Dear friends of the soil (isn’t that all of us?)
On June 14, I hosted a small Soil Conference in Chimacum, Washington. We talked about how to regenerate soils and produce nutrient-dense food and how to sequester carbon in soils and farming systems. I had been studying in preparation for the conference and that led me to Dan Kittredge and the Bionutrient Food Association. Here is a report on my June 13 conversation with Dan Kittredge, founder and director of the Bionutrient Food Association. I expect there will be a lot more information on soil following my June 14 conference.
June 13 conversation with Dan Kittredge, founder and director of the Bionutrient Food Association
I (Michael Pilarski) had a half-hour phone conversation with Dan. My first interaction. Dan was a past executive director of Remineralize the Earth.
To achieve nutrient-dense food we need to emulate/learn from/work with/be more aligned with nature. To grow nutrient dense food the soil needs minerals, soil life, carbon, air and water. We can obtain the needed soil minerals from rock dusts and seawater.
The BFA has had 7 annual conferences and 400 people attended in 2017 from 25 states and 4 continents.
By eating nutrient dense food we can reverse degenerative disease, which are epidemic throughout the world due to poor quality food.
BFA is working on a spectrometer to measure nutrient density in food. Just point and get a read-out. They have prototypes in operation and expect to have them ready for sale by the end of 2019 for around $150. Eventually it will be a phone app.
There is useful information in every stream of sustainable agriculture.
I have subsequently spent some time researching the BFA website and pulled some quotes from it which are reprinted below.
The Bionutrient Food Association (BFA) was founded in 2010 as a non-profit, educational organization whose formal objective is to improve food quality through biological management and regenerative agricultural methods that prioritize building soil vitality for better crop nutritional quality, vigor, flavor and yields. The BFA is focused on the nexus between quality and nutrition in the food we grow and eat, with the belief that this is a unifying challenge for all involved in the food movement. However one defines how their food is raised or what is put on their plate, we all enjoy quality. But this is not being overtly discussed, much less examined from an empirical viewpoint. How to best grow quality in its various definitions is the dialogue that the BFA is working to bring forth.
“We propose that if growers understand how to produce healthier food, and consumers have the ability to make purchasing decisions based on quality, then there will be a shift in the decisions that buyers, wholesalers, and retailers make regarding where they source the food they deal in.”
We identify five key components that must be present and functioning and assist growers in understanding which aspects are current limiting factors in their systems. These key components are minerals, soil life, carbon, air and water.
We recommend the Base Plus test performed by Logan Lab in Ohio, as it provides analysis of more nutrients at a lower price than any other lab we have found thus far.
Addressing deficiencies in these mineral levels is a first step in removing limiting factors to the biological system.
The next step we recommend growers identify and work with is seed inoculation.
Following this we recommend that growers source the largest and heaviest seeds possible in order to get the best results.
Planting and transplanting into the field is a further key point when plants are stressed and an environment where soil conductivity is sufficient along with good soil temperature, presence of a broad cross section of bacterial and fungal species, and sufficient mineral availability will help plants out dramatically in this major step in their development.
We also suggest that growers use soil conductivity monitoring, brix and sap pH monitoring, weak acid soil tests and tissue tests in following plant growth during the season and staying on top of nutrition in a proactive fashion.
These parameters all lead to a much more functional living system that correlates with overall plant vigor, pest and disease resistance, increased yields, better flavor and nutrient levels and shelf life.
From the perspective of crop production, soil fertility at its core is determined by soil life.
In many cases key minerals that are enzyme cofactors and critical for biological system function are not present or insufficiently present and become limiting factors. Many soils are low in boron, or sulfer, or perhaps cobalt and molybdenum, and because these minerals are missing critical biological functions are inhibited.
It then becomes incumbent upon growers to ensure that after the minerals and biological species are present, that they have the air, water and carbon they need to thrive.
Numerous types of materials can be used as soil amendments. Granitic and basaltic rock minerals are often prevalent in the local environment surrounding crop production areas, and these materials are a very underutilized resource in many situations. The Bionutrient Food Association is currently working on a database that includes mineral levels and sources of locally occurring rock minerals in the northeastern US that can be used for systemic soil remineralization. These materials generally contain on the order of 25-45 minerals each and are available at quarries as "fines" or "float" for $4-8 per ton. Our general recommendation is that an application of up to 10 tons per acre of a material such as this would consist of a systemic remineralization.
Beyond addressing broad spectrum deficiencies there are the macro mineral materials like Greensand, Limestone, Rock Phosphate, Dolomite, K-Mag, Gypsum, Epsom Salts, Potassium Sulfate, and Elemental Sulfur. These rock minerals are very valuable for addressing system macro-mineral deficiencies in soils and should be applied based on soil test identified needs.
Trace Elements are a component of soil amendment that is poorly addressed by most growers and often times will yield significant results with apparently minor amendment additions. Materials like Solubor, Borax, Manganese Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Zinc Sulfate, Cobalt Sulfate, Sodium Molybdate, Sodium Selenate are typical trace element products that can be applied at rates of 4-20 pounds per acre per year and will systemically address key limiting factors that exist in many agricultural soils.
Soil testing part 1 by Dan Kittredge.
Soil testing part 2 by Dan Kittredge.
Workshop: Principles & Practices of Biological Management (8 of 9)
The Two Bibles
Dr. Arden Andersen, Science in Agriculture: Advanced Methods for Sustainable Farming, (Acres U.S.A., October 2000)
Gary Zimmer, The Biological Farmer: A Complete Guide to the Sustainable & Profitable Biological System of Farming (Acres U.S.A., January 2000)
Two very comprehensive texts outlining the entire process principles and products behind a coherent soil building system. Zimmer's presentation is simpler and perhaps more readable; Andersen integrates sophisticated understandings in presenting a complete picture. Together these two books clarify everything involved in the process of building soil from the biological perspective.
This is a basic list of suppliers of bio-inoculants across the country, organized by closest to our region. Follow these links to peruse products and prices for your operations.
Seed inoculants on page 113 of the current downloadable OGS catalog. (Maine)
Seed and soil inoculants. (Massachusetts)
Bio-inoculants for seed and crop production. (Connecticut)
Seed and soil inoculant mixed with biochar. (New Jersey)
Fungal Seed treat products. (Pennsylvania)
Source of bioinoculant materials for compost production systems. (Illinois)
Products for home gardeners including seed and soil inoculants. (Michigan)
List of materials including bio-inoculants for seed and soil. (Minnesota)
Seed and soil inoculants. (New Mexico)
Mycorrhizal inoculants. (Oregon)
Kits for bio-inoculant tea for growing plants. (Washington State)
Bacterial inoculants for seed. (Washington State)