NEW LIQUID. VGrid Energy Systems’ Karrikaid is a liquid preparation of finely ground biochar, a mix of organic acids, Karrikin molecules and phenols aimed at improving soil biology. Image: VGrid Energy Systems

Harnessing the Power of Smoke to Promote Plant Growth

California company turns burned pistachio shells into a plant-growth & soil enhancer

It’s an exciting time for commercial crop protection when the combination of pistachio nuts, biochar and smoke molecules from burning plant material make up a recipe for improved seed germination and early plant development

That recipe is part of a new liquid plant enhancement product available for the 2024 planting season from California-based VGrid Energy Systems, a business founded on using agricultural waste — namely pistachio shells — as feedstock for low-carbon electrical energy production and co-products. These co-products include biochar as a soil amendment and bio-liquid products that are aimed at the regenerative farming sector. The bio-liquids produced contain karrikin molecules, which have attracted significant research attention over the past 15 years as a class of plant-growth regulators originally associated with the successful regrowth of certain species after wildfires. 

Karrikin Benefits

According to a 2022 issue of Journal of Plant Growth Regulation, plant-derived smoke is a source of several butenolide compounds, collectively termed karrikins, that are associated with seed germination, seedling vigor and other photo-morphogenic responses. Karrikins trigger antioxidative metabolism in growing plants, helping to mitigating stress caused by salinity, drought, shade and heavy metals. Karrikins are also thought to improve root and root-hair development.

VGrid Energy Systems vice president Jeff Norton says Karrikaid — the company’s liquid preparation of finely ground biochar, a mix of organic acids, Karrikin molecules and phenols — aims to provide those same benefits. The product has been tested initially in horticultural crops and is currently being evaluated in corn and soybean fields in…

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Dan crummett 0618

Dan Crummett

Dan Crummett has more than 35 years in regional and national agricultural journalism including editing state farm magazines, web-based machinery reporting and has an interest in no-till and conservation tillage. He holds B.S. and M.S. degrees from Oklahoma State Univ.

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