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Why Kelpak?

A question that has come up from time to time is “Why should I use Kelpak instead of other growth stimulants?”. There are some solid reasons, so let’s summarize them:

Products containing synthetic auxins are quite effective at stimulating root growth, but they have two inherent flaws; chemical instability and the potential for overdoing it.

  • In order to make the synthetic hormones water-soluble, they must be converted into mineral salt compounds. Those, unfortunately, degrade quite rapidly when exposed to light and elevated temperatures, limiting the shelf-lives of the products containing them. If kept dark and refrigerated, a fresh product should remain mostly active for about a year; if allowed to warm up or be exposed to sunlight, that can be shortened to a matter of weeks. However, even if we’re good at keeping them well-sealed, cool and dark, when you consider the prior history – trucking, warehousing, storage at the retailer and the like – they can be on well their decline when we get them.
  • Synthetic auxins are powerful chemicals, so knowing and using the proper amount is paramount – too little and they have no impact; too much and they can lead to plant and flower deformities, or even death. Let us not forget that the herbicide 2,4-D is an auxin that can stimulate a plant’s metabolism to the point of death.

Natural products – kelp/seaweed extracts – tend to be more chemically stable, but can be quite variable in their relative effectiveness, due to differences in the species used, how the chemicals are extracted from them, and how the finished product is made.

  • Most horticultural kelp extracts are derived from just two species, Ascophyllum nodosum and Ecklonia maxima. Ascophyllum nodosum extracts tend to contain more cyctokinins than auxins, leading to more plant shoot growth while not directly stimulating root growth, so can lead to “leggy” growth in plants without adequate root systems to support them. Ecklonia maxima, on the other hand, directly stimulates root growth and branching, leading to a sturdy “platform” for the subsequent plant growth.

The method used to process the kelp can also affect the efficacy of the finished product.

  • Because of its tough structure, Ascophyllum nodosum must be crushed, macerated, or most often, chemically digested to extract the liquid contents. That is frequently done via alkaline hydrolysis, which can introduce contaminants to the product and raise the pH.
  • In the case of KelpMax on the other hand, after the Ecklonia maxima has been hand-harvested by divers, it is rinsed in fresh water to remove the salt water and placed in vacuum chambers where the cell structure simply bursts, releasing the juices without damage or degradation.

The form of the finished product plays a role in product quality and efficacy, as well.

  • Once the Ecklonia maxima juices have been collected, they are diluted with pure water and less than 1% of natural preservatives are added, ensuring that Kelpak liquid remains highly-effective for at least three years.
  • Ascophyllum nodosum products can be smelly liquids, sludges or sold as dried powders. Drying is one of the worst things you can do, as the various active ingredients are significantly degraded by the process and cannot be reconstituted once mixed with water.

If the science behind the products isn’t enough to answer the original question, how about the economics of use?

  • Maxicrop Liquid Seaweed is a well-known brand of supplement made using Ascophyllum nodosum. It is available both in liquid form and soluble powder, but we’ll disregard the latter due to its chemical shortcomings. The liquid is currently (12/27/2019) priced at $13.03 per quart (including delivery via Amazon Prime), and the recommended application regimen is to use one ounce per gallon every other week. $13.03/32 ounces = $0.40719 per ounce. Applied every two weeks, the annualized cost becomes 26 x $0.40719 = $10.59 per gallon applied.
  • Kelpak, at $37.00 per liter (including delivery from First Rays), makes it appear to be nearly double the cost of the Maxicrop product, but the recommended regimen is only one tablespoon (1/2 ounce) per gallon, and it is to be applied only once a month. There are 67.628 tablespoons in a liter, so each gallon mixed costs $37.00/67.628 = $0.547, and when applied monthly, has an annualized cost of just $6.54 per gallon applied.

So in answer to “Why should I use Kelpak?”, The answer is as easy as “1-2-3”: You get 1) a more effective product that has a 2) longer shelf life and 3) costs less to use.