Author Topic: Substitutes for ...Akadama  (Read 45835 times)

John Kirby

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Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
« Reply #45 on: February 17, 2014, 08:32 PM »
 

Joshua Hanzman

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Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
« Reply #46 on: February 17, 2014, 11:11 PM »
coh I'm going to take an educated guess that you used the powered myccorrhiza? I have seen that before as well, not on bonsai, but with wild fungus. I would think you will not find less roots than normal, they do not compete for space but rather work together.

John, nice the bodybuilding glucose gives a new meaning to sumo bonsai haha! However, I think scientists think that the fungus just use the carbon in the sugars, so maybe a more direct source of carbon would be better, like (no surprise here) charcoal! I would guess that perhaps a mix of dextrose/carbon in the form of soaked wood chips & charcoal would successfully feed the fungus

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=89562594
 

coh

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Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
« Reply #47 on: February 17, 2014, 11:53 PM »
coh I'm going to take an educated guess that you used the powered myccorrhiza? I have seen that before as well, not on bonsai, but with wild fungus. I would think you will not find less roots than normal, they do not compete for space but rather work together.

Nope, have not added any powdered myco. All natural. When I slipped the tree out of the pot (couldn't do a full repot because it was middle of summer) the soil mass appeared to basically be filled with myco. Didn't think to take any photos, unfortunately.

Chris
 

SHIMA1

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Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
« Reply #48 on: February 21, 2014, 04:17 AM »
Has anyone used Espoma Soil Perfector or the larger sized stuff called Grow Stone?  Apparently the hydroponics store people can't keep it on the shelves with all the pot growers snapping it up.  It's expanded recycled glass from what I've read. 

I'm not active on this forum but a link brought me here and I use growstone so I thought I'd chime in. Pumice is expanded glass, growstone is expanded recycledglass. Volcanos make pumice. I live on one but have to have pumice imported from mainlandia, go figure.  Someone mentioned a problem getting growstone. Seems like if it can get way out to Hilo on a speck in the Pacific it shouldn't be a problem closer to the source. Milled sphagnum on straight pumice/growstone is ideal for my conditions, (alpine rainforest). I also used this mix in Northern California with excellent results. I've never understood the addition of cinder (lava) unless one prefers the black/white effect. The only problem for me is the color of pumice but there are ways to deal with that.
 

Judy

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Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
« Reply #49 on: February 21, 2014, 05:29 PM »
The only problem for me is the color of pumice but there are ways to deal with that.
I would much appreciate it if you would expand on the ways you deal with pumice color...thanks. 
 

bwaynef

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Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
« Reply #50 on: February 21, 2014, 08:56 PM »
The only problem for me is the color of pumice but there are ways to deal with that.
I would much appreciate it if you would expand on the ways you deal with pumice color...thanks. 

The one I hear most often put forward is to cover it with a better looking soil (or soil mix).
 

John Kirby

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Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
« Reply #51 on: February 22, 2014, 05:30 AM »
The white can be a bit disconcerting in a bonsai pot.

Joshua , um dextrose (aka d-glucose , the biologically active form of glucose) is a direct way to get carbon in to your little pot bound ecosystem , not that I would. Carbon in charcoal is of limited availability for biological functions. You frequently find charcoal from old fires many thousands of years after the event and this has led to the concept of utilizing " biochar" the charcoal residue of pyrolosis as a way to sequester Carbon from the atmosphere in a near inert form. The little graphic from NPR shows a very nice representstion of th organisms involved in converting complex carbohydrates to simple bioavailable sugars, and perhaps for converting lignin as well. One of the things you will learn as you move through your academic experience is that complex interactions like those seen in a soil mix in a pot are not linear responses, thus simple predictive models rarely work, and are almost never scalable from simple component analysis. The ecosystem within the pot is a dynamic and complex set of interactions.  

There is a great saying I learned in graduate school "For every complex problem there is an answer, clear, simple and wrong." HL Mencken.
 

Don Blackmond

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Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
« Reply #52 on: February 22, 2014, 07:55 AM »
The white can be a bit disconcerting in a bonsai pot.

Joshua , um dextrose (aka d-glucose , the biologically active form of glucose) is a direct way to get carbon in to your little pot bound ecosystem , not that I would. Carbon in charcoal is of limited availability for biological functions. You frequently find charcoal from old fires many thousands of years after the event and this has led to the concept of utilizing " biochar" the charcoal residue of pyrolosis as a way to sequester Carbon from the atmosphere in a near inert form. The little graphic from NPR shows a very nice representstion of th organisms involved in converting complex carbohydrates to simple bioavailable sugars, and perhaps for converting lignin as well. One of the things you will learn as you move through your academic experience is that complex interactions like those seen in a soil mix in a pot are not linear responses, thus simple predictive models rarely work, and are almost never scalable from simple component analysis. The ecosystem within the pot is a dynamic and complex set of interactions.  

There is a great saying I learned in graduate school "For every complex problem there is an answer, clear, simple and wrong." HL Mencken.

2 things:
First, charcoal absorbs odor, and sometimes its good to have a little in your soil for no other reason.
Second, every problem has at least one answer, and every answer creates new problems.  The idea is to find the answer that creates the least amount of new, unrelated problems.
 

John Kirby

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Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
« Reply #53 on: February 22, 2014, 08:35 AM »
Don, that is why many of us add activated charcoal to our soil mix, though if you look at the scientific literature (peer reviewed)  their isn 't a whole lot of demonstrated effect. But I still do it.

Oh, and ee add a littke decomposed granite to the soil mix as well....   
 

Leo in NE Illinois

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Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
« Reply #54 on: February 22, 2014, 10:52 PM »
............
Did want to bring up something about mycorrihza - has anyone encountered situations where there is too much of it in your pots? I've got a scots pine that became almost potbound, but not with roots...with mycorrhiza. Water was not penetrating the mix and I had to aerate (poke holes) to get some drainage. Going to be repotting that one this spring and I'm very curious to see what's in the pot. I was discussing this with David DeGroot last summer when he was in Rochester and he mentioned that he's seen that kind of overgrowth at times as well. Anyone else?

Chris

Curious, interesting. One possibility, something I observed with growing orchids, I have found occasionally when a fir bark or pine bark potting mix is made up with a lower grade of fir bark or pine bark that has a lot of wood in it, I have seen a problem with a white rot fungus. It appears as a cottony mass in the pot, that seems to repel water. It is not pathogenic "per se", it does not attack the orchid, but it is also not a mycorrhizal symbiont either. It will kill the orchid by mechanically surrounding the roots, or by forming a water repellent cap over the potting mix, thus preventing water from getting into the plant. If you repot the orchid before the plant has declined too much, it recovers quickly, with no 'rot' episodes. As long as the fresh mix has no wood in it, the white rot does not re-occur, so it really isn't pathogenic (to orchids). You don't even need to eliminate all the pieces of the white fungus, if there is no wood, it will die off, and disappear. If your pine was in a wooden grow box, your case might have been a similar species of fungi. In other words, in addition to the normal symbiotic mycorrhizae  for your white pine, you also had a white wood rot fungi in the pot. If there was no wood source, if your pine was in a ceramic or plastic pot and there was no wood chips in your soil media, then this comment does not apply to your case. Anyone else see something like this?
 

Joshua Hanzman

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Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
« Reply #55 on: February 23, 2014, 01:08 AM »
John and Don, very thought provoking, I thrive on these kinds of questions...

Don, I think your right, the whole point in furthering society is to answer questions which result in a net decrease in our energy expenditure right? That is a governing mantra in my life, what is the quickest way Q from point A to B as fast as solution C but at less cost to I than C, where I=me & Q(cost to I)<C(cost to I)  =)

John I agree with most of what you said but, if academia took what Mencken said as law, A LOT of discoveries may have been cynically overlooked. But I think I know what you meant by it, a saying like that is the grain of salt with which to take a shot, and I am nowhere near proud enough to think the answers are easy or simple to arrive at or that I would know how to do things better than nature. However, as far as biological systems go, I think the system in a bonsai pot is RELATIVELY more simple than most, in that a lot of variables can be kept constant, and in this way we can at least boil it down to a few culprit variables. THEN, maybe looking at a modeled simplified experiment would be in order, but only inasmuch you then test it in the system as a whole, like drugs in 3rd phase testing...

How about this, alls I'm saying here is, there IS PROBABLY an easier alternative to akadama as far as pure expenditure on energy than importing it from japan. Maybe something along the lines of finding out what grows around akadama quarries finding something similar local, then high firing it. Testing the clays for soil properties is not all that hard. Or maybe for testing what akadama does, Something along the lines of a laboratory setting testing five "possible substitutes" of akadama growing some pine youngsters- equal parts pumice, lava, and test particle, using equal parts mycorrhizae, fertilizers etc. keeping light,moisture, fertilizers, & fungus all equal. In this way, we boil down the ONLY difference to be the test particle. Therefore, we don't need to know exactly wtf is going on, just the results that counts. Wouldn't you be curious about those results!?
 

John Kirby

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Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
« Reply #56 on: February 23, 2014, 10:49 AM »
If you are interested in phenomenology fine. Clays and their contributions to soils are well defined. The complexity of a bonsai pot is pretty tremendous, full of roots and mycorrhizae, immediately after repotting, in the drainage layer, at the soul midpoint or at the surface? What kind of variability in response are you looking for? Will the selected sample size  give you enough power to isolate differences in a statistically relevant manner? We know a lot about soils and soil components, from application and from the scientific community. I think Peter Tea said it best in his blog on soil in 2012, what you use  is less important than how you water in response to your tree and its stage of development. Akadama and pumice have proven performance across a broad range of conditions (as does kanuma pumice for ericaceous plants).

Mass Spectrometry, Atomic Absorption Spectrophotometry, Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy, 3D molecular Imaging and simulation are all nice and powerful technologies. The niche of bonsai soils is a tough place to do too much because of cost and the relatively small returns. The Mencken quote has never been intended or interpreted as meaning questions should not be asked, rather it is cautionary to remind us that things may not be as simple as they seem.

I think the concept of finding a North American substitute with similar CEC and other general attributes, getting it mined, dried and sorted to size, and bagged is a notable endeavor for any entrepreneurial individual. Ryan Neal in Oregon has raised this point on numerous occasions as have others. Al Kepler experiments with numerous products. But think about this whatever you find has to be cheap. The potential substitutes for Akadama are not cheap, otherwise why would I pay nearly the same price for a product that I can get the real deal for.
 

coh

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Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
« Reply #57 on: February 23, 2014, 12:27 PM »

Curious, interesting. One possibility, something I observed with growing orchids, I have found occasionally when a fir bark or pine bark potting mix is made up with a lower grade of fir bark or pine bark that has a lot of wood in it, I have seen a problem with a white rot fungus. It appears as a cottony mass in the pot, that seems to repel water. It is not pathogenic "per se", it does not attack the orchid, but it is also not a mycorrhizal symbiont either. It will kill the orchid by mechanically surrounding the roots, or by forming a water repellent cap over the potting mix, thus preventing water from getting into the plant. If you repot the orchid before the plant has declined too much, it recovers quickly, with no 'rot' episodes. As long as the fresh mix has no wood in it, the white rot does not re-occur, so it really isn't pathogenic (to orchids). You don't even need to eliminate all the pieces of the white fungus, if there is no wood, it will die off, and disappear. If your pine was in a wooden grow box, your case might have been a similar species of fungi. In other words, in addition to the normal symbiotic mycorrhizae  for your white pine, you also had a white wood rot fungi in the pot. If there was no wood source, if your pine was in a ceramic or plastic pot and there was no wood chips in your soil media, then this comment does not apply to your case. Anyone else see something like this?

This particular scots pine is in a plastic pot. I acquired it about a year and a half ago from a well-known eastern grower. It was field grown, then potted in a primarily turface mixture (with small amounts of peat and granite grit). As far as I know there is no wood or bark in the mix (or very little) and it has never been in a wooden grow box. My plan is to repot this spring and replace most of the turface with a pumice/lava/akadama mix. I will try to remember to document the process and the status of the root system.

Your comments about the wood fungus are interesting. I have another plant, a spruce, that is in a wooden grow box and pure pumice. It is exhibiting similar symptoms (slow draining, not sure if due to roots or fungal growth),and will be due for repotting this spring. There looks to lots of myco or fungus of some type on the bottom of the box.

Thanks for your thoughts!

Chris
 

Leo in NE Illinois

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Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
« Reply #58 on: February 23, 2014, 01:49 PM »
what you describe for your Scotts pine is different than what I was describing for my orchids. It is interesting. Do let us know what you find out for both trees.
 

Anthony

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Re: Substitutes for ...Akadama
« Reply #59 on: February 23, 2014, 02:04 PM »
Joshua,

simple - write to the old timers around the US and see what they use. Not the professional names, just the old guys in clubs, who have healthy trees. They may not be great designers or prone to exhibiting, but they have healthy trees.
I have seen records of some who use, I think it is called red lava.

The trick is, is it healthy and does it have as many branchlets / fine leaves as say an exceptional tree in Japan of the same type.
Age of the tree may be the evidence you need.

In the Far East they use a black volcanic material successfully, as shown by Robert Stevens, but this is Tropical.

I can offer nothing more as we are also Tropical and our soil mix is just a simple blend. KISS - keep it simple stupid.
Best to your research.
Good Day
Anthony