Just take it easy. Never forget to enjoy growing, and try to create an enjoyable hobby from your work.
Growing organic Cannabis does not require a great deal of skill or maintainance, however more a case of the balance within the growing medium. Understanding the difference between organics and hydroponics goes much deeper, literally all the way down to molecular level within the soil. Weed World sat down with Kees Schelfhout from BIOtabs to find out as much as possible about organics from a cultural point of view, as well as how it benefits the environment and Earth.
Hi Kees, Thanks for sitting down with Weed World. Can you tell the readers about yourself and how BIOtabs started?
You’re welcome, Weed World. BIOtabs is an innovative Dutch Fertilizer brand founded by Karel Schelfhout. We started 6 years ago in a garage in The Hague. Now we are based in Barcelona in a big official warehouse. BIOtabs work exclusively with living microorganisms, beneficial bacteria and concentrated compost. We look at mother nature and we are copying active soil life.
What is meant by true life organics?
There is a book written by ‘The Rev‘ about organic growing, which is his way to describe organic growing. Also check out the Bio Grow Book Written by founder of BIOtabs (which is also full of tricks and organic tips). For me it means only working with raw natural elements because I believe in this way the highest quality can be reached with the best clean tasting smoke, and the most enjoyable smooth buzz.
For example, our nutrient block is a compressed tablet made from different organic materials. This includes fish meal, bone powder, blood powder and many more elements and also contains various strains of different beneficial bacteria. The tablet will slowly release nutrients throughout the grow with the simple application of only water.
How would you explain hydroponic food to a beginner grower?
With hydroponic growing you are feeding the plant with just a small number of basic elements, perhaps as little as 12 different minerals. These are always synthesized in a chemical factory. This results in one-sided feeding (limited choice) for the plant, and the plant may not be at full potential, it may not have the best resistance against pest and disease. An additional worry with chemical nutrients is the need to flush near harvest. When not properly flushed, your flowers may contain nasty mineral residues, with unknown long-term effects, which is why at BIOtabs we believe the plant is totally dependent on you. As we see now in America, there are stringent levels of testing and standards of the highest level when testing flowers and extracts.
How would you explain organics to a beginner grower?
With organic growing, the grower only uses natural products such as beneficial bacterias, microorganisms and compost. All created in an environmentally friendly way by mother nature, meaning the rich living environment of natural soil is constantly active. The bacteria and microorganisms break down the organic material (compost). The bacterial action ensures that the nutrients are in a form where they are easily and naturally absorbed by the plant. The bacteria are creating the nutrients on the spot in a natural and organic way, which the plant can readily absorb.
Supplying mineral chemical nutrients from a chemical factory isn’t necessary and therefore with BIOtabs products, chemical free flowers is guaranteed. With organic growing it’s important to keep the soil moist and prevent it from drying out and killing the living soil. The bacteria stick to the soil particles and ensure that the nutrients are produced. Some bacteria are eaten by other bacteria, this is all part of the natural living soil biosystem. Keep the growing medium moist and environmentally friendly for the beneficial microorganisms!
Could you explain how bacteria interact with plants?
This is actually where the plants show their superiority when grown organically. The plants are so smart that the roots will produce certain sugars to feed the desired type of bacteria. When in the vegetative state the plant needs Nitrogen for growth. The sugars produced by the roots will attract bacteria that are able to produce (or ‘fix’) Nitrogen in a form which is easy absorbed by the plant roots.
Later on, when the plants are in bloom and need more Potassium, the roots will produce a sugar that attracts bacteria that are able to produce Potassium in an easily absorbed natural form for the plant. Which means when you grow organic, you have a self-sustaining plant. (Don’t panic, it is organic)
Is there such a thing as bad bacteria?
Yes, there are loads of bad bacteria (pathogens) which you need to keep out of your soil. The best way to support this is by working as cleanly as possible, and in the soil making sure there are plenty of Trichoderma bacteria present.
The Trichoderma will colonize the ‘rhizosphere’ which is the upper 5/10 cm of the soil, where the feeding frenzy takes place on a bacterial scale. Trichoderma are so big in size that it becomes hard for pathogens to colonize the rhizosphere. Make sure you keep topping up on the trichoderma, to ensure it all stays colonized is key.
The root zone does not have to put much energy to protect itself against pathogens, more energy is left to uptake nutrients and stimulate the entire plant growth. A good tip is to make sure you keep topping up on the Trichoderma, to ensure it all stays colonized as the Trichoderma will perform well on any substrate such as coco or soil. Another beneficial quality of the Trichoderma is that it will stay active in temperatures from 5 -35 degrees celsius, where as other bacteria die or become inactive when the soil is not in perfect condition for them.
How do fungi interact with plants and is it a good thing to have fungi?
Fungi are great! The fungi we like to work with when growing organic is the mycorrhizal fungi which is our product Mycotrex. we use a mix of 9 different mycorrhizal fungi, which are actually spores. When these spores germinate they will look for a root, when they have found a root they will start a symbiosis, that means the roots and the fungi are starting collaboration in which they both enjoy benefits. The fungi feeds on the sugars produced by the roots and the roots get nutrients from the mycorrhizal fungi. Big roots mean big fruits is the expression and it all starts with the roots zone.
How can a farmer with mineral deficiency improve the sustainability of their land with the use of organics?
A farmer could totally revitalize his land with the use of organic growing, and there are many methods for this. One of my personal favorites is by using plants. There is a special variety of grass called Sudan grass and farmers like to grow this after a big harvest as it will grow incredibly fast. When it has reached a height of 1-2 meters in height the farmers spread some compost and bacteria on the land, and then will cut the grass and leave it on the field to compost and become part of the natural life cycle. After the grass is composted, then the soil is ready to rock.
Could you explain the differences between hard foods and liquid foods, also how do plants buffer them?
Hard foods can be thought of as similar to compost. They may be supplied in powder form and their structure and nutrient value break down slowly and will keep on releasing nutrients throughout the grow, making these a great base for your living soil. Liquid foods are the liquid, fluid and syrup such as molasses style materials used in grows.
In the BIOtabs strategy you can adjust and boost the soil by adding the Orgatrex when needed which is our version of a liquid compost feed. Burning or overfeeding is difficult when using hard or soft foods and a reason why organic growing is so user friendly and forgiving.
Can you tell us about the culture of true-life organics in Europe from your experience?
It is growing for sure, more and more people start to see, feel and taste the benefits of organic growing. However, as you know growers are one of the most stubborn people out there, that’s why we chose our life style. There are loads of ‘chem’ growers as I like to call them, and they think that they have invented the wheel and don’t want to change a winning chemical formula. It will take a while before everybody has switched over, yet is just a matter of time before humanity will come to its senses. It won’t be cool to grow with minerals anymore, or it will get forbidden in the future I believe.
How important is correct pH and E.C when growing organically?
They are super important as the beauty of organic growing is that when the right bacteria and microorganisms are present in the soil, they will take care of pH. When using the BIOtabs range, measurement of pH or E.C is simply not required! Just as in the forest, never has anybody been seen adjusting the pH or E.C of the rain that is falling. Nature is so simple and the soil life will provide.
What are the different organic substrates BIOtabs produce and how environmentally friendly are they?
We have 10 different products all created out of micro-organisms, bacteria and compost. The main working organisms and nutrients are mycorrhizal fungi Trichoderma, molasses, silicium, guano, spore elements, rock dusts, algae and insect manure. We chose these products because they are all natural and environmentally friendly. For example, our Silicium Flash is made from a certain meal worm manure.
These mealworms are bred to feed the chicken a well-deserved natural meal. Chickens fed a natural healthy diet won’t need antibiotics, making the chicken cleaner to eat. The mealworms are fed with the leftover/ unsaleable fruits and vegetables from the market. The manure of the mealworms is used as an organic material to enrich our soil and feed the plants. In this way nothing goes to waste and it’s a nice organic circle and true-life organics in action.
Are there any bad substates that growers should avoid and why?
In my opinion growing on rockwool is not great, because the minerals that are used when growing in rockwool can contain/ burn mother soil with salt, minerals and heavy metals. Rockwool is impossible for nature to compost and where I used to live in Holland, there was a large open space, used for farmers who needed to get rid of all the rockwool cubes used for growing tomatoes and cucumber. Suddenly this place was filled with huge white, plastic rockwool mountains. When asking the local farmers what the plan was with these mountains of rockwool, the farmer simply laughed and said “Don’t worry boy, they only will get bigger and there is nothing you can do about it. “
How do compost teas work and what it is that is actually being brewed?
Compost tea is brewing your own compost using the same principle as the soil, but with a tea there is a much faster growth rate of bacteria and microorganisms. Our bacteria will multiply much faster in water when they are fed with oxygen and some sugars; in the case of BIOtabs Orgatrex, they will explode in terms of growth.
After 24-36 hours your brew will be filled with billions of beneficial hungry bacteria and Trichoderma. Add this brew to your soil and the cocktail of hungry bacteria will devour the organic material and other increase the activity of beneficial microorganisms that are already present in the soil. Leaving the soil full of nutrient rich bacteria manure substrate allowing the plant to easily digest and increase plant health, biomass, resin and overall stench.
Do you have advice for growers dealing with plant disease indoors such as mildew or mold?
The best thing you can do is work as cleanly as possible. Make clones from regular seed plants, refuse dirty clones from your friends no matter how good the strain may be. Make sure your conditions are as optimized as possible and If you have multiple grow rooms or tents, then always check the ‘clean’ mother room first then check out your big flower room.
There is a higher chance of little insects or spores of mold in the big flower room than inside the clean mother room. Don’t check out your mother room again after you have been in your flower room, otherwise you may bring the bad stuff in. Here in Spain, there are massive mildew problems, so at BIOtabs we have all our air inlets hooked up with a U.V cleaning light and an O-Zone machine to kill the spores, which works very well.
Finally, what are BIOtabs top tips for anyone who wants to get involved with true life organics and where can our readers follow you on social media?
Just take it easy. Never forget to enjoy growing, and try to create an enjoyable hobby from your work. Grow a tree and feel free! They can check out our site for more information which is www.biotabs.nl. We have instagram @biotabsorganics as well as Facebook page BIOtabs Organics.
Thanks for the great time Weed World…Now pass me the spliff!
Originally published in Weed World Magazine Issue 140