For example, enzymes produced by trichoderma, such as chitinase and cellulases, are used in some horticultural enzyme solutions. Chitinase enzymes break down chitin, which is what pathogenic fungi’s cell walls are primarily comprised of. Cellulase enzymes can aid in breaking down organic material in the soil and turn it into readily available nutrients for the plant.
Because they are so specific in the reactions they influence, enzyme additives or cleaners should not have any negative effect on the beneficial microorganisms found in the soil or around the root zone. More than likely, the enzymes found in horticultural enzyme products are actually by-products of those same beneficial microorganisms. That being said, whenever a gardener uses a horticultural enzyme product, he or she should do so in accordance with the recommendations of the manufacturer. If used in too high of a concentration or applied too often, horticultural enzyme products could alter the pH of the soil or hydroponic solution, which, if not corrected, could cause undesirable results.
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