Uses of Diatomaceous Earth – an amorphous silica
Diatomaceous Earth consists of the fossilised remains of millions of microscopic single celled plants called diatoms which were deposited millions of years ago on the beds of oceans and lakes. Its uses in agriculture are many. It is a useful addition to compost heaps and the soil because it is a once living form of silica and has high paramagnetism. It stimulates healthy growth of plant root systems. It conditions the soil by making silica available to plants, improving cation exchange and helping the soil to retain water. It is advised that a calcium source (hydrated lime, agricultural lime or gypsum) be added at the same time so that the calcium and cations can occupy the sites left by aluminium which is bounded by the soluble silica.
In the soil, soluble silica in the form of silic acid plays a number of important roles, binding aluminium, manganese and heavy metals, thus reducing their toxicity. It also improves the plant availability of calcium and phosphorus and increases the number of beneficial soil organisms, particularly beneficial fungi. It also improves the cation exchange capacity and conductivity.
Silica is deposited as opaline silica in plant tissue – this toughens the plant, making it more resistant to fungal attack. A high silica content also makes the plant less palatable to insects.
Soluble components of Australian soils, including silica have been leached over millennia, particularly in high rainfall coastal areas. Soils should contain over 100ppm Silica for optimum fertility
It is used as an insecticide against hive beetle in bee hives, red mite and lice in chicken sheds, in grain storage and as an essential ingredient of biodynamic tree paste.
The insecticidal properties of diatomaceous earth stem from the fact that the hard silica skeletons are extremely sharp and abrasive, wearing away the exoskeletons of insects and drying them out. Because of these properties it is also being experimented with for worm control in all livestock. It becomes especially palatable when mixed with other stock feeds or with liquid molasses.
When sprayed on plants, it will deter grasshoppers and leaf eating insects in the vegetable garden and stay as a residual mineral in the soils, providing plant available silica and improving cation exchange. Silica, like calcium, strengthens cell walls resulting in robust and efficient plants. Silica improves brix levels and therefore flavour. Plants produce more flowers and pollen is more viable resulting in better fruit set. Apply and rake DE into soil at the rate of 500g/m2.
Apply to the soil in autumn, at the rate of 1 tonne per ha or 1-2kg per 10m2. DE in the soil helps builds up a reservoir of available carbon during the winter by absorbing atmospheric carbon dioxide, which helps kick start growth in spring. This leads to better fruit set and retention.
For a foliar spray, use with the Horn Silica 501, in a fine spray, at the rate of l litre in volume DE/ 100 litres water and 6g Horn Silica 501. This enhances the ability of the plant to absorb the silica well. It will leave a fine white residue on the leaves and fruit. Remember to put mixture through a fine sieve to avoid blocking up spray nozzles. This should also prove affective against cherry slug, aphis and other insect infestations.
Use with Horn Silica, as in orchards, as an anti-fungal mist spray into canopy during humid and wet conditions. Also use this combination at end of harvest, before leaf drop, to increase photosynthesis, stored in the soil as carbon over winter, ready for a good start next season. Mix with coffee grounds and place around stems of vines to deter snails and slugs.
Use of DE in a foliar and soil application leads to increased colour, strong stems (no need for wiring ) and protection of flowers and flowering shrubs against fungal diseases.
DE and Horn Silica sprayed out at the two – four leaf stage will give lucerne solid stems and strengthen it against fungal disease and insect attack.
Mix up liquid Biodynamic Soil Activator with some seaweed tea with DE and dolomite (in equal quantities) to make a tacky wet mix and coat seeds in it and allow them to dry. This protects the seeds against insect attack.
DE is used as an absorbent dust insecticide for the control of various stored product insect pests in farm-stored feed and seed grain, and grain for human consumption.
Horses: Hair splitting in horses – ½ teaspoon DE moistened in water add to their feed each day. Hooves may improve – no splits and were much stronger. (Good for our (human) finger nails and hair too.
Poultry: DE acts as a wormicide as well as external parasites. Put some in the dust bowl so they can cover themselves. Controls lice and red mites. Add ½ teas to 2 tbls to the chooks drinking water after washing container out well. Keeps water clean.
Bees: Diatomite kills Small Hive Beetle. Beetle traps are available commercially through Apiarist Suppliers. Fill them with DE which kills the beetles.
Sheep: Diatomite to treat parasitic worms in sheep. Feed to flock a mixture of Diatomite (DE )and salt. Results have been quite dramatic with a significant reduction in the requirement for drenching.
Also try using as a rub to the skin after fly strike. As DE absorbs moisture and oils rapidly it may also help in those animals that have hollows in their neck or back that hold water and smell and attract flies. Maybe it could be puffed on as the animals are checked for flystrike and at crutching.
Cattle: Can be used as a drench same as for sheep. 1 salt : 1 DE. Can be added to the rubbing roll with oil against Buffalo Fly. Also try spraying the paddocks boundaries with DE (soaked if not using Absorbicide which is finer at 10 microns) and Horn Silica 501. Repeat when moving to new paddocks.
Dogs: DE can be brushed through their coats and through their bedding for an effective treatment against flees. It can also be taken internally with their favorite food 2 days before full Moon. 1tsp for small dogs up to 1 tbs for large dogs.
Human: DE is an effective preventative against bed bugs. Dust around architraves, edges of mattresses and apply to outside of double-sided tape on legs of beds. Can also be put in castors under bed legs.
Precautions; – Wear a good dust mask when applying dry, as it is very dusty. DE is amorphous silica and much more soluble than crystalline (quartz) silica and is not a health hazard. DO NOT use diatomaceous earth sold for swimming pool filters. (It has been partially melted and sometimes chemically treated).