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Food Safety and Soil Borne Human Diseases

Soils are a remarkable home for an array of biodiversity with approximately 25% of the Earth’s species making their home in the soil. A majority of organisms living within the soil are not of any threat to human health, but rather function to provide numerous ecosystem services which emerge through the multitude of complex interactions between organisms within the soil and the soil itself.

Soil is vital to human existence and the vast majority of organisms that reside in it function to our benefit. However, soil also harbors a minority of organisms – some of which call soil their home, while others pass through it transiently – that are capable of causing diseases in humans: these are soil-borne human pathogens and parasites.

These complex ecosystem services range from those which are vital for maintaining life on Earth, such as the formation of soil, the cycling of nutrients with the result of maintaining soil fertility, and the filtering of water, as well as provision of useful compounds such as antibiotics, the majority of which have been isolated from soil organisms.

Unfortunately, soils are also home to microorganisms which are capable of causing diseases in humans as seen in recent events of Salmonella and E. Coli contamination in much of the country’s spinach and lettuce which was recalled after infecting many individuals. Exposure to infectious organisms from the soil has been known for centuries. Some microorganisms are opportunistic pathogens which take advantage of susceptible individuals, such as those who are immuno-compromised; or as obligate pathogens which must infect humans in order to complete their life-cycles. These organisms may be capable of surviving within the soil for extended periods of time before infecting humans who come into contact with contaminated soil.

The table below lists many of the human diseases so far identified which fall under the definition of being soil borne diseases. The pathogens responsible for causing such diseases can be divided into two groups: Euedaphic (from the Greek for ‘true soil’) pathogenic organisms (EPOs), being potential pathogens which are true soil organisms, i.e. their usual habitat is the soil. This list includes most of the bacterial pathogens and all of the fungal pathogens. The other group consists of soil transmitted pathogens (STPs). These are organisms which, while they may be able to survive in soil for extended periods of time, are not true soil organisms, but rather are obligate pathogens who must infect a host in order to complete their life cycles.

Common vegetables such as lettuce and spinach which were recently infected by E. Coli and Salmonella can easily be grown hydroponically eliminating the need for soil and avoiding numerous soil borne diseases. A closed hydroponic systems will also greatly conserve water and avoid fertilizer run off further protecting the environment.

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ZONE Crop Specific Nutrients

Utilizing one particular general fertilizer to grow a variety of plants is not only very uneconomical, it may be detrimental to your crop/harvest as varying levels of Macro and Micro Nutrients maybe insufficient or toxic to the particular crop. Commercial producers know different crops require different levels of essential Macro and Micro nutrients required for optimal plant growth to ensure a successful crop/harvest.

The ZONE series of hydroponic plant nutrients by GCH are crop specific formulations engineered to provide all the essential Macro and Micro nutrients essential for optimal growth for a variety of different commercial crops ranging from clean and healthy leafy greens to ripe and juicy tomatoes during different phases of growth: seedling, cutting, structural, flowering and fruiting.

ZONE Crop Specific Formulations

– ZONE Lettuce / Leafy Greens
– ZONE Strawberry
– ZONE Berry
– ZONE Tomato
– ZONE Resin Bloom
– ZONE Chili Pepper
– ZONE Cucumber

Add Silicon+ to your nutrient tank/reservoir to strengthen the plant walls producing stronger healthier plants with massive root systems and increased resistance to pests and disease.

Also available in:
Quart, Half Quart, 1 Gallon, 5 Gallon, 55 Gallon Drums and 275 Gallon Totes

UPC : 4963383192440

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Understanding Genotype vs Phenotype

As a new grower, plant genetics aren’t usually on the top of your to-do list when first starting out.

Professional growers rely on a plant’s specific genetic makeup to consistently provide them with the same identical crop with little to no variation.

A plants genotype refers to the genetic makeup of a cell. For each individual trait, a plant cell contains instructions on two alleles, which are alternative forms of the gene obtained from the mother and the father. An individual’s genotype refers to the combination of these two alleles, and can be either homozygous (the alleles are the same) or heterozygous (the alleles are different). Genotype functions as a set of instructions for a plants growth and development. The word ‘genotype’ is usually used when talking about the genetics of a particular trait (like leaf color).

A plants phenotype refers to a physical trait that can be observed, such as smell, taste, color, height, production. The phenotype depends upon the genotype but can also be influenced by environmental factors such as lighting, temperature, pH etc.

How Genotype Affects Phenotype

The term ‘genotype’ is usually used to refer to specific alleles. Alleles are alternative forms of the same gene that occupy the same location on a chromosome. At any given locus, there are 2 alleles (1 on each chromosome in the pair) – you get 1 allele from your mother and 1 from your father. The 2 alleles might be the same or they might be different. Different alleles of a gene generally serve the same function (for example, they code for a protein that affects plant height) but may produce different phenotypes (for example, yellow leaves or green leaves) depending on which set of 2 alleles the plant has.

How Environmental Factors Affect Phenotype

Plant’s genes carry the instructions for it’s growth and development. However, plant phenotype is influenced during embryonic development and throughout it’s life by environmental factors. Environmental factors are many and varied such as lighting, temperature, humidity, pH etc.

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When To Change Nutrient Solution

In a closed hydroponic system in which the nutrient solution is returned back to the reservoir, the life of the solution for most plants is 2-3 weeks, depending upon the season of the year and the stage of plant growth. During summer months, nutrient solutions may need to be changed weekly due to the plants increased absorption rates of different elements in the nutrient solution. If the solution is not changed out within a certain period of time, some elements may no longer become available for the plant.

To determine which elements need be supplemented in the nutrient solution can be determined thru lab analysis. Unfortunately, these lab analysis can be quite costly. The most economical method against nutrient disorders is to change the nutrient solution periodically. In most cases, we also would not recommend adding additional nutrients to the solution in between reservoir changes in order to avoid excessive levels of certain elements which may be toxic to the plants.  

The utilization of various minerals by the plant are affected by:
– Type of Crop
– Stage of development
– Environmental conditions : light, temperature, humidity

Plants use different element in the nutrient solution at different rates which is causing the composition of the solution to continually change. Some elements are depleted at a much faster rate than others, while the concentration is being increased due to the plants increased use of water compared to the elements in the solution. The pH levels of the solution will also be changing as a result of the unbalanced absorption of the anions and cations from the solution.

So remember to change out the nutrient solution in your reservoir periodically, and use products such as our ZONE Hydroponic Nutrients in order to get the most optimal results from your plants.

Keep it Growing with your friends Green Cross Hydroponics

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Choosing Cultivars for Commercial Production

Horticulturalists have developed more than 100,000+ hybrids and cultivars of orchids alone, as well as innumerable cultivars of other species, for such purposes as beauty, flavor, size, smell, disease and insect resistance, seedlessness, weather tolerance and other traits / characteristics.

The plant chosen as a cultivar was deliberately bred and selected from plants in cultivation, or discovered in the wild. It is maintained in cultivation by asexual propagation or it may be seed-raised from inbreeding within the cultivar. Clones produced by vegetative (asexual) propagation are genetically identical and will appear so when grown under the same conditions.

Seed-raised cultivars can be mixes that show wide variation in one or more traits, such as a mix of flower colors, or may be highly homogeneous plant strains produced by heavily selecting out undesirable traits, thus producing a breeding line that is uniform. Cultivars can be F1 hybrids produced by cross breeding.

Cultivar selection is perhaps one of the most critical selections a commercial grower must make prior to each grow cycle. Variety selection is a very dynamic process in which the grower must carefully select the right cultivar to be placed into the farms production program.

It is important to be very selective when selecting the right cultivar. Through selective breeding, new varieties may be produced with a combination of desirable
traits which may vary from size, color, smell, production, weather tolerance disease, drought and pest resistance etc. Some varieties may be very popular for years, while some others may be supplanted by the grower in favor of more marketable varieties.

A farms profit potential largely depends on selecting varieties suited to it’s commercial farming operation.

It’s wise to study and use reliable results from published literature or other growers experience with a certain cultivar.

It is critical to talk to the cultivator providing the cultivars about it’s traits, qualities, yield, growing environment / conditions, nutrients, desired pH levels etc. This information is of upmost importance when expecting to meet or exceed the genetic potential of the cultivar.

Market research is important to clarify what products are moving in the current marketplace. Growers should know their target market and be prepared to produce what the market is willing to purchase.

When testing out new varieties, do so on a small scale and if possible, try to replicate the same growing conditions. Testing new varieties will often provide valuable information on whether or not the selected cultivar may be desirable for your primary farming operations.

Records should be kept throughout the trial. All results should be recorded and documented for future use. Good records will allow the grower to identify which varieties will perform best and placed into the production program.

New varieties often have traits common in their previous variety. Accurate records with past varieties will often help when selecting new cultivars for future production.

A good cultivar should have:
– Horticultural traits desired by the market.
– High market yield potential.
– Resistance disease, insects, stress and other physiological disorders (e.g. blossom-end rot)

Selection Criteria:

It is important for growers to continually analyze the marketplace for what is currently in demand and have the ability to recognize and anticipate future market trends.

Marketability – The harvested product must have qualities desired by the packer, shipper, wholesaler, retailer and consumer.

Traits – The characteristics of the plant must be suitable for the growing environment / season.

Yield – The variety being considered should have the potential to produce , at minimum, the equivalent to those already grown.

Disease Resistance – The most economical way to reduce pests and diseases is thru selecting varieties with genetic resistance or tolerance.

Adaptability – Desired cultivars must perform well under a wide range of environmental conditions.

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What The PH?!?

In chemistry, pH (potential of hydrogen) is a numeric scale used to specify the acidity or basicity level of an aqueous solution.

pH measurements are important in agronomy, medicine, biology, chemistry, agriculture, forestry, food science, environmental science, oceanography, civil engineering, chemical engineering, nutrition, water treatment and water purification, as well as many other applications.

The pH utilizez a numeric scale with numbers from 0 thru 14. Number 0 is very Acidic while number 14 is very Basic. Number 7 is considered neutral.

For optimal plant growth, the pH level of your nutrients should be adjusted to its appropriate level. Various plants like different pH levels. Most experienced growers consider the ideal pH for most plants to fall between 6.0 and 7.0. The pH value of the nutrient solution will determine the various elements available to the plant. Growth rates, water quality, and growing medium are just some of the major factors that can destabilize the pH in your nutrient tank and affecting the growth rate and development of your plants.

Microelements such as iron, maganese and zinc become less available as the pH is raised from 6.5 to 7.0 or 8.0. Molybdenum and phosphorus availablity in the opposite direction. pH values which are too high or too low will be detrimental for optimal plant growth.

pH can be easily measured thru the use of pH Test Strips, drops or an electronic pH meter.

Products like Green Cross Hydroponics PH UP & PH DOWN can easily and safely adjust the pH levels of your nutrient solution to ensure optimal plant growth.

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Powder or Liquid Fertilizers : Which one is the better choice?

Powdered pre-mixed plant fertilizers are often a cheaper and easier way to grow  for the hobby horticulturist.

When using premixed powdered fertilizers, it is very difficult to achieve a homogeneous mixture of fertilizers when hundred of pounds  of individual compounds are mechanically mixed together and will not mix evenly due to the different size, weights and volumes of the individual components. Many of the compounds are in powder or fine grain form which often gets clumped together during shipping and storage. Experience with such powdered pre-mixes has often revealed shortages in magnesium and iron and excess of manganese.

This nutrient imbalance is why many commercial grows use pre-made or custom made liquid plant fertilizers in order to avoid any nutrient imbalances, deficiencies and toxicities.

Prior to dispensing any premixed liquid plant fertilizers, the container should always be slightly agitated to ensure an even distribution of nutrients in the liquid solution prior to use.

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Water Quality For Crop Success


Water quality is of prime concern for agriculture. Water containing over 50 PPM (parts per million) of sodium chloride is not suitable for successful plant growth . As sodium chloride increases, plant growth is restricted which will eventually lead to the plants death. Some plants are less susceptible to low levels of salt.


Water hardness is the measure of the carbonate ion (HC03-). As hardness increases, PH increases. As the PH increases, certain essential micronutrients such as iron (Fe) become unavailable. Ground water / well water lying in calcareous and dolomitic limestone may contain high levels of calcium and magnesium carbonate.

Nutrient designed for ground water will contain less calcium and magnesium due to the content present in ground water.

water testing

When utilizing tap water or ground water, a Water Analysis Test should be conducted to determine the levels of certain ions which may be toxic to the plant.


Many growers today utilize a reverse osmosis system to reduce the total dissolved solids (TDS) to nearly zero PPM in order to avoid any nutrient deficiencies / toxicity.

Our Green Cross Hydroponic nutrient line is engineered to help achieve professional results by providing your plants with the optimal levels of macro and micro nutrients throughout the different stages of growth.

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Rootzilla Rooting Gel

Golden Ratio

Starting plants from seeds is a wonderful way to start planting. Unfortunately, it is also very time consuming and may not produce uniform results considering each seed may contain different genetic traits as those from the parents. Much like siblings with the same parents, each child will be genetically different, expressing different traits. Thru selective breeding programs, professional breeders have been able produce seeds in which most of their seed stock will produce the desired genetic traits.

Root Propagation / Cloning has helped growers for decades produce a consistent and uniform crop by allowing them to reproduce exact genetic duplicates of desired plants expressing specific traits. (e.g. smell, taste, looks, color, vigor, resistance etc.)

Root propagation / Cloning is a process in which plant material is taken from a “Mother Plant” and placed in an environment in where the plant specimen will be encouraged to induce roots in order to produce a genetically identical plant as the “Mother Plant”

Traditionally, Rooting / Cloning gels and powders in the past were designed just to adhere and apply the necessary hormones with mediocre results.

Nature, Technology and Science converge at Green Cross Hydroponics as we introduce “ROOTZILLA” a newly formulated rooting propagation gel engineered for optimal results.

With advancements in technology, Rootzilla Rooting Gel has been engineered to effectively deliver and penetrate the plants tissue in order to deliver the necessary hormones to ensure successful root propagation.

Rootzilla Rooting Gel can be successfully used in all soil and soil-less gardens.

The image above is an actual picture of successful root propagation with Rootzilla Rooting Gel at 10 days in an aeroponic cloning system.