So, we already use blackstrap molasses as a food source when making compost teas and activating effective microorganisms.
We also like to add additional molasses to our EM and water when we are applying the EM, to make sure the microbes are awake and ready to rock when they hit the soil and plants. It’s nice to give them a food source to start their new life. In addition to carbohydates (sugars), blackstrap molasses also has a decent vitamin and mineral content.
Of course, sea minerals, kelp, and fish are also often mixed in and these things also provide food for the microbes.
But this newsletter is about other uses of molasses. I thought I would browse through a few of my organic soil books and see what they’re saying about molasses. Unfortunately, most of them don’t have molasses in the index, so it would take awhile to trace them all down, but I found a few.
It turns out that the biological soil scientists often recommend a sugar source – mostly molasses – be included in any foliar fertilizer. I also found some other interesting uses.
Excerpts From The Non-Toxic Farming Handbook
“Liquid calcium and molasses mixtures have been used to suppress weed germination when applied immediately after planting. Many farmers have seen weed control using this approach which equaled the results of toxic chemical programs.” p23. I don’t carry liquid calcium yet. Still working on a source.
On page 64, they also talk about using molasses to release phosphorus in the soil (along with liquid calcium to release calcium), but they don’t explain the mechanism. I imagine it has something to do with stimulating the biology, particularly mycorrhizal fungi, to get to work.
“If you are intent on including anhydrous in your programming, you would do well to…include a form of carbon, such as sugar or molasses, to help “hold” the ammonia once it’s applied.” p80. Of course, we never use anhydrous, but we do use liquid fish. The nitrogen is much lower, but I’ve always wondered if molasses helps to make it more useful to the microbes. They need both carbon and nitrogen to metabolize, so it makes sense.
“The authors have received frantic calls about alfalfa weevil infestations that won’t go away. We suggest molasses and 35 percent food-grade hydrogen peroxide to those who have emergencies. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t” p145. I thoughtthat was interesting
There is also mention of including molasses with microbial inoculants, fish, kelp, etc. as part of a foliar spray program. Arden Andersen mentions it regularly in Science in Agriculture in the same context, although he generally just refers to sugar. Neal Kinsey touches on it in Hands-On Agronomy.
Dan Skow also talks about it in Mainline Farming for Century 21, and his company, International Ag Labs, includes a sugar source in some of their products. If I remember correctly, it is he who also mentions the use of regular soda pop as a sugar source in certain circumstances. Work with what you have, I guess.
It shows up again in Weeds – Control Without Poisons by Charles Walters. For quackgrass, “Copper, manganese, soft rock phosphate, vitamin B-12, calcium, molasses, soil aeration and use of sulfates in some areas will reduce or eliminate this weed, the recipe to be determined by scanner”. By scanner, he means an electronic scanner.
Sometimes it’s just the simple things that our garden needs. Microbes need sugar. Our soil may very well be lacking in this sugar, especially if we don’t have a functioning ecosystem with nutrient cycling and humus formation occuring, and especially if we are removing the grass clippings or neglecting to keep a quality mulch layer in the garden. Molasses is a relatively inexpensive tool to use as we transition to an ecosystem that is more alive.