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Soil - No Soil - Nutrient dense food ?  RSS feed

 
Posts: 21
Location: Noosa Hinterland QLD, Australia
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Hi All,

I have been giving this a lot of thought lately as I am on the quest to grow nutrient dense food by enriching the soil.

Staring with soil, let's say you have very good soil. It has the correct amount of minerals, organic matter, and a thriving soil food web. (This is what all growers should be aiming for)

The crop grown in this soil will produce highly nutrient dense food. In this soil, the symbiotic relationship is working so-called perfectly. The plants are providing food for the soil life and the soil life is providing the minerals needed by the plants. Ongoing you will need to test the soil and maintain the balance. The soil life will look after itself as it will have what is needed to thrive.

Now to my questions –

If you are growing in pots or containers the above scenario is finite as resources will run out. Constantly need to top up. I am not sure what is happening with the soil life as their living area is also finite?
I’d like to compare a Brix reading of the produce grown in containers and in open soil. I would think, at the start, they would be similar but as time goes on the crops in containers would deteriorate even if it’s feed?

Now to hydroponics No soil, No soil life? All feeding is chemical. Here, in theory, should always be in balance if nutrients and minerals are been monitored regularly. Again I’d like to compare a Brix reading of hydroponics and healthy soil.
How nutrient dense is the produce grown in hydroponics?

Thanks for taking the time to read and comment
Cheers Tony
 
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I’m pretty sure nutrient dense food can be grown in pots or containers. There are a few more variables that enter the equation, such as the soil reaching temperature extremes, and the soil only holding a finite amount of water as there is no deeper sub soil for it to draw water from through capillary action. Maintaining consistent soil moisture I think would be important as it can rapidly dry out, sending a lot of the microbiota to a dormant stage, and then watering will rehydrate, activating the biota again and having a see-saw effect which can also stress plants. I think it would take a lot of monitoring to maintain conditions similar to in-ground soil growing conditions.

Hydroponics, as you noted is essentially all chemical feeding. All the nutrients are in a sort of ionic form ready for the roots to uptake, skipping the need for microbes. Hydroponics nutrient manufacturers mainly focus on the twelve or so essential nutrients to grow plants and largely ignore other elements on the periodic table that play a role in plant health. These elements include, but are not limited to, cobalt, iodine, selenium, vanadium, etc. Look at a label on a hydroponic nutrient solution, these trace elements aren’t on there. So it’s certainly possible to put these trace elements into the water of a hydroponic system via sea minerals, that’s easy. But can the plants roots take them and use them? I’m not sure, but maybe someone at some point with fancy lab equipment has done a scientific comparison and written a paper on it. There are indeed bacterial and mycorrhizal inoculants for hydroponics, and I guess they work, again I’m not sure. It's still an artificial system. The downside to hydroponics is dependency on industry and the manufacture of the “foods” to make the system work, and ongoing repeated purchases are necessary, just like traditional chemical farming.

Achieving healthy soil outside ones back door certainly may require inputs in the very beginning, such a lime or soft rock phosphate for example, to get the soil nudged in the right direction, but for the most part, once that soil is balanced on ones soil test result sheet, then maintaining it can most often be done with materials on site, such as compost, teas, etc., without the ongoing need to purchase inputs. For me, part of this is indeed growing nutrient dense food which helps keep me healthy, but also creating independence, having a sustainable permaculture garden without relying on ongoing input purchases.
 
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Anthony Saber wrote: my questions –

If you are growing in pots or containers the above scenario is finite as resources will run out. Constantly need to top up. I am not sure what is happening with the soil life as their living area is also finite?
I’d like to compare a Brix reading of the produce grown in containers and in open soil. I would think, at the start, they would be similar but as time goes on the crops in containers would deteriorate even if it’s feed?

Now to hydroponics No soil, No soil life? All feeding is chemical. Here, in theory, should always be in balance if nutrients and minerals are been monitored regularly. Again I’d like to compare a Brix reading of hydroponics and healthy soil.
How nutrient dense is the produce grown in hydroponics?

Thanks for taking the time to read and comment
Cheers Tony



James is correct, you can grow nutrient dense foods in containers. He also brings up some of the hazards of container growing foods too.
His assessment of hydroponics is in my opinion superior, as he mentions, there are now available the microorganisms that are needed by plants for use in hydroponics.
(Kudos James, super information kola)

There is a catch 22 when attempting to use the microorganisms in a manner that allows them to work and that is that there has to be a substrate for the microorganisms to use for housing.
In soil there are houses for the microbiota to use literally everywhere, in hydroponics they are usually doomed to free floating or attaching to the roots themselves.
This works nicely once there are enough roots to house the quantity of needed bacteria etal. but there are rarely enough roots grown in the hydroponic situation for this to occur and you end up with only the endo-type mycorrhizae being where they need to be for proper nutrient up take by the plants being grown.
This means that even though the grower has included the quantities of organisms needed they have no way to stay in place to benefit the plants when the plants need them, the exudates tend to be swept away from the root zone and that leads to a confusing series of signals for the bacteria leading to inefficiency of nutrient uptake, thus less nutrient density than being grown in really good soil.  The whole acceleration towards vertical farming and hydroponics has been to gain growing space and season lengthening so that fresh produce is always available from a more local source. Nutritional Value is still not near the top of the reasoning on these farms. They will most likely get to the point where they start worrying about nutritional values but currently it is all about production.

Redhawk
 
Anthony Saber
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It would be interesting to do an experiment using open soil, containers and hydroponics.
The same plant type all started at the same time and once they are fully grown to do a Brix reading on the leaves and fruit.
I know this is not very scientific but should give an indication of what has been produced in the leaves and fruit.

By the way if anyone is interesting in finding out more about Brix and how to improve the soil go over to
bionutrient.org   Dan Kitteridge is very passionate about the subject and what he says makes a lot of sense.
In my opinion.

My ultimate goal is to start growing nutrient dense food consistently.

Cheers for n now
Tony
 
Bryant RedHawk
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I've done some of these experiments Tony, the key is to have microorganism rich soil that you are growing the plants in.

Nutrient content of  hydroponic grown foods are generally contain 1/4 the nutrient values of same plant species growing in rich soils.
I have improved the nutrient values in hydroponics simply by using rock wool as a root holding medium since that substrate gives microorganisms a place to hold onto.
I have not gotten good fungi hyphae to grow in hydroponics so far. If I can get them to grow like the bacteria, then we will have a way to duplicate (at least better) the microbiology of soil in a hydroponic system.

Dr. Wayne Borland is also doing great research in hydroponics and aquaculture (aquaponics).

Redhawk
 
Bryant RedHawk
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One experiment that is currently going on is the use of grow mats for vertical gardening systems.
we are using non-backed outdoor carpet material cut into 4" wide strips that are 12 feet long and stacking these together with loose stitching so that roots will have something to hang onto and for hyphae and bacteria to have homes.
So far we are seeing pretty good results on the fungal side and the bacteria counts are getting better every 3 days (our sample timing), given this and the nutrients flowing through the medium, I think we will have far better results than the control conventional hydroponic system.

Redhawk
 
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Briant, of all the cool stuff you are doing, can you show us some pictures?
Are you talking about hydroponic here or aquaponic? Aquaponic depends on fish poo so this should contain some goodies. Not that I wanted to do any of this.
 
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Not hydroponics but aquaponics.

I compared my aquaponics to soil gardens using brix. They match and I also have hive brix values on the excellent column of the charts.

My aquaponics have media grow beds with volcanic rocks in them so bacteria is everywhere but no mycorrhiza as the nutrients are water soluble.
 
Anthony Saber
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Well, that’s interesting and makes sense to me, as the fish waste is feeding the plants and you said the Brix readings were high which is what we are after.

My presumptions were that food grown in –

A well-balanced soil (Mineral and soil biology rich) would produce the best results.

Pot/Container would initially be the same but would deteriorate as the soil biology had a set area to live in. Would have to be constantly topped up to be kept at its peak.

Hydroponics was all chemicals and was the same as growing with synthetic fertiliser but Bryant has said that this may be overcome with some more work to improving the biology.

My method will be to grow in a well-balanced gound soil but I do see that other methods can provide benefits.

Our mission is to grow nutrient dense food by repairing the soil and improving the health of the population.

Cheers
Anthony
 
Bryant RedHawk
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To all that are using Brix.
Brix measures the simple sugar content only, nothing else. Using Brix will only tell you how much sugar is in the substance you are testing with your brix meter.
Plant exudates are simple sugars, so if you are reading Brix from samples taken from around plant roots, you are reading those exudates, so what you learn is how the plant is calling for nutrients from the soil microorganisms.
Brix is not much use for determining soil health since the microorganisms only use sugars to form the enzymes needed to process nutrients from the rock materials that make up the dirt part of soil.
Brix is useful but don't get yourself to the point where you depend on Brix readings to tell you much about your actual soil or your soil microorganism content, it can't do that for you.

Also, many people put far to much faith into soil test, a soil test tells you what amounts of water soluble minerals are present, not total mineral content or actual pH, pH is changed by bacteria and fungi as they convert nitrogen compounds and in the case of bacteria forming the glues (basic compounds) that create the aggregate that allows soil to contain air and water as well as infiltrate water into the soil. Soil testing was developed for "standard commercial agriculture method" not for permaculture method. This means that proverbial grain of salt must be taken and held onto when reading their results.

Redhawk
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Anthony Saber wrote:Well, that’s interesting and makes sense to me, as the fish waste is feeding the plants and you said the Brix readings were high which is what we are after.

My presumptions were that food grown in –

A well-balanced soil (Mineral and soil biology rich) would produce the best results.

Pot/Container would initially be the same but would deteriorate as the soil biology had a set area to live in. Would have to be constantly topped up to be kept at its peak.

Hydroponics was all chemicals and was the same as growing with synthetic fertiliser but Bryant has said that this may be overcome with some more work to improving the biology.

My method will be to grow in a well-balanced gound soil but I do see that other methods can provide benefits.

Our mission is to grow nutrient dense food by repairing the soil and improving the health of the population.

Cheers
Anthony



hau Anthony,
Presumption number one is correct.  However presumption number two is flawed, just because you use a container does not mean you would have to constantly adding to the soil microbiome, quite the contrary, that microbiome will continue as long as the minerals are present.
The problems arise when people use too much "fertilizer" in the container soil which poisons the microorganisms of the microbiome.
There are good options for fertilizing container plants though and those will not harm the microbiome so much, the trick is daily monitoring.

Today most of the hydroponic nutrients are organic and will play nice with the bacteria and fungi, the only trick is to get the fungi to attach to the plants roots the way bacteria will eventually do.
Aquaponics is mostly hydroponics with a nutrient provider used as part of the system, that means less inputs on a regular basis.

I applaud your working to provide nutrient dense foods to heal the people. Good Job kola.

Redhawk
 
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My primary concern with hydroponics and aquaponics, and some of you have touched on this, is the diminishment or complete absence of fungal presence. It is now well accepted, and yet only just beginning to be comprehensively studied, that the mychorizal associations between plant roots and their fungal counterparts  in a healthy soil food web, are CRUCIAL to not only optimum health of the plant, but to produce an adequate presence of countless and many as of yet unkown beneficial compounds, enzymes, and other mystical bits that, just 'cause we're ignorant of their nature and function, does not mean we can thrive in their absence. Please, someone, prove me wrong - but there seems to simply be no way of fostering this extensive mychorizal community without - you guessed it - soil.

I see some possibility of providing some environment with mineral wool or carpet or the like, but I would encourage anyone not to underestimate the industrial processes that go into manufacturing such media - uncountable toxins introduced into your ecosystem and an astronomic carbon footprint.

Again, please prove me wrong, but I simply cannot reconcile aquaponics or hydroponics with any version of permaculture ethics or true sustainability. Give me a system that builds soil and perpetuates without fossil additives and I am all ears.
 
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Hey everyone, this is my first post so please go easy on me.. But I feel the need to chime in since my background has given me a lot of insight into this topic. I also have gotten the opportunity to hang out with Dr. Wayne about a year ago and picked his brain! Like any system everything is super site specific. Controlled environment ag has it's place in the world.. but that being said after getting to manage 9 different systems including but not limited to... (~Organic soil production~ soil-less media with blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, and tomatoes, both organic and not.. NFT for lettuces, leafy greens and basil; and deep water culture aquaponics for growing more lettuce.) I have come to the conclusion that organic biologically managed soil production is n fact the best all around form of production. (Duh!)
Anyway, as far as my bosses were concerned they cared about me making the thing function and profitable. I was more interested in comparing all the different styles of production to monitor: Inputs, efficiency, sustainability, and of course quality.
Now a days we are doing a lot to find alternatives to the toxic and unsustainable materials used for this stuff so keep demanding it!! 
Say you purchase land and want to make a profit from the produce you grow sooner rather than later.. of course you want to get certified organic to better market your product. Some people don't want to wait the 4 years it might take for the certification program to acknowledge your property as compliant. However if you can grow in containers organically, you can label that fruit organic and still be making money while you wait to be able to convert the soil under your pots. Once the necessary time frame passes, the potted berry bushes can then be moved to covert the next plot or sold! In the mean time, you can be inoculating the soil-less media with a fungal dominated compost tea and ensuring the environment helps the desired microbes to thrive. (any excess leachates will hopefully contain beneficial microbes and nutrients and be slightly amending the ground below the whole time) These biological populations, if maintained properly will manage the soil-less media pH for you and help convert isolulable nutrients to readily available food for the plant.
That's just one example of all the cool stuff we can do with NON-soil production...
There is little understanding still... and most of the focus is going towards making the systems more automated and computer monitored instead of enhancing human interaction and stewardship for the microbial population. If anyone wants to sponsor me to continue doing some serious research I would gladly do so hehe.

Happy Learning and Growing!

-Cyndie
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Beau Davidson
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Thanks, Cyndie. Great contribution to the thread. Welcome!
 
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Bryant RedHawk wrote:To all that are using Brix.
Brix measures the simple sugar content only, nothing else.



Is that true? I thought it was all dissolved solids. One online source states "Brix is actually a sum of the pounds of sucrose, fructose, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, proteins, hormones, and other solids in one hundred pounds of plant juice." So while most of the measurement probably consists of the sugar content, there are other elements included--but we don't get a breakdown. Hydro/aquaponic produce may indeed have just as much sugar content (although generally it probably doesn't), but I'm skeptical that the vitamins/minerals/enzymes/etc measure up.

It's difficult to imagine that any system of directly feeding plants can even remotely approximate the complexity of a healthy soil. At this point we've only uncovered a fraction of everything that's going on. Feeding nutrient solutions seems pretty crude by comparison. I'm still a fan of soil.
 
Anthony Saber
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My understanding of Brix is that it’s the measurement of light refracting through any dissolved solids.  Brix is the sum of all the sucrose, fructose, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, proteins and hormones of fruit, vegetable or even leaves.

There is a common misconception that Brix measures only sugars.

A Brix reading is a guide to see what the dissolved solids are and is represented as a number. The higher the number, the higher the level of nutrients. A Brix chart shows the range from low to high of fruits and vegetables. Obviously, the higher the better. It can also be used on the leaves of a plant to see how it is faring during the growing period before harvesting.

But there is a simpler way to do a test, just use your senses of sight, smell, and taste.
The produce looks pleasing - healthy, it has a nice aroma, then take a bite and if it tastes amazing.
Guaranteed you will have a high Brix reading and it will be nutrient dense.

The simple reason why the population is not eating more fruit and vegetables is that it's tasteless.

Cheers
Anthony
 
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We know so little about the microbiome of our gut and the soil; there's an important connection that is just beginning to come to light.  The science is fairly new and knowledge is growing rapidly.  I vote for good soil over a man made chemical concoction that contains "all the nutrients"  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3536091/
 
Gurkan Yeniceri
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Bryant RedHawk wrote:
Brix measures the simple sugar content only, nothing else. Using Brix will only tell you how much sugar is in the substance you are testing with your brix meter.
Redhawk



I disagree. A refractometer measures total dissolved solids but yes the most dissolved solid there is sugar. Higher the better. Also there is the "fuzzy" readings which indicates greater mineral ratio to sugar.
Still, refractometer is an accessible measuring method for us without going to the extend of labs and spending money for tests. When you do things to increase brix readings, soil microbiology gets better anyway.

The outcome is a better tasting fruit and vegetable.

 
Bryant RedHawk
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I have used a Brix meter for the last 30 years, I have never been able to get a separated reading for minerals (which would be those dissolved solids).
Since the refractometer was originally developed to read sugar content for the Brewing industry that's it's best, most reliable use.
If you want to try and read other things into that reading, be my guest, everyone's opinion has merit.
I use a spectrometer for determining most things, or a Gas Chromatograph, I do understand that very few people even have access to this sort of equipment.
 
Victor Johanson
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Bryant RedHawk wrote:I have used a Brix meter for the last 30 years, I have never been able to get a separated reading for minerals (which would be those dissolved solids).
Since the refractometer was originally developed to read sugar content for the Brewing industry that's it's best, most reliable use.
If you want to try and read other things into that reading, be my guest, everyone's opinion has merit.
I use a spectrometer for determining most things, or a Gas Chromatograph, I do understand that very few people even have access to this sort of equipment.



No, you can't get a separated reading with a refractometer. As previously observed, it measures the sum of all dissolved solids, most of which will be sugars. Other means need to be used to differentiate and quantify the various components. But in general, a higher sugar content indicates a healthier plant, which will probably also have a higher mineral/vitamin content.
 
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I can't claim any expertise in refractometry but an interesting tip for checking plant health that I was told was to check your plants twice a day, once in the night and once in the day, and look for a change. If I remember correctly a healthy plant should have a higher brix reading during the day then at night as the plant moves sugars and minerals around its body. Supposedly if you can observe this movement then you know that you have a plant that is photosynthesizing well and transporting nutrients well and generally in good health. Maybe Redhawk or someone with more experience can correct/corroborate this.
 
Cynthia Perez Torres
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Unfortunately I tried using Brix reading to compare the quality of my strawberries against each other in-ground soil production vs. "Substrate" a worm casting mix with peat and perlite. (both organic)
I kept hoping the organic soil would give me better readings and tasiter fruit.. But it was the opposite effect. My hydro berries always read a higher Brix measurement.
I also kept track of our hydro Frankenstein tomatoes..knowing they were stressed, over-fertilized, over- watered and definitely not high in nutritional value or flavor.. Those also had high Brix readings... (Perhaps hydro sytems always have higher readings since we spoon feed the damn thing but tin the full process of the soil food web can take longer to get to the fruit?? not sure!) 
I came to the conclusion that the level of sucrose in any given fruit body does not give me enough information on the quality of the produce. It can tell me if the fruit isnt ready to be sold because the flavor is not there yet or match the commercial standard but not much else... so It's much more useful for brewers.
All that aside... I believe in marketing produce with transparency and would love to have better information on how to test for nutritional value.
There was an AMAZING speaker at the 2015 Building Resilient Communities Permaculture Convergance in Hopland, Ca.. that talked about a process and program to do dry weight testing and personalized labels of nutrients available for produce. If this is something we can all work towards it could really be something!! If anyone happens to know who that guy was please remind me!
I would also vote for soil samples to go along with the food being produced.. use that information as a marketing tool, proving the consumption of responsibly grown fruits and veggies can help increase soil health.

Best,
CPT
 
I agree. Here's the link: https://richsoil.com/wood-heat.jsp
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