I just heard about this gardening/farming technique that is supposed to produce very nutrient dense crops. I have not yet had the chance to do much research on it, but so far it sounds like this is achieved mostly by using organic or mostly organic soil amendments, particularly those of the mineral persuasion. I am sure someone on here knows a lot more about this than I do. As you may have guessed by my presence here on permies, I am interested in how to incorporate this method in a permaculture setting. Any thoughts?
I've read and heard a fair amount about it as high brix=high nutrition is pretty accepted even within synthetic ag/hort circles over here. I like scientific validation of things, but I'm also pretty scientifically illiterate. Voila, I present... the refractometer. Sounds fiddly and expensive, but it's a really basic piece of relatively cheap kit. I haven't taken the next step, but it will be getting a Reams soil test. I've had several lab tests before, but they've just told me what's in the soil, not what's actually available, which a Reams test does. I'm not a fan of paying lots of cash to import lots of stuff, but from what I've read, sometimes it's gotta be done to get various micronutrients into the soil in the first place. In NZ, our soil tends to be low in various minerals. I was talking to guy who knows his stuff the other day, and he said if you can add seaweed, that should return any depleted micros. Basically, it's about creating and maintaining enough carbon and calcium, in balance with everything else. Confused? Me too I think a Reams test, a refractometer an a copy of 'teaming with microbes' is a great start. Of course, there's zillions of people growing wonderful food without any of this stuff, but I do like numbers and graphs telling me my plants are as awesome as I think they are!
Yes Yes Leila introducing microbes into your garden is the best choice you could make and the little critters are perfect for supplying all those nutrient and minerals locked in the soil which are otherwise "bio-unavailable" for your plants. The micro - herd concentrates on eating all these bio unavailable pieces which are their main food source anyways. The poo or waste from this process provides all the essential AND micro nutrients you could ever want!
I've seen / heard people say for YEARS "this" isnt in my soil or I don't have enough of "that" where I live! Chances are you totally do! The form (molecular body / cohesion of molecules) is just not available to your plants (root system) "as is". It is these microbial fauna which enable us to become sustainable and negate our reliance upon feed stores and commercial ammendments
Please follow Leilas excellent advice and find a copy of:
"Teaming with Microbes"
This is the perfect laymans introduction to: bacteria, microbiology, IMO, EM-1
I have used Azomite as well as Gia Green Rock Dust in my garden for a few years. For the most part micronized rock is the only input I need for my garden. I am sure all of the needed minerals are in the soil or subsoil but it can take years to rev up the microbial population high enough to take advantage of it. Adding powdered rock helps to jump start this process. The microbes get everything they want and that means the plants will get everything they want. I very rarely have pest problems in my garden or disease... cant really think of the last time I did actually. I believe this is because of the rock dust which boosts plant health and super charges the plants immune system. If you apply rock dust, as well as fine to coarse rock, for 3 years I don't think you would have to add any more micro nutrients to your farm/garden for lifetimes. At that point all your would need is nitrogen fixers and nutrient accumulators. Of course you can farm/garden without rock dust I just don't think you will see the strong plant growth or pest/disease resistance in the beginning. It will take a few years for the microbial system to get going.
There is a book called "Bread From Stones" it was written in like 1900. Apparently chemical fert companies discredited the author and worked to keep his work secret. How can you make money on fertilizers when people can simply grind up rocks to make a superior "plant food?"
Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
"High Brix foods" and "Nutrient dense foods" are often used interchangeably.
Many studies have shown that when all of the minerals and elements are available in sufficient quantities, the resulting food crops show much higher nutrient content. If any one element is lacking, the plant cannot reach its maximum potential...the weak link.
Could brix be a potential objective measure to prove Paul's assertion that foods grown in a diverse poly-culture produces foods of higher nutritional content? This would be a great experiment! Carrots grown in conventional plots, poly-culture "2" plots, and poly-culture "20" plots. Brix levels could prove that diversity is = to health.
Anyone do any tests to compare monocrop brix levels to poly cropped brix levels? John Kohler, Growing Your Greens YouTube Channel, did a video comparing two different organic peppers to one grown from his garden. The results were interesting and came out as I expected they would.
He is an advocate of amending your soil with trace minerals, various compost teas and high quality compost. It showed, the brix levels of his peppers were above the best rating on the scale.
From the reading I have done on the subject, to create a soil environment that produces nutrient dense foods beneficial fungal and bacteria microbes must be present. Together they make the nutrients available to your plants. That being said, you also have to have a complete spectrum of nutrients in your soil. For many people this means soil amendments.
Looking at soil amendments from a permaculture perspective how do you justify importing Azomite from Utah? (This is assuming you have no local alternatives). You can chop and drop, plant cover crops and do any number of things on your land to improve your soil, but if your soil is nutrient deficient it will need to be amended.
Should we approach soil amendments the same way most permaculturists approach tilling? It's okay to till the first time breaking new ground, but then we adopt a policy of no till. So amend your soil appropriately the first year with whatever you need to buy and bring in, but then through diligent composting and managing inputs/outputs not let your fertility and mineralized soil leave the property. For example, chickens fed from crops grown on your land are butchered on site. All material not eaten is composted so all the nutrients are returned to the soil and not lost.
But then how do you return nutrients to the soil that leave the farm? Did you sell 10 chickens? Are you operating a farm stand and selling produce to the public? Those nutrients are lost to your land now. Is it okay, from a permaculture stand point, to take those procedes and bay another bag of Azomite?
I had very positive experience with using refractometer as a guidance for growing nutrient dense food. And yes, when I balanced the soil using Albrecht's method (that's similar to Ream's) my plants started to grow like mad. And they were snail and slugproof. The bastards weren't eating them...
Until our nutrient cycle is fixed I really don't have a problem with importing nutrients to my garden. If you want to grow high quality food (nutrient dense) you are going to export a ton of minerals (phosphorus, calcium, zinc, copper etc.) so you have to return them to the soil somehow (be it rock dust, compost or other fertilizers)