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caffeine - germination inhibition/pesticide?  RSS feed

 
Leah Sattler
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when reading up on caffeine a bit recently I found a suggestion that the caffeine in certain plants acts as a pesticide and is also found in the soil surrounding the plant and could possibly act as an agent to inhibit germination.

if this is true could we have a solution to bug and weed problems in our morning cup of coffee?
 
jacque greenleaf
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When I had roses, I used coffee grounds as fertilizer, works very well. I never noticed any weed seed inhibition though! Coffee grounds also make a great soil amendment.
 
                          
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Probably you were using used coffee grounds, J? I heard recently that about 90% of available caffeine is leached out of coffee or tea in the first infusion, depending on the temperature of the water. There may not be much remaining caffeine in recycled grounds.
 
jacque greenleaf
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Goodness, it never occurred to me that the discussion would be about unused coffee grounds. That would be expensive.

You're right that the caffeine percentage would be low in used grounds. I believe that the beneficial effects of used grounds have to do with 1) slight acidity 2) some nitrogen content and 3) attractiveness to earthworms. I've never heard or read or noticed anything to indicate that the grounds have anti-emergent or pesticide properties. Doesn't mean they don't, of course.

Off to ask my pal google.
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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I bet there's a hardy plant that produces lots of caffeine...it's been convergently evolved in so many plants, there must be something, even if it doesn't make a tasty beverage.

Plant-based insecticides are a dime a dozen, though.
 
                                
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Slugs don't like coffee grounds, even used ones. Isn't there a Holly with lots of caffeine?
 
Leah Sattler
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I always have a few slurps of coffee left in the pot in the morning. I figure I might as well try to find a use for it!

I dont' think I would be brewing any just to pour on the ground though! I wonder if I watered my squash with it if the squash plants (already established)  would take up the caffeine and feed it to the squash bugs and fiddle with their little bug "brains". not likely I guess.
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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rockguy wrote:
Slugs don't like coffee grounds, even used ones. Isn't there a Holly with lots of caffeine?


Yes, it was mentioned in another thread recently:

Yerba mate

It doesn't seem to be particularly hardy though. This source says: "Naturally occurs in a climate that is hot and wet during summer, cold and dry during winter. Subtropical, will stand light frosts, probably hardy to 22-25F."

I wonder if killing frost does for most plants what caffeine does for tropical & sub-tropical ones. I guess it might be good to work on some caffeine-bearing hardy hybrids, in advance of global climate change.
 
Brenda Groth
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ok then what about using coffee grounds in compost?
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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Brenda Groth wrote:what about using coffee grounds in compost?


Probably tends to favor worms over ants, just slightly. Argentine ants control about 1/3 to 2/3 of my compost pile in the dry season, but now are difficult to find there, probably due to more moisture. Even with lots of coffee grounds and moisture, beetles, woodlice, and centipedes all thrive.

I think using them directly on soil is probably better most of the time, but coffee grounds plus paper composts incredibly quickly.
 
                                
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Here's a little about holly in the US with caffeine.
http://news.ufl.edu/2009/06/25/yaupon-drink/
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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rockguy wrote:
Here's a little about holly in the US with caffeine.
http://news.ufl.edu/2009/06/25/yaupon-drink/


Nice!

That looks like it would grow OK in my part of the US, but from the article, it doesn't sound particularly hardy.
 
                    
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Joel Hollingsworth wrote:
Nice!

That looks like it would grow OK in my part of the US, but from the article, it doesn't sound particularly hardy.


What do mean by hardy? Resistant to cold?


Here's the IFAS pamphlet on Yaupon - its like a scrub oak from the south. A fellow around here used to market it as a tea, but it didn't quite catch on and I think he gave up ... I came across it in the gift store in a national monument. 
http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/st311
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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Jonathan_Byron wrote:
What do mean by hardy? Resistant to cold?


Yes. Leah seems to be in a location that deals with hard frost, and I was thinking there might be a caffeine-bearing shrub she could grow locally, to avoid buying coffee as a pesticide.

I agree that "hardy" suggests all kinds of things, from drought tolerance to suitability for high-traffic lawns, but I've seen it used in relation to cold weather almost exclusively, and try to use it in that sense.
 
                                
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I'd say it's not too hardy. Growing in the SE states and coasts, that might be hardy to zone 8, just a guess.
I seem to recall an index on the old site that Dr Duke had up that lists all plants with a particular chemical. If I remember it right, caffeine is in a lot of plants, but they might all be tropical. I'll see if I can find it.
 
Joel Hollingsworth
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rockguy wrote: I seem to recall an index on the old site that Dr Duke had up that lists all plants with a particular chemical. If I remember it right, caffeine is in a lot of plants, but they might all be tropical. I'll see if I can find it.


That sounds like a very useful index! If nothing else, it should be folded into the companion database a fellow forum-goer is compiling.
 
                                
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Here's the old link. I know some pages don't work anymore, the site is not being maintained at a high level.
http://www.ars-grin.gov/duke/
Plants with caffeine:
http://www.ars-grin.gov/cgi-bin/duke/highchem.pl
 
              
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Does anyone know of an plants that don't tolerate coffee grounds?  I suppose it is just an acidity thing. I've started visiting the local Starbucks and gathering their spent grounds. I an hoping it will chase off the slugs.
 
                                
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I have not tested them But....I would think used coffee grounds would not be high in acid, having been leached. They would be pretty good as a nitrogen source, being ground-up seeds.
 
Scott Reil
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Still a fair amount of humic acids in coffee, but most of it does come out in the first wash...

Coffee grounds bring a lot of nitrogen to the game, which is why they are so good with paper for composting. The humus makes for great soil conditioner in gritty or poor soils. As for the caffeine being an insecticide, some folks at Harvard think it is (despite the grumpy professor saying caffeine is not very strong; compared to what Doc? DDT?  )

Seems it will mess with more than just minds Leah. But the uptake seems to be direct rather than plant systemic, so you have to get it right on the little buggers. But as the article states, the important thing is that it would be harmless to higher life forms...

Still, as Fukuoka-sensei points out in his wood ash example, what other damages do we do that we haven't thought of? Still needs thought before use. And perhaps caffeine isn't as harmless as we have been led to believe? The best of all pesticides still remains none, but if I need extra firepower this year, I'm enlisting Juan Valdez... 

S
 
              
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So I have gotten three loads of coffee grounds from my local Starbucks now, and I have some observations.  First of all, the drip grinds are still pretty wet and messy to work with, they also include the filters. Shouldn't be a huge problem for the compost pile, but it was kinda annoying to pick them out when I was just spreading them out around my garden. I have gotten a few bags from their espresso machines, and those grounds are much better to work with.  There are no filters to deal with, most of it is still in the little puck shape from the espresso machine, they are also very dry, and finer than the drip grounds.

Starbucks also provides a bit of info about coffee grounds. One of the bags I grabbed had a sticker on it which said this:
Coffee grounds are a nutritional additive for your soil. During the brewing process, most of the acidity is removed, leaving used grounds with with an average PH of 6.9 and a carbon-nitrogen of 20-to-1.


It also goes into how best to apply to your plants, and composting and such.

I am thinking about spreading some of the finer espresso grounds on my lawn to see how it likes it.
 
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