Anyone who’s spent time in the garden will likely know: good soil means healthy plants. Likewise, farmers need to care for their soil in order to increase yields, produce a more vibrant harvest, and promote the nutrient content of their crops.
But when the soil is lacking? Well, then you turn to a nutrient-rich fertilizer that, to borrow a phrase from Idiocracy, “has what plants crave.”
Common sense holds that, for kratom, fertilizer could be just as valuable as it is for other crops. But despite centuries of traditional cultivation in Southeast Asia, kratom has received little attention from agricultural researchers. As such, virtually zero research has gone into what conditions best facilitate the growth of healthy kratom crops.
That is, until recently. New research has been published, looking specifically at how nutrient fertilization affects the growth of kratom trees, their alkaloid content, and more. The results? Not always what you might expect.
A Word on Testing Conditions
As any scientist knows, establishing good testing conditions is the key to accurate results.
We’ll spare you the nitty-gritty on the materials and methods from this study, though they may be worth reading up on for the more agriculturally-minded reader.
Worth noting, however, are these highlights:
- 68 kratom cuttings were propagated and grown into full plants for the research study.
- All plants in the study were propagated from the same source. Using these plant “clones” minimizes genetic variations that could skew research outcomes.
- Four groups of plants were tested: no fertilizer (control group), as well as low, medium, and high levels of fertilizer.
What Makes for a “Good” Kratom Crop? And Why You Should Care
What makes for “good” kratom? Well, it depends on your perspective. Is it the size and weight of the kratom tree? The volume of leaves that it yields? Or is it the concentration of kratom alkaloids that those leaves contain?
Simply put, it’s all three.
Whether you’re a fledgling kratom farmer or a passionate kratom user, you want your crops to yield as much usable plant matter (or “biomass”) as possible. More biomass from each harvest means greater supply, which increases profits for farmers and keeps prices low for consumers.
But users take kratom for its effects, and those effects come from the chemical composition of the plant matter. All the biomass in the world wouldn’t matter if the leaves didn’t contain any kratom alkaloids.
So it’s a balancing act: kratom producers want to ensure maximum biomass yields while also ensuring the maximum possible alkaloid potency for each harvest. And consumers benefit on both counts, too. Greater biomass keeps prices low, while high alkaloid content means a more potent and effective product that makes your dollar go even further.
With that in mind, how did the research on kratom fertilizer affect these two key metrics?
Kratom, Fertilizer, and Effects on Plant Growth
Healthy soil, healthy plants. For this study, the maxim held as true as ever: when it comes to kratom, fertilizer offered bounteous growth.
No surprises here. Plant growth increased in direct proportion to the amount of fertilizer supplied to each test group, and the highly fertilized kratom crops positively thrived.
In terms of plant height, width, number of leaves, and overall leaf width, the results were resoundingly clear: nutrient fertilization resulted in remarkably improved yields across the board.
Compared to the control group, highly fertilized kratom crops were found to produce more than six times the total number of leaves, and the size of each leaf also increased such that highly fertilized crops produced ten times the amount of usable leaf biomass!
For consumers, that’s excellent news! It demonstrates that expert kratom fertilizer use can dramatically increase the abundance of a harvest, ensuring ample supply and helping to reduce market prices for kratom powder.
Kratom, Fertilizer, and Effects on Alkaloid Concentration
Where biomass improved dramatically with the use of fertilizer, the results of fertilization on kratom alkaloid content were somewhat more surprising.
As longtime readers will likely know, kratom’s unique effects come from natural chemicals known as alkaloids. Kratom produces many alkaloids, with the two most important being mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine. These are responsible for the lion’s share of kratom’s effects, but the many minor alkaloids also play an important role. The careful balance of each is what makes for the notable differences between strains of kratom.
When it came to kratom’s primary alkaloids, fertilization had surprisingly little effect. Across all four testing groups, levels of mitragynine remained relatively consistent (note that the figures in the above chart are for alkaloid content per plant; the increased mitragynine content represented there is the result of increased total biomass). Further, researchers did not detect 7-hydroxymitragynine in their samples (indicating a low testing threshold or the use of a relatively impotent test strain).
Curiously, however, kratom’s minor alkaloids were significantly affected by the use of kratom fertilizers. What’s even stranger, different minor alkaloids responded better to different levels of fertilization! Some thrived in the low fertilization group, others in the high.
What The Research Means for The Kratom Community
Studies like this one add to the wealth of human knowledge — a worthy end in and of itself. But when research is put into practice, the benefits compound and grow all the greater.
So how do kratom farmers move forward, putting the lessons of this research into practice?
In some places, these research results were deeply unsurprising. Fertilization created more bounteous plant growth, to no one’s surprise. Kratom farmers looking to maximize their crop yields would be well-served by generously fertilizing their kratom crops.
In other places, such as the effects on alkaloid potency, the numbers were quite surprising indeed. And this opens up some unique possibilities for the future of kratom agriculture.
Again, the study found little effect on the levels of kratom’s two primary alkaloids. But for the minor alkaloids, the amount of fertilizer used had significant effect, with different fertilizer levels promoting different minor alkaloids.
While these minor alkaloids may not get much attention in the Kratom Spot Blog, nor in the wider kratom community, they are unsung heroes that have a pronounced effect on the results that users will experience.
Here lies the opportunity: by utilizing particular levels of fertilization, kratom farmers can produce highly-specialized kratom strains with unique levels of minor alkaloids. This could result in the production of “artisanal” strains with carefully-curated alkaloid profiles that result in subtly unique effects for consumers.
Granted, targeting alkaloids that thrived with low fertilization would reduce total harvested biomass; as a result, such artisanal strains may be in reduced supply and would therefore be more precious. But with experimentation and careful cultivation, the research may lead to the development of entirely new varieties of kratom that could cater to entirely new therapeutic means.
As with all things in the kratom world, of course, further research is necessary. But studies like this are an important step toward fully understanding our favorite botanical. Each new piece of information brings us closer to realizing kratom’s potential to treat, to heal, and to improve the lives of kratom users across the globe.