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Peroxide in soil

 
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My neighbour just built herself a greenhouse where her chickens used to be housed. She informed me that she's now watering the whole ground inside with peroxide to help kill off any molds or fungi because they're very common issues in greenhouses.
I questioned her about soil diversity and killing it off. She says it's actually beneficial and also puts oxygen into the soil.

Anyone heard of this?
 
master pollinator
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Welcome to Permies, Alex.

I tested hydrogen peroxide in a lab at various strengths and ant higher concentrations it kills mould to some degree and at lower strengths is can promote growth.  

I've also used it much diluted to oxygenate the soil for bio-remediation.

Hope that helps.
 
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Peroxide is all about the concentration. At the highest concentrations it is literally rocket fuel. You can usually find concentrations around 35% that are meant to be diluted, those 35% concentrations would cause serious damage to any organic tissue they encounter. Even around 11 or 12% I have burnt myself pretty bad and I know people who have sprayed at that percentage as a cleaner and experienced some respiratory damage as a result of not using a mask. When people use it for the benefit of the soil (i.e. as an oxygen source instead of to kill some pathogen) they are usually using something under 5% as far as I understand, although I don't have any explicit experience in that vein.
As far as using to kill pathogens, I think that even if you nuked an area with 20% solution or something you would do a ton of damage to your soil microbiome but you would definitely kill most any pathogen and if you followed up with positive innoculation there shouldn't be any residual danger once the initial killing wave has oxydized all it can. You would burn off a ton of your organic matter though as well
 
Timothy Markus
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I found that 9% will burn the skin but that 6% and under won't ( I didn't test between 6 and 9%)

For oxygen, we diluted it way, way down to less than 0.1%.
 
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Alex McQueen wrote:
I questioned her about soil diversity and killing it off. She says it's actually beneficial and also puts oxygen into the soil.

Anyone heard of this?



I've never heard of this. You're absolutely right about the peroxide killing microbial life in the soil. The oxygen your neighbor thinks is beneficial is doing more harm than good. Peroxide releases single oxygen molecules, which are extremely reactive, and kill, and can also bond with other minerals or compounds in the soil. The oxygen that benefits soil life comes in pairs, O2, what we breathe.

I think she is, unfortunately, turning her soil into dirt.
 
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Yeah. I wouldn't recommend it. If you want oxygen in the soil, you want increased soil life, not to sterilise it.

-CK
 
Timothy Markus
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I understand why James and Chris have that opinion, but my experience is that it can help if diluted.

I worked for a biologist who had a food and environmental lab.  He had been adding hydrogen peroxide to treatment wells, sometimes in combination with nutrients but not always, in order to provide oxygen for the microbes that we used to bio-remediate.  It worked very well.

I also did lab tests on several substances to see if they'd kill mould effectively.  Below 1-2% (can't remember exactly) the peroxide stimulated mould growth, repeatedly and without fail.  I don't think I'd ever use it for that, but I've seen it work first hand.
 
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Alex McQueen wrote:My neighbour just built herself a greenhouse where her chickens used to be housed. She informed me that she's now watering the whole ground inside with peroxide to help kill off any molds or fungi because they're very common issues in greenhouses.
I questioned her about soil diversity and killing it off. She says it's actually beneficial and also puts oxygen into the soil.

Anyone heard of this?



Timothy and Stephen have brought up not only the why to use it (H2O2) but also the all important how much to dilute it.
Hydrogen peroxide you buy for cleaning cuts is 3% H2O2, for gardening purposes or soil remediation purposes you want to dilute that by 1:10 for a .3% solution, this level will not harm the biosphere organisms and will indeed help them thrive.

I can understand wanting to scrub the coop walls but I would do nothing to the soil floor.
Excessive moisture and heat are the creators of problems in greenhouses, the conditions are perfect for molds to grow, but only a few molds are problematic to plants and humans, so wiping with a sponge is far better since it keeps the moisture level down far more than any other method.
If she is wanting to grow foods in that greenhouse, she really doesn't want to kill any fungi that is in the soil, nor does she want to kill the molds, if you kill those organisms, you have killed off all the microbiome except the viruses.

Redhawk
 
James Freyr
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Redhawk, can you please expound on the oxygen part and help me get a better understanding? I'm under the impression that H2O2 releases a single oxygen, leaving water leftover, and a single "free radical" oxygen molecule is what sanitizes, killing bacteria. Are there any benefits to having this single oxygen atom in a soil?
 
Timothy Markus
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I think that a large part of them form O2, but I might be totally wrong.
 
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Also, hydrogen peroxide is not very stable. Your 3% peroxide bottle is generally nowhere near if it has been unsealed for very long, I used to use it as a mouthwash and it doesn't even fizz after several openings or months. For making scientific preparations such as Dr Redhawk has mentioned from his other posts, a fresh bottle would be a good idea. Basically if the bottle isn't a little pressurized, it isn't likely to be much peroxide, because it will produce O2 gas breaking down into water. Always reseal tightly and keep it in the opaque container or in the dark.

I still dilute it before adding to the watering can even if old. It does great in really compacted soil that is a little prone to stinky and anaerobic conditions.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Sure James, when the H2O2 breaks down it does create one water molecule and one free radical oxygen, which, as Timothy brought up does bond to another free radical oxygen forming O2.
Our lovely bacteria, fungi and most of the other soil microorganisms are capable of using a single oxygen but it is charged so they generally wait for that bonding to occur before they use the oxygen we just injected by using very dilute H2O2.
Some of the positively charged oxygen atoms will bond with other minerals instead but once again, our micro friends will then be able to utilize those minerals better because of those bonds forming.
For us it is a win/win for the microbiome it is a win/win that also benefits the plant roots.

A freshly opened bottle of 3% medical H2O2 will break down completely into water and free oxygen within 3 months. In the lab we actually poke a hole in the cap and label when it was opened so we know when to discard it.

The dilution of H2O2 is all important since even a 0.5% dilution can destroy fungi and bacteria.
The only time I've ever seen peroxide used for cleaning a greenhouse was some orchid houses that had sealed concrete floors with included drains.
The EPA was not impressed when their testing showed this company was using 10% H2O2 for cleaning.
 
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