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John Kempf - healing soil through healthy plants. Questions.

Posts: 93
Location: Lake Geneva, Switzerland, Europe
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I've just listened to the Sustainable World Radio- Ecology and Permaculture Podcast: Grow Healthier Plants & Soil with Ecological Agriculture http://traffic.libsyn.com/pdcastsusworldradio/John_Kempf_Eco_Ag.mp3?dest-id=22401

John Kempf explains how healthy plants are the quickest way to build healthy soil. Here's how I understood his explanations:

Plant health is measured by analyzing the plant sap, and deducting the plants efficiency of photosynthesis. He insists that the most efficient uptake of nutrients by plants is foliar spray.

Supplying the plant with key minerals unlocks enzymes to photosynthesis, which causes raised sugar production, this surplus is released as soil exudates.

Bacteria multiply in the soil because of the sugars, the missing minerals are mined by the bacteria and become available to plants when these bacteria die.

The plant starts to produce more complex carbohydrates, increasing resistance to soil borne fungal pathogens.

The plant increases protein synthesis, better resistance to larval insects.

The next level in plant health is marked by increased lipid production, a waxy sheen on leaves and resistance to air borne fungi.

Lipids and protein are not digested by bacteria but by fungi, their population increase leading to a mineralisation of soil and further enhancing plant photosynthesis.

At maximum health, plants produce secondary metabolites, such as essential oils, which is what we need when we're looking at food as medicine.

Now, for my questions.

1) is this scientifically sound? It makes sense from what I've heard so far, what do you think?

2) he claims a turnaround of 6 weeks to a growing season. That is a tall order. Any publications on that?

3) obviously, not being a farmer in the US, I cannot benefit from his tailor-made treatment plans. Is there any way I can make this insight useful in my own market garden situation?

4) what are the links between his theory and the Natural Farming (KNF) practices, which have been extensively researched? And biodynamic practices?
Posts: 5933
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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Yes you can build good soil by growing plants, the roots do most of the work for you in this method. It takes a minimum of 3 years up to 10 years to get a red clay based soil to become dark, fertile loam soil.

This means, how many years do you have is the real question. Using the plants for chemical analysis is a good idea but there are other factors that have a lot of impact on what your findings would possibly be.

John misinterprets the way exudates work in the soil and that leads to a misinterpretation of where and how the nutrients become available to the plant roots.  Either that or he has over simplified the processes.

His work is worth reading but I would not simply read his work and go blindly forth, I would read all I could find on the subjects and then come to my own conclusions to give a try.

Dr. Elaine Ingham is one of the leaders when it comes to soil improvements done quickly and she has had many great successes.
Mark Shepard is a leader in soil building, along with restoration agriculture and water management.
There is a huge list of people that are considered leaders in these fields and they are fairly easy to get access to via the internet.

My issue with John is how he describes the way soil works.
What happens is; plants issue exudates to the soil, bacteria begin to process the minerals they eat, fungi and other members of the microorganism soil environment eat the bacteria and poop out excess minerals, plant roots suck up the pooped out excess minerals, bring them up into the stem tissues where they go to whatever part of the plant that needs those minerals. The process is repeated for as long as the plant is alive and the microorganism world is alive. Minerals are not only made available when bacteria die, the minerals become available when they are pooped out by the organisms, the organisms do not have to die, even though many are eaten by other, "higher" life forms in the micro world of soil, it is the excess minerals that are pooped out that are what the plant eats. If a bacteria died, it also has to decompose before the minerals inside it would become available.

Exudates are sugars, simple sugars to be exact and there are several different ones that plants make use of as exudates, each exudate is tailored to give a specific set of messages to the organisms of the micro world of soil.

Plant sap is the blood of life for that plant, just like our blood, testing it can tell us things, but it can't tell us everything we want to know about health of the sampled organisms be it plant or human.

There is more to plant immune systems that just complex carbohydrates, they are a part of the mechanism but not the whole mechanism just as lipid production is a part of fungal pathogen resistance.

Foliar feeding can clog the stoma of plant leaves, stoma are the organs through which plants inhale and exhale, they also get rid of excess moisture through these stoma.
Ask yourself this, how do I like to breathe water into my lungs? What happens to me when this occurs?  Now you may have an idea of why I do not make use of foliar feeding.

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