What should I know about using kinetin on my plants?

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Q:

I recently picked up some kinetin bio-regulator concentrate after reading the Hormonal Horticulture series by Andrew Schell. I have the dilution ratios for application, but I’m not so sure about the timing and delivery. I’m growing indoors in 5-gallon fabric pots and plan on applying a root drench after transplanting, followed by a foliar application in weeks two and five. I would greatly appreciate any suggestions or advice regarding this.

A:

With so many variables in garden environments and different varieties of any particular plant, there is no “one and done” method of using kinetin. The direction you decide to go mainly depends on what you are striving to achieve with its application in your garden.

Kinetin, or N6-furfuryladenine, is a specific cytokinin, a class of plant hormones involved in cell division and many other plant processes. It has a molecular formula of C10H9N5O. When applied to specific plant parts, kinetin can activate or deactivate specific genes and/or enzymes. Other cytokinins include zeatin and 6-benzylaminopurine (BAP).

Specific roles of kinetin include:

  • Aids cell division
  • Assists with seed germination
  • Encourages apical dominance
  • Helps with free radical scavenging
  • Delays leaf senescence
  • Acts as an anti-stress agent
  • Improves nutrient transport
  • Boosts resistance against pathogens
  • Stimulates formation of adventitious buds

Due to its central role in cell division, kinetin can be a big help to seeds, seedlings and cuttings. Supplying kinetin to seedlings will improve seed viability and general health while increasing germination rates. Since kinetin induces vegetative growth, use it up until the final stages of leaf development. For most indoor purposes, it should be administered throughout the seedling, cutting and vegetative stages and also during the first 2-3 weeks of the flowering cycle to get the maximum benefit of the hormone.

Kinetin will minimize a plant’s dying tissues, or necrosis, by acting as an antioxidant that scavenges free radicals. The aging of a plant, or senescence, can be delayed by minimizing the negative effects of these free radicals. As tissue damage is prevented, leaves and other parts of a plant’s anatomy stay green and healthy. It is for this behavior that the medical industry has been examining kinetin for its anti-aging effects on humans. In the middle to late stages of the flowering cycle, kinetin supplementation should be halted to encourage senescence so the plants go through their natural process of bloom development and fruit ripening. Studies have shown that by this time the activity rates of kinetin dwindles down to almost zero.

As an anti-stress agent, kinetin helps in cases of drought and temperature extremes. New evidence suggests kinetin alleviates osmotic stress, thereby allowing a plant to thrive in higher salt environments. It also protects the plant pigments in the leaves, so it helps with light absorption by preventing chlorophyll degradation.

Kinetin and the other cytokinins are mutually dependent on the other plant hormones (auxins, gibberellins, abscisic acid and ethylene), so you should ensure they are available in significant concentrations as well. Using kinetin alone will benefit the plant, but it’s also good to use products that contain a variety of all cytokinins and plant hormones to get the maximum benefit from their application. A cold-pressed algen extract of Ascophyllum nodosum will contain all of these hormones in their natural state. It can be applied as a root drench or foliar spray. The presence of Glomus endomycorrhizae, or arbuscular mycorrhizae (AM) increases hormone levels in roots (including kinetin) at appropriate times in the plant’s life cycle. A gardener should stick to one noteworthy complete nutrient line and stick with it, while supplementing the natural hormones, kelp extracts and mycorrhizae spores as well.

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