What is EC? The Effect of EC Levels In Coco Coir On Plants


When starting with planting, you need to be aware of a lot of factors from environmental conditions, suitable nutrients to factors that affect the development of plants. EC levels are one of the important factors and directly affect the growth of plants.

Too high EC will show signs of intoxication, limiting the ability of the roots to absorb water. If the EC level is too low, the plant will suffer from severe nutrient deficiencies. So EC is really important and you need to be mindful if you want your crops to grow healthy.

Below, Coco Coir Global will help you better clarify the role of EC and how EC levels in coco coir affect plants.

What is EC?

EC stands for electrical conductivity, it is considered a measure of the total amount of food available to plants.

EC is expressed in milliSiemens per linear centimeter (mS/cm) where 1mS = 1000μS. The conductivity of a given solution can vary with temperature for this reason.

The higher the concentration of “total salts” in the substrate, the higher the EC. EC will only be registered in the presence of inorganic ions in the solution. Examples of inorganic fertilizer ions are N, P, K, Ca, Mg, etc. Urea, an organic molecule, will not contribute to the EC of the solution because it cannot conduct electricity in the way of calcium ion (Ca) or nitrogen nitrate (NO3-N) ions.

Unlike pH, EC does not have a certain scale for measuring conductivity. In fact, there are 4 common types of scales in use. So, it’s important to be aware of the scale on which your EC meter is operating.

The following are the four most common conductivity scales:

  • EC (Conductivity) [1 mS/cm2 = 1 EC]
  • PPM (Parts per Million) [EC x 700]
  • TDS (Total Dissolved Solids) or DS (Dissolved Salts) or MS (Measured Salts); also known as PPM 500 [EC x 500]
  • CF (Conductivity Factor) [EC x 10]

Note: the conductivity measurement only shows the total amount of nutrients available to the plant, it will not show a breakdown of each available nutrient or certain nutrient imbalance.

The importance of EC in nutrient uptake of plants

Measuring EC helps you to identify what problems your plants are having, whether they are growing well or not to promptly handle and adjust. Over time, the soluble salt level will likely stay the same, decrease or rise and this is why you need to monitor and measure it regularly.

  • If the EC does not change: it shows that the plant is using water as well as nutrients that are stable and balanced. Add nutrient solutions to plantings of the same concentration to maintain this balance and regularly check to make sure everything is working properly.
  • If the EC goes down: it means that the plant is using more nutrients than water. You should add the nutrition back to what it was, or even a more robust nutritional solution. If you increase the intensity, keep a close eye on the soluble salt level to see how your plants react.
  • If the EC goes up: it means that your plants are using more water than nutrients and not absorbing them properly. You need to mix more water so that the solution dilutes down. Temperature can also affect this, on hotter days, your plants can draw more water.

Manifestation of the plant when the EC is too low

If the EC in the growing medium is low, your plants are highly unlikely to absorb enough nutrients. However, not in all circumstances, low EC levels in growing medium affect plant growth. Scroll down to the section “Low EC levels in Coco Coir Growing Media” in this article to find out more.

Here are some disadvantages:

  • Discolored leaves (yellow or brown)
  • Roots, leave stunted growing 
  • The appearance of brown necrotic spots or holes in the leaves
  • Twisted or disproportion of leaves
  • Differences in crop yields

Manifestations of the plant when the EC is too high

For EC is too high, this will lead to salt burns or nutrient toxicity, and roots have a reduced ability to absorb water.

Here are some drawbacks:

  • Leaf discoloration 
  • Thick roots
  • Dull appearance on previously shiny healthy leaves
  • Bent leaf tips and burnt edges of leaves by nutrient or salt burns. This will result in twisting or curling of the leaves if left untreated.
  • Necrosis – at this time there will appear brown spots and wilting on the leaves and stems. Necrosis will weaken the plant and is the cause of its susceptibility to other diseases and pests.
  •  Slows down plant growth

To determine the most accurate, you should have EC meters on hand and monitor them regularly so that they can be adjusted in time, helping the plant grow healthy.

How to adjust the EC level appropriately to the plant

How to reduce EC

In hydroponics, add more water (to balance the pH) to your reservoir. This will effectively dilute salt concentrations, reducing EC. If the soluble salts level are extremely high and your plants are showing poor health, you may be worth flushing out your system completely, rinsing the roots, and covering the top with a nutrient solution of lower concentration.

For coco coir growing medium, you should learn and choose to buy reputable quality coco coir, tested and low EC levels in coco for the healthiest growth.

In the soil, you can also apply the same as hydroponic planting by adding water with a balanced pH to a pot or planting container until saturated and completely drained.

How to increase EC

Increasing EC is much simpler than reducing EC. In either hydroponics or growing medium, it is simply the addition of a nutrient solution or fertilizer, or additive that you have chosen. You just need to make sure to take EC measurements after dosing so as not to exceed the permissible level.

The best EC range for some popular crops

Here are the EC ranges of some crops, which you can refer to prepare your crops well:


Crop EC Crop EC
Banana 1.8-2.2 Squash 1.8-2.4
Melons 1.0-2.2 Cucumber 1.6-2.4
Beans 1.8-2.5 Strawberry 1.8-2.5
Mustard/Cress 1.2-2.4 Eggplant 1.8-2.2
Blueberry 1.8-2.0 Tomato 2.2 2.8
Parsley 0.8-1.8 Fennel 1.0-1.4
Broccoli 1.4-2.4 Turnip, Parsnip 1.8-2.4
Brussels Sprouts 1.8-2.4 Pumpkin 1.4-2.4
Cabbage 1.4-2.4 Kohlrabi 1.8-2.2
Radish 1.2-2.4 Watercress 0.4-1.8
Capsicum 2.0-2.7 Carrot 1.4-2.2
Spinach 1.8-3.5 Dwarf Roses 1.6-2.6
Roses 1.8-2.6 Silver Beet 1.8-2.4
Cauliflower 1.4-2.4 Chives 1.2-2.2
Celery 1.5-2.4 Head 1.4-1.8
Basil 1.0-1.4 As 1.0-1.4
Lettuce – Fancy 0.3-0.8 Lettuce – Iceberg 0.6-1.4

Effect of EC levels in coco on plants

Coco Coir is an ideal growing medium for most plants, especially hydroponic plants. Nowadays, the application of coco coir in hydroponic plants is expanding, so EC is a factor that coconut coir producers and hydroponic growers are interested in.

Low EC levels in Coco Coir Growing Media

For low EC (washed) coco coir, they are used to make a growing medium. Coco coir growing medium has proven and is recognized as a great success for plants and has acquired a market share in the growing medium trade superseding many other mediums.

Below are some benefits of low EC levels in coco coir growing media:

  • Better control of nutrient uptake
  • Lower risk of over-fertilization
  • Improved root development
  • Reduced salt buildup
  • Improved water retention
  • Reduced pest and disease risks
  • Increased plant resilience

Coconut Coir is a 100% organic substance and does not contain any toxic substances. Therefore, coco coir has become a major component of the production of vegetables and crops grown in Greenhouses or Polyhouse. They can be used on their own, for example in grow bags, slabs, and propagation cubes, or used in growing mixtures with other ingredients such as sphagnum peat, perlite or bark, etc.

Untreated coco coir will have a high salt content. However, most coco coir manufacturers will take note of this problem and will wash them to remove the salt.

If the EC level in coco is below 1.0 (mS/cm), you will not need to leach the coir. Coco Coir at Coco Coir Global has an EC<0.5 mS/cm, which is an ideal level for you to be ready to use. 

Many growers argue that the soluble salt level should be less than 1.0 mS/cm, but there are also many who argue that the soluble salt level should be less than 0.5 mS/cm. This depends on the purpose of the coco coir you want to use. If the seedlings are filled with coco peat, the soluble salt level should be around 0.5 mS/cm. If coco coir is mixed with sphagnum peat, perlite, or some other mixed ingredient then the EC levels in coco may be higher.

In cases where EC is between 3-6 mS/cm tall unless the coco coir is diluted with many other mixed ingredients, growers will certainly want to leach the coir before it is used. So you should learn and choose carefully coco coir before using.

Here are the specifications of the washed coco coir and the low EC levels in coco of Coco Coir Global:

EC EC is very low, EC ≤ 0.5 mS/cm
pH 5.8 – 6.5
Coco coir mix Depending on the product and customer needs, you can see details here
Feature Extremely low Potassium and Sodium salts


  • Use in hydroponic gardening, greenhouses
  • Use for seedling nurseries
  • Gardening and floriculture applications
  • Mix with perlite, compost, and fertilizer to form the ideal potting soil

High EC levels in coco

As for the high EC levels in coco,  they will be used to make bedding in livestock farms, and bedding for animals. In addition, this coco coir bedding is easy to use and easy to remove when not needed.

Coconut Coir is ideal as bedding as a floor layer for animal sheds due to its high hygroscopicity, absence of mold, pathogens, or odors, and especially their softness.


  • As a soil conditioner, surface mulch/rooting medium and desiccant.
  • With good absorbency, coco coir can be used as an oil absorber on slippery floors.
  • Use as bedding in livestock farms and pet houses to absorb animal waste keeps the farm clean and dry.

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