Triacontanol: The Rose Grower's Secret
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  #1  
Old 02-20-2020, 05:45 PM
thefish1337 thefish1337 is offline
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Triacontanol: The Rose Grower's Secret
Default Triacontanol: The Rose Grower's Secret

I recently came across an article by Sue Bottom and a talk by Keith Davis on youtube talking about the use of "Purely Organic Fertilizer". Shout out to Stephen Van Kampen-Lewis as well for sending me down this rabbit hole after I watched his latest video. The alleged effects on the growth of cattleya's are impressive-

Sue Bottom's Article

In the article Sue goes over the components of the fertilizer. None of the components caught my eye as anything special in regards to their growth stimulant potential other than the kelp meal and the alfalfa meal. I've been a fan of Kelpmax since my early years of orchid growing and I'm familiar with its effects. Kelp meal as a dry product, in my opinion, isn't much more than a carbon and micronutrient source in an organic fertilizer as most of the hormones are significantly degraded by drying. Plus the effects that Keith has pictures of are not typical of kelp hormones. I've noticed an increase in multiple lead growths with kelp but not full rhizome lead initiation (including dormant eyes) as Keith's pictures show.

That brings us to alfalfa meal. In the table at the end of Sue's article its noted that alfalfa meal contains the growth stimulant triacontanol. A quick wikipedia search of the molecule leads to a short two sentence article and a table of its chemical properties:

Quote:
1-Triacontanol is a fatty alcohol of the general formula C30H62O, also known as melissyl alcohol or myricyl alcohol. It is found in plant cuticle waxes and in beeswax. Triacontanol is a growth stimulant for many plants, most notably roses, in which it rapidly increases the number of basal breaks.
Ah ha! Are the lead promoting effects seen with Keith's experiments the result of triacontanol being released by the organic fertilizer? I think so.

There is a number of reasons why I'm not going to trial Purely Organic Fertilizer. The primary reason is that I'm an indoor grower and I don't want moldy stinky organics indoors. The other reason is that I have no way to control the concentration and rate of application of triacontanol. Additionally, I already use fertilizer salts and kelp extract as part of my care regimen and I'm unwilling to modify that aspect of my culture and incorporate a time release fertilizer into the mix.

So I did a deep dive into the literature to find out a few things:

1) what is a reasonable concentration of triacontanol and application rate for orchids

2)how can I deliver a compound with essentially zero solubility in water to my plants?

The literature for triacontanol in orchids is scant but it goes back into the 80's. It also appears that triacontanol is used extensively in the micropropagation industry so I wouldn't be surprised that if some professionals especially ones with backgrounds in micro-propagation have or are currently using triacontanol for various purposes on orchids already. The application concentration of triacontanol for orchid culture is probably locked away in the minds of these growers as "trade secrets" and thus the hobbyist is left in the dark.

One reason why the early literature on the effects of triacontanol was inconsistent is due to its solubility issues in water. I work in an R&D biotechnology lab and this is an ever present issue especially in systems that are primarily water (aka most biological systems). Luckily chemists much smarter than I have figured out various ways to get around the solubility problem.

Initially I planned on making an organic extract of alfalafa meal with either 95% ethanol or chloroform and then dissolving that in water. Still, how much triacontanol would be in my extract? Also how could I be sure that the triacontanol would not precipitate once diluted in water?

Turns out a simple google search led me to suppliers of powdered 1-triacontanol. This would allow me to dissolve a known amount into water and then apply a known amount to my orchids. Early researchers used organic extraction similar to my initial idea, but with mixed results. Some scientists had other crazy methods which included multiple surfactants, organics, ions and pH to keep triacontanol in solution. I didn't want to mess around with big boy chemistry in my house because I don't have all the lab implements I would need to do some of the more advanced methods.

Even better, suppliers of 1-triacontol have found a simple method to solubilize triacontanol with safe and easily available materials. All one needs is a bottle of polysorbate 20/tween 20, a gallon of distilled water a microwave and some pyrex measuring cups. Both websites I found selling triacontanol for horticulture purposes have similar methods for making a triacontanol solution but leave out some important details which someone unfamiliar with chemistry might stumble with. I will summarize my (adapted) method of making a 100ppm concentrate solution of triacontanol as well as my small scale experiment in the next post. Given that this will be an an ongoing experiment I will make changes as necessary to improve on my triacontanol solution and update the methods detailed in my posts accordingly. I will also detail the results of my experiments on my orchids and hope that others will do the same.

Reading/Videos:
Excellent Review on Triacontanol in Horticulture
Triacontanol: a potent plant growth regulator in agriculture

Steven's Experiment with Purely Organic


Keith Davis Talking About Purely Organic (timestamped)
Keith's Purely Organic Experiment

---------- Post added at 01:45 PM ---------- Previous post was at 12:34 PM ----------

So what concentration of triacontanol should we apply to our orchids? Beyond the purported effects of purely organic fertilizer the research into triacontanol has shown beneficial effects on photosynthesis, growth, yield, flower count, nutrient uptake and much more across a wide variety of plants. To the extent of my research on its use in orchids the best concentration for orchids seems to range from 0.01ppm to 1ppm. The website I bought my triacontanol from suggests that 0.5-1ppm is beneficial in most plants. Rose growers use 10-50ppm to promote basal breaks. For the purposes of my initial experiments I'm going to apply triacontanol at a concentration of about 1 ppm. After a couple of months I will assess its effects and then go up or down in concentration.

How to Make a 100ppm Triacontanol Solution:

Materials:
nitrile gloves
safety glasses
milligram scale
kitchen scale
microwave
pyrex measuring cups of various sizes
1 gallon distilled/deionized water
polysorbate/tween 20
triacontanol powder
metal or glass stirring stick or whisk

Despite the relative safety of these products... please, PLEASE, PLEASE use safety glasses and gloves when handling and working with chemicals. It boggles my mind how often I see horticulture hobbyists mishandling pesticides and chemicals without PPE. I don't care if you've done it for 20 years and *never got hurt* its bad practice and you could injure yourself or others if you lead by bad example.

Protocol:
1. Zero your kitchen scale with a pyrex measuring cup on it. Measure 30 grams of polysorbate 20 into your measuring cup.
2. Using your milligram scale measure out 0.45g of 1-triacontanol powder and add the powder to your pyrex measuring cup containing the polysorbate 20. We're making a 100mg/L (ppm) solution and since the triacontanol is only 90% pure a bit more is weighed out to compensate for this.
3. Place a cloth towel or paper towel in the bottom of your microwave to minimize the cleanup required and wife disappointment if you accidentally boil over the solution. Microwave the polysorbate triacontanol mixture for 30 seconds on high.
4. Swirl or mix the solution, the powder should dissolve and the solution should be optically clear. If not, microwave and mix until the solution is clear.
5. Add 20mL of warm distilled or deionized water to your polysorbate/triacontanol container. If you use cold water the triacontanol will rapidly precipitate and you will have to boil it again or add more polysorbate and then boil to get it back into solution. Place in the microwave for 30 seconds, repeating as necessary until solution is clear. The risk of a foamy boiled over mess is high at this point so be at the ready to stop the microwave if it begins to boil over.
6. In a 1000mL pyrex measuring cup add 500-1000mL of distilled/deionized water and heat in the microwave until warm (80-100F)
7. Take your polysorbate/triacontanol solution and pour slowly into the warm water with gentle mixing. Your solution should be clear, if its cloudy or you notice an oily layer or white crystals you've done something wrong.
8. Pour the warm water/triacontanol/polysorbate 20 mix into the gallon jug with the remainder of the water.
9. Congratulations you have a 100ppm concentrate of triacontanol! Store in a cool space away from light. Polysorbate will eventually break down and triacontanol may fall out of solution in water over time but I'm not sure how long.

Notes:
1. You can make your stock solution at any concentration you like but the more triacontanol the more laborious the emulsification process.
2. The concentration of polysorbate in the stock solution is by design; when you dilute out the stock by 100 the resulting solution is still at the critical micelle concentration of polysorbate 20 which is closely related to the ability of the chemical to surround the triacontanol and keep it in solution.



3. Polysorbate 20 is used widely in food, cosmetics and agriculture for various purposes. In horticulture its used to enhance the solubility of pesticides and as a wetting agent. Surfactants can be phytoxic so if you plan to apply triacontanol at higher ppms, adjust the concentration of polysorbate accordingly.

4. I feel like this shouldn't have to be said but please use glassware that will not be used for food.


Video References of Which I Adapted this Protocol From


Last edited by thefish1337; 02-20-2020 at 06:21 PM..
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Old 02-21-2020, 01:41 AM
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DirtyCoconuts DirtyCoconuts is offline
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I have to admit that I donít understand the vast majority of this post but thank you for the work (it is evident that a ton went into it) and the research. I am now going down the rabbit hole
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Old 02-21-2020, 03:34 AM
shaniezilla shaniezilla is offline
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very interested in seeing your results! keep us posted
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Old 02-21-2020, 08:34 AM
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Nice work. Can't wait to hear of your results.

Interestingly, I see accelerated node branching with regular use of KelpMax, too. It does not contain triacontanol, but the "soup" of stuff in it might have similar effects.
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Old 02-21-2020, 10:27 AM
SundayGardener SundayGardener is offline
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In the past I have used alfalfa meal outdoors, but also once a year I buy a 50 lb bag of alfafa pellets (sold as horse food in pet supply stores), to add to soil and compost. (I found that the combination of horse manure and alfafa pellets really cooks). The pellets are a lot cheaper than the meal so I'm wondering if they have the same qualities of the meal...
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Old 02-21-2020, 01:06 PM
thefish1337 thefish1337 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SundayGardener View Post
In the past I have used alfalfa meal outdoors, but also once a year I buy a 50 lb bag of alfafa pellets (sold as horse food in pet supply stores), to add to soil and compost. (I found that the combination of horse manure and alfafa pellets really cooks). The pellets are a lot cheaper than the meal so I'm wondering if they have the same qualities of the meal...
alfalfa pellets work from what I've read online in regards to vegetable gardening. you can also brew alfalfa as a tea with molasses and then water in with it. I personally don't think its a good idea to have that much organic matter breaking down in the root zone of my orchids so the tea is probably the better organic route. some people have reported rots due to the use of purely organic and many of the people testing purely organic have been putting the fertilizer in tea bags/pantyhose or porous containers and placing that on top of the orchid pot so that when you water the fertilizer is leached. you could try that with the alfalfa pellets. purely organic is precisely milled, so you might get better results if you put your alfalfa pellets in a coffee grinder. given triacontanol's insolubility it may be better to deliver it as "dust" to the roots instead of depending on the delivery rate of a pressed pellet or alfalfa meal chip.

---------- Post added at 09:06 AM ---------- Previous post was at 08:58 AM ----------

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ray View Post
Nice work. Can't wait to hear of your results.

Interestingly, I see accelerated node branching with regular use of KelpMax, too. It does not contain triacontanol, but the "soup" of stuff in it might have similar effects.
yes I have seen that as well. I plan to test the combined effects of triacontanol and kelpmax as well once I finish my initial testing. its very possible the combined effects of purely organic could be from both kelp and triacontanol.

Last edited by thefish1337; 02-21-2020 at 01:10 PM..
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Old 02-21-2020, 01:23 PM
thefish1337 thefish1337 is offline
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Here is my currently running experiment. I have two mericloned seedlings of Cattleya schilleriana 'Maui Seas' AM/OS so I think this will be a good comparison. If the effects are beneficial I will expand the treatment group to more of my collection. I performed the first treatment to 'plant B' on 2/19 and I will apply the triacontanol weekly for a month and assess any qualitative and quantitative effects I can easily measure. The plants have nearly identical numbers of leaves and pseudobulbs and are in active growth.

Plant A:
1 actively growing root tip
1 actively growing lead



Plant B:
1 recently matured bulb
2 actively growing root tips
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Old 02-21-2020, 04:39 PM
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Sorry to be a wet blanket, but a comparison between two plants isn't going to be very convincing, unless one really outshines the other. It might convince me to experiment further, but really won't prove much due to the poor statistics.

25 test/25 control, maybe.
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Old 02-21-2020, 05:19 PM
thefish1337 thefish1337 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ray View Post
Sorry to be a wet blanket, but a comparison between two plants isn't going to be very convincing, unless one really outshines the other. It might convince me to experiment further, but really won't prove much due to the poor statistics.

25 test/25 control, maybe.
I'm well aware of the limitations of my test from an experimental perspective. At this point I'm searching for a particular qualitative effect that is shown in Keith's slideshow/Sue's article. Unfortunately, I don't have 50 mericlones . This is the best way for me, someone with a limited resources, to attempt to find a way to reproduce those effects. I hope that by spreading this information others will also try out triacontanol on their orchids and share their experiences. It costs less than $0.0024 to make 1 gallon of 1x foliar spray at 1ppm. Entire greenhouses can be sprayed for pennies on the dollar using bulk quantities of the raw materials.

Last edited by thefish1337; 02-21-2020 at 05:22 PM..
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Old 02-21-2020, 07:12 PM
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I'm still interested to see your results!
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