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question about DE science  RSS feed

 
Yvonne Chick
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Hi Justin! Thanks for this opportunity to learn more about DE; I've done a little research so far and already know that we'll plan to use it on our farm this coming year in whatever ways possible. After our potato beetle invasion last summer, I'm wondering about why we haven't heard or seen more about DE for garden bugs and whether you can share any experience you might have with that. Is there some simple reason (that I don't have enough experience or knowledge about yet) as to why in our awesome organic farming community I don't hear of anyone using it (I will ask the farmers, too, but just recently learned about DE and haven't yet)? It seems to me there are some really fantastic possibilities there, especially when applied for balancing out a particular invasion. Also, from what I've read, when DE is used for bug control, it needs to be dry to be effective so reapplying can be necessary after rain, etc. If we have to use it dry for pests but wet for humans and animals -- does it works both ways then? Thank you for any input you can offer; it is much appreciated.
 
Justin Wood
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Yvonne,

Thanks for the questions:

* My guess as to why you have not heard other farmers talking about DE is that, depending upon the size of the fields, applying and re-applying DE can be very labor intensive.

* There is are huge discussions about whether DE works when it is wet or only when dry. I give you my observation. DE is a very light powder. Even slight moisture will disperse the DE, making it less effective. I think this is why people say that it cannot work when it is wet. But again, the human body is mostly water and DE works in those wet conditions. I think wet DE works in the body because it can't run off anywhere and is forced through the body's system.

* In regards to plants, it requires a lot of DE to work well. An area might look covered to us, but from a bug's perspective, it may find a slice of DE every football field so it bypasses the DE. Many people, apply DE wet and then it dries on the plant to kill bugs.

Here is my general strategy for our DE use inside and outside the home:

I personally use DE for zone zero - inside the house, specifically inside of me. Our brand of DE is about 1/3 calcium bentonite (CB). This has amazing synergistic effects for everything from killing internal parasites to pulling heavy metals out of the body. We also use this for odor control for pets and our 2 year old who is working on potty training We also used DE amazingly well for fleas in our house from a cat. Here is the story my wife wrote about our flea encounter - http://myabundantliving.com/fleas-no-more/

For outside the home, I use this general strategy:

For anything in zone 1 - 3, I think the best long term goal is polyculture and diversity that confuses harmful insects. With that said, that process takes time. I totally agree that an invasion (for me Japanese beetles on my blueberry plants) could be slowed down by DE, but I would not want that for a long term solution.

* DE kills all the bugs it comes into contact with so I use it sparingly outside.
* I focus my DE use with animals - chicken dust bath, flies around specific animal locations (but I am moving away from a barn model), etc.

I have seen DE used only on zone 1 type kitchen/herb gardens. A rain, for sure a heavy rain, will wash away the DE so it will not be effective around the crop.

This year, I am going to unofficially test DE for a silica, trace mineral experiment. I am going to apply DE to some of my blueberries to see if I observe any benefits from the mineral side. Nothing official, but I am interested in this because I have read a lot about the silica and trace mineral impact on the human body.

Blessings.



 
Su Ba
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So let's say I apply DE dust to my bean plants to help control aphids. Then that night it rains hard and washes the DE off the plants. Where does the DE go? Into the soil below the plants, right? So if DE continues to be able to "work" when wet, what does it now do to soil organisms? .....the worms, the grubs, the nematodes, etc?
 
Pamela Melcher
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Location: Portland, Oregon Maritime, temperate, zone 7-8.
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I, too, want to know what DE does to soil biology when it washes off the plants...by soil biology I mean earthworms, sow bugs, ants (which I like as they shred organic matter, I just try to stay away from the ones that bite) bumblebee nests, bacteria, nematodes, arthropods, rove beetles, fungi, amoebas, flagellates, etc. Also, what does it do to beneficial insects, bees, lacewings, lady bugs, parasitic wasps, etc. Thank you very much.
 
Yvonne Chick
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Thank you, Justin, for your reply. I really appreciate your expertise and experience on this subject. I've had some of these same concerns about the effects of DE on the soil and will, likely go with your general philosophy of focusing on zone 0 in our use (including our farm animals) until there is more definitive info/wisdom in some of these areas. I, also, have wondered about the mineral content and possible plant benefit; if you can ever report back on your blueberry experiment, I'm sure many of us would be very interested! We will order some of your DE/CB as I was unsure what source to buy from for a quality product. Thanks, again.
 
Justin Wood
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Great thoughts!

**First, let me say, that even though I am selling DE with CB, my wife and I have talked to a lot of the people in the larger DE companies. The people we have talked to have been high quality and we have used a lot of their products. We chose this specific type of DE because we felt it helped us the most. I would suggest that you try all the different "food grade" varieties. I would recommend the companies that have quality packaging because it shows they have given some thought to their product. Paul's article is helpful - http://www.richsoil.com/diatomaceous-earth.jsp

It helps me to think of DE like the movie "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids" - where the kids are sized down to insects. My boys loved that movie.

Let's say there is a tomato plant covered and surrounded by DE. To us humans, I would compare it to a football field covered in broken glass. We probably are not going to try to walk through it. The bugs are not going to walk into that scenario. They will avoid it all all costs.

DE is such a light powder that a good rain is going to look like the footage of a tsunami coming in. That field of broken glass is going to be spread out for miles and miles. The same for the bugs on their level. They are going to avoid the remaining DE and step around it. The power of DE is using it in a specific, concentrated area - like a mine field.

My personal thought at this time is that the DE wash is a good soil additive to the land, especially if the land is nutriently depleted like mine. It is slight, but like I posted earlier, I am going to experiment with using DE as a soil additive with my intention of adding it right before a rain. I am going to start with my zone 1 elements.

Hope this helps.
 
Yvonne Chick
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It does help and, once again, your thoughts are just what I've been wondering about and mulling over, so perfect timing. I also LOVE the "bug's-eye view" of their landscape - thank you! It seems very likely that I'll be out in the gardens among the plants this summer with a much "larger" perspective (that totally delights me, btw!) and it will never look quite the same to me again!

We have nutrient-depleted soil, as well and, during our short off-season, as we approach our 2nd year on this land, we are drawing up both our short- and long-term approaches with an eye toward integrating permaculture principles into all we do here as fully as possible. All new thoughts are completely welcome , always, as saving time later is nothing but good and, as well, sometimes concepts need to sift in over time waiting for the point at which they naturally fit into the bigger process.

I'll keep watching these posts for further info! I'm glad to have come across you. Much thanks!
 
Tina Paxton
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Justin Wood wrote:Yvonne,

* There is are huge discussions about whether DE works when it is wet or only when dry. I give you my observation. DE is a very light powder. Even slight moisture will disperse the DE, making it less effective. I think this is why people say that it cannot work when it is wet. But again, the human body is mostly water and DE works in those wet conditions. I think wet DE works in the body because it can't run off anywhere and is forced through the body's system.


On one homesteading list I've been on for years there are periodic discussions about the usefulness of DE both in and outside the body due to the "is it effective when wet" question. There are those that swear by it for internal use and general agreement that it doesn't work in the garden when wet. I think your theory about why it works internally despite the wet has merit. Wish I had thought of it!

Justin Wood wrote:Here is my general strategy for our DE use inside and outside the home:

I personally use DE for zone zero - inside the house, specifically inside of me. Our brand of DE is about 1/3 calcium bentonite (CB). This has amazing synergistic effects for everything from killing internal parasites to pulling heavy metals out of the body. We also use this for odor control for pets and our 2 year old who is working on potty training We also used DE amazingly well for fleas in our house from a cat. Here is the story my wife wrote about our flea encounter - http://myabundantliving.com/fleas-no-more/


So, are you saying that using DE internally works as odor control?

Justin Wood wrote:* DE kills all the bugs it comes into contact with so I use it sparingly outside.


Including the beneficial bugs...and worms.

Justin Wood wrote:* I focus my DE use with animals - chicken dust bath, flies around specific animal locations (but I am moving away from a barn model), etc.


Do you mix the DE with wood ash or anything for the chicken dust bathing area?





 
Dan Kline
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Location: Virginia, USA
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We have frequent guests in our home, and some who stay for days at a time. One of these brought bedbugs. That is when I learned about DE. It did the trick with bedbugs.
There are some who write about vermiculture (worm composting) who say DE does not harm earthworms. One gardener wrote that they put DE in the soil to deter moles and voles. Does it? I know castor bean oil does that, but DE?
I had not thought of DE internally. Jason writes that it helps take out heavy metals from the body. Just this evening I was told by a friend how they eat charcoal to deal with heavy metals in the body. Really?
My question about both these claims stems from my general skepticism about all such claims. What studies back up these claims?
 
Justin Wood
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Dan Kline wrote:We have frequent guests in our home, and some who stay for days at a time. One of these brought bedbugs. That is when I learned about DE. It did the trick with bedbugs.
There are some who write about vermiculture (worm composting) who say DE does not harm earthworms. One gardener wrote that they put DE in the soil to deter moles and voles. Does it? I know castor bean oil does that, but DE?
I had not thought of DE internally. Jason writes that it helps take out heavy metals from the body. Just this evening I was told by a friend how they eat charcoal to deal with heavy metals in the body. Really?
My question about both these claims stems from my general skepticism about all such claims. What studies back up these claims?


Dan,

First, to address the earthworms: This answer comes from my research, not my personal experience. (I avoid mass distribution of DE outdoors because it does harm beneficial insects as well as those which are considered pests.)

Earthworms are (obviously) structurally different creatures than crawling insects. First, they have no exoskeleton for the DE to get caught up under. Second, they are not going to be traveling through 100% DE, they would be making their way through a mix of DE and soil. Third, they can actually ingest particles of DE and pass them through their castings. Therefore, earthworm farmers indeed do use DE to eliminate other parasites and fungus from their soil without hurting their earthworms.

Second, I have not had any experiences, nor have I come across any research to back any warm-blooded animals being negatively impacted by DE.

Third, I understand the skepticism.

My wife wrote about our problem with fleas in our house from a cat. The flea control business is in the Billions of dollars ($9 billion according to Texas A&M). We solved it with DE and a few drops of essential oils mixed with water for literally a few pennies. http://myabundantliving.com/fleas-no-more/

Same thing with charcoal - when I travel to a 3rd world country. I always like to have charcoal tablets because it does absorb the toxic stuff. That is why charcoal is a key element in water filtration system. Put it in a shiny water filtering system and you can sell it. Put it in a capsule and not so much.

I think it boils down to people cannot justify the costs of reproducing DE and CB or charcoal in the labs so they cannot exploit it for high profits. But they can with the whole willow bark and aspirin. Official lab research is usually tied to money.

The way the system is set up, telling the truth can actually get (as Paul Wheaton calls it) "the department that makes you sad" to come and visit you.

For example - the cure for cancer: If I begin promoting on a large scale that cells that have the proper level of silica cannot have cancer in them, then they would probably come and start waterboarding my chickens.

Obviously, you have to do the due diligence of research, but it usually always goes back to who funds or who refuses to fund the research. There is a reason that J.P. Morgan shut down Tesla's work when Morgan found out that Tesla was going to give away energy for free. There is a reason that Rockefeller funded the Temperance Movement - half the cars fuel was running on homemade moonshine. There is a reason that President Reagan went to Germany to get cured for cancer.

I have probably said too much already.

Blessings.

 
Tina Paxton
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Dan Kline wrote: One gardener wrote that they put DE in the soil to deter moles and voles. Does it? I know castor bean oil does that, but DE?
I had not thought of DE internally. Jason writes that it helps take out heavy metals from the body. Just this evening I was told by a friend how they eat charcoal to deal with heavy metals in the body. Really?
My question about both these claims stems from my general skepticism about all such claims. What studies back up these claims?


It can be interesting to navigate between the various claims and anecdotes. Voles/Moles being deterred by DE? unlikely but you won't convince that gardener.

Charcoal is used by Paramedics and ER doctors to absorb drugs/toxins in folks who have ingested substances not conducive for sustaining human life. Thus, we know that charcoal will absorb toxins in the stomach. Will it draw toxins from the blood/cells? Probably less likely but I don't know that for sure.

As Jason states, it is difficult to provide studies because there is no $$$$$ involved in the marketing and selling of substances such as charcoal, DE, or BC or herbs. If it isn't Patentable it isn't profitable thus it isn't going to be studied...in this country anyway. The German Commission EE did a good job of documenting the effective use of herbs (and setting standardizations for them) but I don't think they addressed DE, BC, or charcoal. Might be worth looking to see if they did (or another branch in Germany where alternative medicine is accepted far better than here).
 
Yvonne Chick
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Thank you both Tina and Dan for your posts. These are just the kinds of thoughts that have been on my mind around this. Much appreciated! I'll look at the Germany avenue, too; I wouldn't have thought of that.

I have just read more, recently, about charcoal and its detoxing benefits though at this point I've not done any balanced research (the other side) on it or thought much about it before. My son is a woodsman and has just started informal trials of Biochar with a plan to integrate into the gardens this Spring. My completely uneducated first thought is to find out if this avenue is, potentially, eventually, a source for charcoal we might ingest if and when we might feel a particular need for it. That's a ways out at this point but we will know, personally, the integrity of the source, at least. I think this will go onto the clipboard for "future research and possibilities..." It doesn't seem like there's any harm in trying charcoal internally (unrelated to Biochar). This is how I felt about DE as well: research and assess the potential for harm and if that looks good, find a reputable source and try it and see if it brings particular benefit.

(just a quick note that it's Justin, not Jason. I don't imagine he'll mind, but good to note)

Thanks, again, for the great info!
 
Tina Paxton
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Yvonne Chick wrote:
(just a quick note that it's Justin, not Jason. I don't imagine he'll mind, but good to note)

Thanks, again, for the great info!


Oops! Sorry Justin!
 
Justin Wood
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Yvonne Chick wrote: We have nutrient-depleted soil, as well and, during our short off-season, as we approach our 2nd year on this land, we are drawing up both our short- and long-term approaches with an eye toward integrating permaculture principles into all we do here as fully as possible. All new thoughts are completely welcome , always, as saving time later is nothing but good and, as well, sometimes concepts need to sift in over time waiting for the point at which they naturally fit into the bigger process.


Yvonne,

I will be entering my 2nd year on this depleted land. Our property has a great pond so previous owners would lease out this 5 acres for the pond. Parts are steep with some really bad erosion. It was just never taken care of - just lots of cattle ran through it.

We get 50 inches of rain here. Before we moved, I had 3 jersey cows on 2 acres with heavy rotation. We moved to our 5 acres, and I had to sell our cows because this land only grew broom sage grass - acidic soil (around 5.5 pH). Which is why I bought blueberries.

I believe the best way to restore a land is intense rotational grazing. Allen Savory style work.

Right now, my plan is to plant trees on the top 2.5 acres that has the erosion. This is going to be a 3 part mix. N-fixing trees (probably black locust for coppicing), hardwood, and then a fruit tree. Everything will be planted in those 3.

The lower 2.5 acres is going to be intense daily rotation. I will probably start with hair sheep. I can butcher them myself, and I really liked having suffolk (except for the wool).

Those 2 things - re-forest and intense grazing - are my plans to restore the land. I will let the sheep spread the DE via their food and droppings.
 
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