Molasses is a multi-purpose substance


Molasses has been billed as a miraculous substance, able to chase away pests, grow beautiful plants and make healthy animals. While this may sound like a fish story gone hog wild, it has a kernel of truth buried in the middle of it.

Molasses is a by product of sugar production from both sugar cane and sugar beets. In essence, it’s just another form of sugar. When the cane or beets is boiled to extract sugar crystals, a residue is left behind. This residue is molasses.

To extract the most sugar the plants are boiled several times. Each boil produces molasses. The first boil leaves behind the lightest colored molasses (sometimes called Barbados molasses) that is extremely sweet and is used as syrup or a sweetener. The second boil produces a darker molasses (called dark or full molasses) that is less sweet, but more flavorful, and is a good choice for recipes.

The third boil produces the most nutrition-packed molasses, called Blackstrap molasses. This is the molasses used in feeds, fertilizers, and soil conditioners. It is also the molasses humans can use as a dietary supplement. This molasses has a strong, bitter taste.

Blackstrap molasses contains all the minerals processed out of the sugar. It has a high concentration of potash, sulfur, iron, and other minerals. Combined with the carbohydrates in the molasses (remember it is sugar), it is a perfect feeding source for microorganisms in the soil. Blackstrap molasses acts as a chelating agent, which means it can convert chemicals in feed, fertilizer, or the soil, into a form that can be taken up by plants and animals. So, you can actually use less fertilizer when you add molasses to your mix.

Dried molasses is an easy way to get it onto large areas of lawn. Dried molasses is molasses sprayed onto grain flour, which acts as a carrier. This is what I use on my lawns and in my beds. Spread about a half pound for every 100 square feet. You only need to do this once a year, and then, mainly in new beds, or replanted beds, as these are the areas that have the least balanced soil properties. If using liquid fertilizer, mix one to three tablespoons molasses to one gallon of fertilizer, or just use molasses alone.

A sadistic but satisfying way to kill weeds is to mix one to two cups orange oil and molasses with a gallon of vinegar. It’s non-selective, so be careful to just get the weeds. You may come upon sulphured molasses. Sulfur dioxide is used in molasses production to lighten the color as well as extend its shelf life. Food grade molasses is unsulfured. My recommendation is to use unsulfured molasses for everything.

Molasses controls fire ants, as well as other ant species. Fire ants, and the leaf cutter, prefer disturbed sunny places, where the soil is lacking in microorganisms and beneficial nematodes. While the results don’t appear overnight, after a period of time fire ant activity will decrease. I have noticed that where I used dried molasses the leaf cutting ant has moved out.

To fight grub worms and nematode pests, spread five to ten pounds per 1,000 square feet. To kill pests immediately, mix two ounces of orange oil with molasses in a gallon of water. The USDA has been studying the use of molasses as a deterrent to pest nematodes and pathogens as a replacement for methyl bromide. World-wide, farmers are being required to stop using methyl bromide, as it depletes the earth’s stratospheric ozone layer.

For us, taking two tablespoons of Blackstrap molasses a day can help provide your daily requirement of trace minerals.

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2011-04-28 digital edition

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