Oxygen The Activator

Oxygen the Activator 

by Hugh Lovel

In agriculture we’re in trouble when the soil doesn’t get enough oxygen. Even with crops like rice oxygen must diffuse into the water and the soil even while the field is soaked. However, oxygen deficiency usually goes unrecognized. What are its signs? How can we look at oxygen’s functions and learn to spot its deficiency? What plants best exemplify the role of oxygen? Why does the soil need oxygen and how does it get it? How do we know when the soil is properly oxygenated?

To understand the role of oxygen let’s go back to the processes of life itself where oxygen is the carrier of life force. Oxygen internalizes dynamic order and organization just as carbon internalizes form and nitrogen internalizes awareness. Rudolf Steiner pointed out that lime, the oxide of calcium rather than calcium itself, was the preeminent influence in the soil, and that silica, the oxide of silicon, was the preeminent influence in the atmosphere. Furthermore it is clay, the oxide of aluminium allied with silica, that provides the give and take between the lime and silica polarities.

Of course, loose talk about calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, iron, boron, etc. will continue since it serves as shorthand when talking about the influences of these elements. But the truth is none of these occur in pure form in living organisms. Rather they invariably are allied one way or another with oxygen.

 

Historically

 

            Oxygen was discovered more or less independently at the same time by Karl Scheele (1742-1786) in Sweden and Joseph Priestly (1733-1804) in England, with Priestly isolating oxygen in 1774. However it was Antoine Lavoisier (1743-1794) who named it oxy, from the Greek meaning acid, and gen as source of, as he found oxygen was the basis of virtually all acids except the halogens, or salt makers. The halogens—fluorine, chlorine, bromine and iodine—all form strong acids without assistance from oxygen, though they also form acids with oxygen.

            Hydrogen, the water maker, joins with oxygen, the acid maker, to form water, the universal solvent. Hydrogen thus becomes active chemically by uniting with oxygen, making it the basis of pH* which is fundamental to chemistry. With water we see oxygen, the maker of acids, balanced by hydrogen, which is the fundamental alkali.

Always chemists treat reactions as simultaneously proceeding both forward and backward until they reach an equilibrium, no matter if the reaction barely proceeds at all or if it proceeds to virtual completion. Thus chemical reactions are talked about in terms of oxidation/reduction, and a useful measure of a soil’s chemical responsiveness is its oxidation/reduction potential (ORP).

Chemical reagents (pronounced re-agents) are any substances that take part in chemical reactions. Reagents may be used in detecting, examining or measuring other substances or in preparing materials. Any reagent that shifts the equilibrium of reaction toward oxygen and away from hydrogen is called an oxidizing agent. Any reagent that shifts the equilibrium toward hydrogen and away from oxygen is called a reducing agent.

 

Early Soil Analysis

 

At first analytical chemists concerned with agriculture assayed the chemical components of plants, summing up their mineral contents. They then tested soils for these elements. Because plants generally release fine quantities of mild, organic acids at their roots chemists used dilute mild acids such as citric or acetic acid to test soils to see how much of each nutrient could be released. These tests were taken as measures of how much of various nutrients were available over the growing season. It was assumed that the entire amount of each nutrient required by the plant to reach harvest would have to be present at the time of planting or would have to be added during the growing season. This tragically flawed assumption took no notice of the use of oxygen by the soil micro-life to release nutrients over the growing season, and is still taught in many prestigious agricultural schools. The belief is that plants can only absorb water soluble nutrients, makes no allowance for plants absorbing complex protoplasmic or colloidal nutrients. Even stranger, little allowance is made for soil losses by leaching or volatilization, and in most cases the tie-up of nutrients in insoluble reserves completely ignores microbial activities.*  

Early on another peculiar belief took root, namely that the only acceptable way of establishing the necessity for a given nutrient in the soil was to exclude it from the plant environment and see if the plant could or could not grow without it. Since both silicon and oxygen were virtually impossible to exclude from plant environments they were not considered essential elements—even though all plants contain considerable quantities of both. Oxygen is the most abundant element in the earth’s crust and silicon is close behind. In fact, silica, which is SiO2, is estimated to make up 52% of the earth’s crust, and is also present as fine dust in the atmosphere. Both oxygen and silicon were impossible to exclude from plant environments. The absurdity of believing these two elements were not essential was most apparent with oxygen since it combines with all the minerals in the earth’s crust and is eight ninths of water by weight. Plants give off oxygen when they photosynthesize, so plants can never be deficient in oxygen. And yet, according to this belief both oxygen and silicon can be ignored as if neither have anything to do with plant vigor.

 

Oxygen and Tilth

 

Since the dawn of history farmers have used cultivation as a means of increasing the oxygenation of their soils. In modern times with tractor power degrading soil structure one must wonder how we can expect to maintain oxygen levels in soils. How does nature achieve soil oxygenation?

All soils with a history of abundant oxygenation, whether or not they are cultivated, enjoy rich soil structure, otherwise known as tilth. Mostly this boils down to the ratio of space between soil particles and the total volume, or the ‘interstice to volume ratio’ of the soil. In sands and gravels this is a simple matter of porosity due to large particle size, although the nutrient holding capacity known as the cation exchange capacity (CEC) will be low. In heavy clay soils the CEC can be quite high, but because clay particle size is so small porosity suffers if the particles pack tightly together. In fact, clay particles are often referred to as platelets because they are flat and thus they can stack more tightly with less air space than if they combine with organic compounds that make them more rounded. This means that many soils with high nutrient holding and releasing capacity have low tilth.

Tilth depends on soil organic matter, a rich and diverse soil foodweb and soil aggregation. Whether we are dealing with sand or clay soils, good tilth involves carbon that is available to micro-organisms and higher lifeforms as well as sufficient oxygen to make use of it. Soil microbes—including protozoa and higher soil animals—open up the soil and create a food web of soil islands or aggregates connected by an intricate maze of pathways between them. This turns a pottery grade clay into a crumbly sponge cake, or on the other hand holds sand and gravel soils together and improves their retention and release of nutrients.

In most cases the primary microbial players are archaea, fungi, bacteria, actinomycetes and protozoa. It also helps to have legumes—which bring oxygen down to their root tips and supply this all important nutrient to the soil food web. In wetland clays or mucks, as with rice culture, algae and aquatic plants like azolla take over from fungi and legumes as the primary suppliers of mineral complexes and the all-important oxygen.

The Role of Legumes

 

If we honestly wanted to understand the healthy natural processes that produce and maintain fertile soils we would not start with degraded soils and see what happens when we pump them up with bits of soluble nutrients. Instead we would study what goes on in undisturbed fertile soils such as tropical rain forests and native prairies or steppes. In both cases we find that soil fungi and actinomycetes, with their large requirement for oxygen, are the chief means of activating minerals and incorporating them into the soil’s biology. One of the first things to stand out if we do is the fact that fertility does not depend so much on solubility. Rather, it depends on activity, which means oxygen.

Most plants and bacteria release mild acids such as carbonic, acetic, lactic and citric, but legumes and fungi eat into the soil with powerful organic acids. This works on the lime organization of the soil, activating calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium, phosphorous, sulphur and trace elements.

Arguably the most fundamental biodynamic preparation is the horn manure or “500” remedy, which triggers the patterns for healthy soil development. These are the patterns that bring oxygen into the soil and wake up its lime activity. And, as quantum mechanics teaches us, patterns give rise to activity—if the pattern is present the phenomenon arises. Soil that is treated with BD 500 typically loosens up and oxidizes. In the process it comes alive with myriad bacteria and fungi that expand it and bring in air.

Compact soils are starved for oxygen, and legumes are a powerful means remediate this lack. Rudolf Steiner called legumes “the lungs of the soil.” Some suppose that must be because they draw nitrogen into the soil. But actually they release oxygen rich acids along their roots, releasing calcium and other minerals and uniting them carbohydrates and proteins, making them biological. Actually legumes do not fix nitrogen. Rather, they provide the mineral support for the microbes that do, and their follow on nitrogen effect is a result of the biological mineral reserves they build. Their primary function is to diffuse oxygen into the soil in order to wrest the lime complex away from the mineral realm. The Rhizobia that form nodules on legume roots use this biological lime for nitrogen fixation.

As an inert gas in the atmosphere nitrogen triple bonds with itself as one of the more intense chemical bonds in nature. Microorganisms with the molybdenum enzyme, nitrogenase, only teases open the first of nitrogen’s bonds and inserts carbon linked calcium into the breach. The remaining two nitrogen bonds open up like zippers at a drive-in movie, and nitrogen is seduced away from its love affair with itself.

 

Nature’s Wellsprings

 

In the mineral realm things disperse from higher concentration to lower concentration. But in the living realm life force flows from lower concentration to higher concentration. If this was not true there would be no living organisms. They would all run down, and as their energies dissipated they would die. But, as we know, living organisms have the remarkable ability to concentrate a stream of order on themselves.

To be sure, this is cyclic. Living organisms unfold or progress through conception, birth, childhood, adolescence, maturity, old age, senescence and death. Life is all about cyclic organization.

 

The Octave Rule

 

Also there is something known as the octave rule. Awareness of this in western culture goes back as least to Pythagoras. Eight is the number of cyclic return and going to the next level. There are seven notes in the musical scale with the octave being the return. There are seven colours in the visible spectrum with the eighth returning to the next level. There are seven elements in the first (chemical) row of the periodic table with the eighth being neon, an inert gas.

When we deal with the periodic table of the elements, it has eight primary groups or columes. The fundamental character of each group is revealed in its first representative, which has only one layer of electrons enshrouding its nucleus. Oxygen is at the top of the sixth column although it is the eighth element in the periodic table. Its most common isotope, oxygen16, has eight protons, eight neutrons and eight electrons. Thus oxygen is the dynamic recycler, the cleanser and returner. Where plants build up carbohydrate stores via photosynthesis, oxygen breaks these free of their rigidity and frees their components as carbon dioxide and water.

Since it is in the first (chemical) row of the periodic table oxygen is a universal element of great power and abundance. Oxygen’s sibling in the next (physical) row of the periodic table is sulfur. Sulfur is the catalyst in carbon chemistry, and it acts more as a lubricant than as a primary player. Oxygen’s sibling in the next (etheric) row is selenium. Selenium is an essential enzyme co-factor for reproductive processes. Selenium deficient cattle are famous for retained placenta and prolapsed uterus. Selenium deficiency in males leads to impotence. Selenium deficiency in general leads to cancer. All of which shows us things about oxygen’s role in life, growth and reproduction.

 

Transmutation

            Since the early twentieth century when Rutherford bombarded nitrogen14 with alpha particles (He4 nuclei) making oxygen17 plus a proton (H1 nuclei) (N14 + He4 → O17 + H1), chemists and physicists have had conclusive evidence that transmutation of elements occurs. A classic case is the creation of carbon14 by cosmic ray bombardment of nitrogen14 in the upper atmosphere. By assuming cosmic ray levels have always been the same, geologists and archeologists have used this as the basis of carbon dating of fossils and artifacts. In fact, it was discovered that deuterium (heavy hydrogen) and tritium (radioactive hydrogen) could be induced to fuse in a plasma somewhere around 100 million degrees Kelvin.* This is the stuff of thermonuclear explosions and weapons of mass destruction, although unlike GMOs thermonuclear devices don’t reproduce themselves. But billions—perhaps trillions—of dollars have been spent on this research, which shows where priorities presently lie. It also shows that transmutation occurs.

            Throughout the twentieth century most well-known transmutations amounted to penetrating the electron shroud of the atomic nucleus by blasting through. But it seems living organisms have to fit the key in the lock and enter through the door, as they can’t blast through the walls. Louis Kervran was a French investigator who developed a passion for investigating biological transmutation after running exhaustive experiments to determine the source of carbon monoxide, which caused deaths of welders working in a closed space. What he found was molecules of nitrogen gas, composed of two atoms of nitrogen (2N14 = N28) became so excited in contact with red hot iron that they transmuted to molecules of carbon monoxide [C12O16] in the welders’ lungs. This set him on a trail of investigation that ended up mapping dozens of transmutations in nature where living organisms fit their keys in the locks and opened doorways that permitted biological transmutation. He found that oxygen, along with hydrogen, was one of the two most important elements in biological transmutations, which has tremendous implications for low budget agriculture.

 

Carrier of the Ether

 

Oxygen internalizes organization just as carbon internalizes form and nitrogen internalizes awareness. The English word for the element that epitomizes this is quaintly symbolic, as the ‘O’ symbolizes origin or something out of nothingness, while the ‘X’ symbolizes corporeality. Organization is fundamental to life—organic, organize, organelle, organ, organism, orgy, orgasm. Dynamic oxygen, the big “O” at the cross “X” roads, is the primary agency in this organization. For example it is only where calcium meets oxygen that it becomes activated as lime, or where silicon meets oxygen that it becomes enlivened as silica, and so forth. In the earth’s biological economy, hydrogen combines with oxygen to form water; plants release oxygen as they combine carbon dioxide and water to make sugars; animals require oxygen to free carbon of its rigidity and move, as carbon is the be-er while oxygen is the do-er.

Without oxygen there would be no life as we know it, as there would be no activity. With the help of the sun, plants release oxygen into the atmosphere. Thus plants, along with the sun, are primary agencies of earthly life. The organization that oxygen embodies can be called the ether, or the life force. Dr. Phil Callahan’s theory of the importance of paramagnetism (mild magnetism) is based on the fact that oxygen, at 3449 centimetres grams/second (cgs) is the most paramagnetic element in the periodic table. Of course, this ether that oxygen carries is dynamic and is wedded to the compounds it is associated with, particularly the oxygen part. This leads to the question of what is ether?

 

Elements and Ethers

 

For over a hundred years there was debate about the term ‘ether’, as there is no fixed ether field that objects move through as was believed in physics during the early and mid-nineteenth century. In 1887 when Michelson and Morley’s experiments disproved the idea of a fixed etheric field, physicists took this as proof there was no ether whatsoever, and the term fell from use. Rudolf Steiner was one of the few that unwaveringly called the organizational aspect of energy, where energy flowed from lower to higher concentration, the ether. The realization has since dawned in physics that anything and everything has an organizational field associated with it. Oxygen, it turns out, epitomizes this in the most dynamic way, and thus can be said to carry the ether.

When we consider what used to be called the elements—fire, air, water and earth—we now call these the states of matter, or the radiant, gaseous, liquid and solid states. But where organization is involved there still is value in thinking of these as fire, air, water and earth. Each of these classical elements has a periodic table element that best characterizes it. Sulphur is associated with fire, nitrogen with air, hydrogen with water and carbon with earth. Each of these elements combines with oxygen to produce the warmth, light, chemical and life ethers that characterize it. Which is to say there is no warmth in sulphur/fire until it combines with oxygen. The light we see in the air/nitrogen is produced in combination with oxygen. The chemistry in water depends on hydrogen in combination with oxygen. And the carbon based life in the soil is animated by combining with oxygen. Oxygen truly is the carrier of the ether.

 



* pH is defined as the inverse log of the hydrogen ion concentration in water. At neutral where acidity and alkalinity are balanced the hydrogen ion (H3O+) concentration is one part in ten million or 1/107, or 1 over 10 with seven zeros. If the pH goes down to 6 this is one part in one million. At five it is one part in one hundred thousand, etc. Corresponding to this, the hydroxyl ion (OH־) concentration decreases as the hydrogen increases and vice versa.

* There is also the assumption that the atomic structure of all elements in the growing environment is immutable. This was disproven early in the twentieth century with the discovery of transmutation by radioactive decay and cosmic ray bombardment, which yielded many useful analytical tools such as radioactive dating. However, the assumption that transmutation does not occur still widely persists. Interestingly, U.S. military research in the late twentieth century established significant pathways of biological transmutation in soils, which should have dispelled any notions that biological transmutation was impossible, but such notions die hard. There is an additional debate about spontaneous coalescence, such as the formation of hydrogen in outer space. There is widespread disbelief in spontaneous coalescence in agricultural schools, but the truth is we simply do not know how widespread transmutation and spontaneous coalescence may be in biological environments. Perhaps of all scientific disciplines the debate against prejudice and assumption is stormiest in soil science.

* The Kelvin scale is named after Lord Kelvin, the nineteenth century physicist who found there was a temperature where matter would theoretically come to rest and cease vibrating. This was -273ºC, a temperature closely approached though never achieved by experiment. The Kelvin scale, used in physics research, starts at this absolute zero with the melting point of water being 273ºC and the boiling point of water being 373ºC.

 

Compost Explained

Composting Explained©

 

By Hugh Lovel

 

On a recent trip to Japan where I visited several organic farms as well as a golf course I noted that no matter how good their other practices none were composting well enough. All omitted clay from their compost mixtures. The same is commonly true on organic farms elsewhere, though I know of cases—most of them biodynamic operations—in Europe, India, the USA, Australia and New Zealand where composting is excellent.

My research shows that organic farming pioneer, Sir Albert Howard, (1873-1947), advocated soil, a good source of clay, as part of his compost mix. In my own case, one of the oldest and most experienced compost makers I’ve known is Fletcher Sims, who started composting on the Texas High Plains shortly after World War II—in which this pint sized Texan was a B-17 tail gunner in the old Army Air Corps. One of the secrets of excellent compost Fletcher shared with me was the incorporation of somewhere in the vicinity of 10% clay, either as soil or as rock powders that would make good clays. Fletcher also used compost inoculants either made with biodynamic preparations or using microbes derived from biodynamic preparations. And he developed world class compost turning machinery for aeration and moisture control.

 

Background

 

I realize most growers think of compost as a means of recycling nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium (NPK) and they tend to measure compost quality in terms of its NPK analysis—which would be diluted if clay were added. Since organic agriculture was a reaction against the simple minded abuses of chemical agriculture, it adopted a natural and far more complex approach to the NPK mind-set, nevertheless retaining the belief that soluble N, P and K were essential to robust growth and high production. The difference was they replaced the miracle grow mentality—that the soil was there to hold the plant up and nutrients should be supplied in soluble form—with the use of crop rotations, lime, gypsum and other rock dusts along with microbial inoculants, composts, trace minerals, and organic carbon concentrates such as kelp, fulvic and humic acids.

On the other hand, Brazilian soil scientist, Ana Primavesi, pointed out in her brilliant rebuttal of the NPK mindset—which she called the Nutrient Quantity Concept or NQC—that basic agricultural research went awry back in the mid nineteenth century by analysing plants for their chemical components and then analysing poorly performing soils to determine their deficiencies, which then could be addressed with soluble inputs. She suggested we should all along have examined thriving untouched natural soils, such as found in rain forest or grassland ecosystems, in order to determine what goes on in a naturally thriving soil. Interestingly these soils often show up on soluble soil analyses as being deficient in soluble N, P or K even though total soil analysis using strong acids shows these elements present in what are thought to be unavailable forms. Thus she argued a new approach—which she termed the Nutrient Access Concept or NAC—was required. The question she asked is what is so different about thriving natural ecosystems versus farmed soils?

 

NPK vs. Micro-organisms

 

The first thing that comes to mind is the tremendous diversity of species, and as far as the soil is concerned this boils down to extremely diverse, high populations of micro-organisms in the soil—fed, of course, by the recycling of vegetative matter from above. The most immediate way this occurs is from the nightly cycling of a wide array of carbon compounds by root exudation from a diversity of plant species, each feeding a different community of micro-organisms in its root zone. Of course, mono-cropping defeats this since large plantings of single species causes microbial diversity to crash, which is why multi-cropping and multi-species cover cropping are sorely needed. Diversity of crop species, however, is a topic for another day.

What comes to light out of all this is that composts should be thought of as a means of restoring micro-organism diversity to soils. In other words, composts are micro-organism inputs, not NPK inputs. The well-known soil microbiologist, Dr. Elaine Ingham, has been arguing this for years, and has set up laboratories in a number of countries for testing the levels and diversity of micro-organisms in soils and composts. And since truly good compost is such a rarity she has popularized the concept of compost tea brewing, which—when done successfully—can brew high populations of diverse soil microbes to be applied in liquid form repeatedly throughout a crop cycle for a fraction of the cost of applying mediocre composts at high enough rates to assure the numbers and diversity for sufficient release of a full array of nutrients.

Time after time it has been shown that repeated applications of well-brewed compost teas can shift the availability of nutrients in soils as long as these nutrients were present in the total test—or in the case of nitrogen if the right mix of nutrients is present for nitrogen fixation and microbial release. Aside from equipment design and microbial food source issues, the difficulty usually is finding a reliably robust and diverse starter culture for successful compost tea brewing. Essentially one must start with a good compost culture.

 

Where This Leads

 

Let’s step back a moment and review. Although organic farmers often think of composts as NPK inputs, composts should really be thought of as soil micro-organism boosters. Unfortunately, most composts are rather mediocre at doing this, although there are good ones which often enough are biodynamic. Why do biodynamic composts sometimes hit the bull’s eye? Is it just due to the biodynamic preparations? From my 30+ years experience with biodynamics I’d have to say no. Biodynamic preparations may help considerably, but I believe the real reason is that biodynamic growers have a greater tendency to understand that lime and silica stand at the poles of the mineral kingdom while clay mediates between the two. Remember, all the most successful compost makers—whether biodynamic or not—use some form of clay to make compost. Most biodynamic compost workshop leaders I’ve known emphasize the importance of clay in composting. Otherwise lime and silica do not have enough middle ground where interaction between these two polarities can occur. This seriously limits both the mineral and the microbial activity of the compost pile and tends to ensure the compost goes off toward one or the other extreme.

 

Biochemical Sequence

 

            Let’s look at this from the viewpoint of the biochemical sequence in plants, since this is also the basic requirement for good soil microbial activity. Clay, by definition, is aluminium silicate—which means that clay is the soil’s silica reservoir. But because aluminium doesn’t turn loose of silica all that readily, nature boosts silica release with a trace of boron—which is chemically akin to aluminium but far more reactive.

[Aluminium silicates come in a wide variety of forms from the simple Al2Si2O5∙OH4 of kaolin (the basis for porcelain) to a much more complex montmorillonite such as (Na,Ca)0.33(Al,Mg)2Si4O10(OH)2∙nH2O as would be found in rich black cracking soils with a cation exchange capacity of over 50.]

As far as plants are concerned silicon is the mineral basis for cell walls and connective tissues. Thus silicon provides containment and transport for all sap nutrients and protoplasm. In other words boron provides sap pressure and silicon provides the transport and containment system. Now we can we consider calcium, which American farm guru Gary Zimmer calls the trucker of all minerals. He’s right, of course, but let’s not forget that calcium trucks down a silicon highway. Calcium, assisted by molybdenum, is the basis of nitrogen fixation and amino acid chemistry. Nitrogen, allied with calcium in the form of amino acids, reacts with every other nutrient element, the most important being magnesium, which is the basis for chlorophyll and photosynthesis. Chlorophyll traps energy and shunts it via phosphorous into carbon structures, which go where potassium, the main electrolyte, carries them.

Thus the biochemical sequence for plants is B, Si, Ca, N, Mg, P, C, K. If, in making compost, we focus on N, P and K we leave out the beginning of this sequence. If we refuse to dilute the NPK content of our compost by adding clay we will make poverty compost that never gets its biochemistry rolling with B, Si and Ca. Thus the micro-organism content will not be up to the task of eating into the soil and fixing nitrogen—which tends to escape during the composting process.

When we look at compost as a micro-organism booster for digesting the soil so that sap pressure, transport, nitrogen fixation, photosynthesis and growth occur and our plants have plenty of root exudates to keep ramping up the microbial activity around their roots—then we need to put about 10% rich clay in our compost. This breeds high populations of the micro-organisms that eat soil. By putting clay—or a rock powder that makes a good clay—in our compost we can breed soil eating microbes in abundance.

            Fletcher Sims reckons that 2 to 3 tons per acre (5 to 7.5 tonnes per hectare) of this sort of well-made compost should be sufficient to boost the microbial activity of a decent soil enough for a robust crop of corn or potatoes—even though we are talking mono-crop farming. Contrast this with 10 to 20 tons per acre (25 to 50 tonnes per hectare) of mediocre compost being barely adequate—a five to one difference in application rates.

            The rest of the story can be worked out—keeping the pile aerated and moist, getting carbon to nitrogen ratios somewhere between 15 and 30 to 1, supplying major and minor nutrients to meet specific soil needs in appropriate forms and amounts, and using biodynamic preparations and/or compost inoculants. But understanding the importance of clay as the appropriate medium for culturing the micro-organisms most needed in turning soil into plant food can take a little more understanding than currently prevails—since this is non-existent in the NPK school of agriculture.

 

Some Pointers

 

            If the larger size earthworms are lacking in your piles, keep in mind that earthworms don’t have teeth, they have gizzards and they need grit. If your soil is lacking in grit, try freshly crushed rock powders that contain some coarser particles. An earthworm’s digestive tract is one of the best microbial culture vessels in the soil, and earthworms spread micro-organisms around pretty well, so it pays to give them what they need. Moreover, if your compost heap is too dry for earthworms, it’s too dry for the micro-organisms you need in your soil. Once earthworm activity slows down your compost is ready to spread, which makes them good indicators. Another indicator animal is ants. When they produce that formic acid smell that seems fresher than lemon they are doing their job of clearing toxicity from your compost.

 

ILLUSTRATIONS:

Japan compost

 

 

 

This picture was taken at a model organic farm in Japan, but there was no clay in the compost. The concrete pad and covered sheds were necessary because of high rainfall, which is not usually a problem in Australia, but of course, it kept clay from getting into the compost.

Biochemical Sequence 3_1

In many ways the diversity and management of this farm was admirable, but the emphasis of nitrogen over silica due to the lack of clay in the compost shows in this patch of aquatic weeds in the rice. This particular weed can be symbiotic with rice, as it was where I saw it last year on a Japanese biodynamic farm. There growth was subdued, and its leaves were small, narrow and quite pointed—a sure sign of high silica in the soil.

grass

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

buckwheat field

This scene, taken behind the composting shed, shows a paddock freshly sown in buckwheat—so called because it often takes only 8 weeks from planting to harvest and can follow wheat. Buckwheat rushes to flower by its third week, showing a particularly close relationship with phosphorous—as its roots host phosphorous solubilizing bacteria. This can be very helpful since wheat removes soluble phosphorous from the soil. Attention to good crop rotations was one of the admirable features of this farm. Also note the border areas with their lush diversity of species. The Japanese countryside can be spectacularly beautiful.

 

tolgacompost2

Here we see the turning of a small compost pile in Tolga, FNQ. The field broadcaster in the foreground (sometimes called a biodynamic tower) broadcasts the archetypal patterns of all the biodynamic preparations into the ethers around the clock and around the seasons. Biodynamic preparations are organizational in their action, and organization is the basis of life. Contrary to the belief of some, this is an organizational (etheric) device rather than a disorganizational device hooked up to the electric mains.

 

 

197

Here is adding a little fresh green matter from the garden to an otherwise slow pile.

 

 

 

 

 

 

compost water

Moisture is maintained by watering each layer as the compost is turned.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, the finished pile, the tools used and a pile of finished compost that filtered through the pitchfork as the pile was turned. Tolga has heavy red clays so leached of their calcium that the magnesium left behind makes them 

tolgacomposthigh (1)extremely sticky when wet. Two years of gardening with the addition of soft rock phosphate, gypsum, boron humates and cover crops of maize with soybeans has changed this situation dramatically. The rich chocolate colour of the finished compost shows how the clay has absorbed the digested organic matter forming clay/humus complexes which are ideal for rich microbial diversity. The finished compost between the wheelbarrow and the stack will go on two beds being replanted, while the vegetation ripped out will return to the compost site with quite a bit of clay still sticking to its roots. The fresh material will be incorporated into a newly turned pile in thin layers.

Homemade Fertilizers

Home Made Fertiliser: Part Two

Author: 

Hugh Lovel

Category: 

BiodynamicsFarmingSoil

Humified Compost and Compost Extract

Misunderstandings about compost abound. Many imagine that composts are simply broken down organic matter that is ready to be taken up by plants. All too often composters seek to simply digest a mix of wood wastes, plant matter, manures and protein rich processing wastes with little or no concern for producing an insoluble but available end product. They may test the end product for soluble N, P and K using the assumption that higher soluble analysis is better. Unfortunately such composts feed rampant bacterial flushes.

 

 

“Prediction is difficult, especially the future.” —Niels Bohr

 

Part One of this two part series examines getting nitrogen in our food so that it not only sustains but elevates our consciousness. Raising consciousness depends on photosynthesis to build high levels of soil carbon that support biological nitrogen fixation and release. On the other hand, industrially produced nitrogen, which is far more wasteful of resources, produces a reckless, selfish consciousness that is alienated from nature.

Well integrated, high energy biological systems draw in nitrogen in forms that support clarity, refinement and integrity of consciousness. This includes supporting the role nitrogen plays in telepathy, clairvoyance and telekinesis. Establishing such systems requires fine tuning fertility, soil balance and cropping to build sufficient carbon into the soil for nitrogen fixation. When the food we grow develops an inspiring savouriness we know we are on the right track.

Artificial fertilisers, synthetic nitrogen and monocropping do the opposite, depleting soil carbon to feed a crude, selfish consciousness that fails to consider the greater good. Food grown with this sort of nitrogen input leaves a lot to be desired in terms of taste and smell. What can we do to improve the food we eat so it contains the forces necessary to bridge the gap from what we think to what we actually do? Using fertilisers we can make at home along with insights into growing quality food, our noses and tongues will tell us when we get nitrogen right.

We cannot rely on the food for sale in supermarkets, hotels and restaurants to get nitrogen in food in forms that facilitate the psychic clarity and integrity of consciousness. For the most part we have to grow our own or find growers who know what they are doing. However, in an uncertain world where food distribution is increasingly subject to interruption, growing our own food may be the cheapest and best nutritional insurance anyway.

In terms of getting nitrogen right we can start with making a liquid fertility booster derived from earthworm compost that feeds the microbial dynamics surrounding plant roots to deliver complex living nitrogen to food plants. From there, we need to understand how plants grow so they slap us in the face with their quality. Not all soils or crops need the same things, and not all home made fertilisers are appropriate across the board.

What Is The Point?

Where materialism assumes that our existence just happened, those who believe in a higher reality seek inspiration, enlightenment and greater realization of who and what we are and will be. Surely there is a path to a more highly informed, integrated and energised existence, but to walk our talk in the world of substance requires high level physical energy. To a significant degree, our force of personality or strength of character must come from the food we eat and the air we breathe, complimented by the guidance of our souls. In fact, from the viewpoint of materialism such force can only come from the things—including warmth and light—that we take in as nourishment to our body.

Let us be mindful of this as we explore the hypothesis that the amino acid chemistry of nitrogen provides the basis for genetic memory, awareness, sensation, desire and intelligence. Building a bridge between thought and action depends on quality nitrogen chemistry, as nitrogen is so versatile in accepting electrons that it reacts with the full spectrum of minerals in our body from silicon to calcium.

Lime and Silica

On the one hand the lime polarity is associated with muscles, bones, cell nuclei and DNA—where DNA’s four amino acids are all ring compounds. On the other hand, the silica polarity is associated with skin, hair, nails, transport vessels and cell walls where the three sulphur containing amino acids are found. Studies using photo multiplier techniques show the amino acids at this silica polarity emit and absorbs photons at the rate of billions per second in a process called biophotonic luminescence. It is thought that this siliceous luminescence is what unites our cells and coordinates their activity as a single organism despite the wide variation in genetic expressions.[1]

Looking at bodily organisation as a dynamic interplay of photons, it seems we are luminous beings holding together our various silica, nitrogen and lime activities via biophotonic luminescence. From another viewpoint we are carbon based life forms filled largely with water which contains a smattering of silica, nitrogen, lime and trace elements.  

The Biochemical Sequence

Studying plants and their life processes reveals there is a hierarchy of what has to function before the next thing and the next thing can work properly. First of all, sulphur is the catalyst for life processes to connect with the chemistry of carbon.[2] Thus it is no surprise that our sulphur containing amino acids are found in our cell walls, connective tissues and transport vessels where amorphous fluid silica works via biophotonic luminescence with nitrogen, carbon and water.

          Once life inspires carbon plants reveal a biochemical sequence which starts with boron. Boron doesn’t rest easy in silica rich cell walls and transport vessels, as all it takes is a trace of boron to create enough sap pressure to transport nutrients—starting with calcium and amino acids—to the sites where cell division and growth occur.

Then, since growth requires energy, magnesium comes into play in the formation of chlorophyll, whereupon phosphorus transfers the energy captured by photosynthesis into making sugars. Sugars are then transported via silicon to wherever potassium, the electrolyte messenger, carries them.[3] By understanding this biochemical sequence we can address deficiencies and imbalances in both soil and plants so we grow refined, complex, value packed food.

Potassium Silicate Watering Solution

Though the biochemical sequence makes their importance clear, boron and silicon have long ranked as the least understood essentials in modern agriculture. In our tertiary schools silicon is not even considered essential, and it has been ignored for more than a century. Boron, though it is known to be essential, is also poorly understood. Yet everything that follows this pair depends on their activity, which makes the following watering solution a key input. Use it with vermiwash as a mainstay in any fertility program whether it be for home gardens, market gardens, orchards, vineyards, flowers or herb production. It would even make lawns more resilient to weather, insects and diseases while smelling cleaner and having more of a shine.

An Australian recipe uses the dried foliage of Australian she oaks[4] or bull oaks[5], while In North America and Europe horsetail[6] is often preferred. In either case one burns a large quantity of high silica plant matter to ash and collects the ash. The ash of any silica rich plant material will do, as for example, rice hulls (not the bran) are brilliant and even bamboo ash will do. Mill ash from burning sugar cane bagasse is available at some sugar mills in vast bulk at industrial prices and is rich in both potassium and silica.

On a home garden scale, simmer 2 or 3 kilos of high silica ash along with half a cup of solubor or boric acid in 15 litres of water while stirring for at least 30 minutes, If high quality ash is hard to obtain it may help to add a kilo of diatomaceous earth. Too much boron can cause burning in plants, so take care with measuring this.

After simmering while stirring for 30 minutes, allow the mixture to cool enough to safely strain and filter the lye-like solution. While still warm, add a heaping tablespoon of biodynamic horn clay and potentize homoeopathically[7] for at least three minutes.

In general potassium silicate/boron solution should be watered in. If it is used as a foliar, keep in mind that boron provides sap pressure, which works from the soil up to get silica and all the other nutrients that follow into the plant. If boron is applied as a foliar it still must get to the roots before it becomes fully effective.

The Importance of Silicon

Ordinarily boron and silica enter plants via their symbiosis with actinomycetes and mycorrhizal fungi. These are silica polarity organisms that are delicate and easily damaged by soluble NPK fertilisers. However, vermiwash and potassium silicate watering solution feed and strengthen these microbial symbiotes. This greatly increases nutrient uptake, especially for boron, silicon, calcium, amino acid nitrogen and zinc.[8]

Since the commonest deficiency seen in both agriculture and human nutrition is silica, this liquid fertiliser is import to ensure strong cell walls and transport vessels so plants are efficient and resilient. Since silica has a lot to do with photosynthesis, this also assures efficient photosynthesis and protoplasmic density while making plants tastier. Taste and the digestive/nutritive processes related to it play a central role in the nitrogen cycle. Using this fertiliser on garden vegetation, which over time gets recycled as compost and vermiwash, can be a big help with engaging nitrogen.

Application Rates

Combine potassium silicate with vermiwash at a rate of 250 mls of potassium silicate per litre of vermiwash. Dilute this concentrate at least half and half with water (more dilute is better) and apply to the soil in garden, orchard or vineyard as needed.

Like everything, this formula can be overdone, so it may be best to limit applications to a litre of dilute solution per fortnight per plant with pumpkins, squash, sweet corn, cukes, zukes, capsicums, okra or anything else with a tendency to get too lush, weak, bug bitten or diseased.[9] For tomatoes if they are especially lush the proportion of potassium silicate to vermiwash can be doubled or quadrupled. If organic certification is a concern keep in mind that these ingredients are all natural materials except solubor or boric acid, which are permissible in most organic certification programs due to widespread boron deficiencies in most cultivated soils.

At the end of the day there will be considerable residual ash which should be recycled as a resource. It can be blended back into compost/vermiwash production or incorporated into solid fertiliser blends such as humified composts and scattered on grain, pasture or hay paddocks.

Sulphur

Some fertilisers apply in nearly all cases, while others should be used only as needed. In working out prescriptions based on soil tests, sulphur comes first as the catalyst for life chemistry. Depending on time and place, sulphur falls freely with the rain, but that does not necessarily mean that soils and plants won’t be hungry for it. Of course, a small amount of sulphur is present in humates and vermiwash, and applying these tends to assure sulphur sticks around and is biologically available. But if soil tests indicate a sulphur deficiency it would be a good idea to apply it.

On the other hand sulphur may be present, at least in total tests, and all that needs boosting is the sulphur process. As this works on the leaf margins of plants, it works more strongly in plants with deeply incised and highly ramified leaves. The herbal biodynamic preparations, particularly the yarrow, emphasize this sulphur process, and homoeopathic application imparts process rather than substance.

Depending on the location and condition of the soil, sulphur applications[10] deserve careful consideration. Herbs with finely cut leaves—such as some lupines, thistles and umbellifers—concentrate and organize sulphur, and these plants can be harvested and composted for a sulphur rich vermiwash which can help to improve the sulphur process where needed. Sulphur, along with potassium, silicon and zinc, prepares the way for life to launch its interplay with substance at the edges and boundaries where organization arises. The more extensive and interactive these boundaries are the more abundantly they give rise to life—which is where syntropy[11] and entropy meet.

Bone Meal or Bone Ash

After sulphur the next thing to look at is phosphorous. As mentioned earlier, phosphorous is important for energy storage and release. Phosphorous is the energy transfer element for both storing energy as sugars in the foliage and releasing energy from sugary root exudates in the soil. Since one of the most energy intensive processes that occur in the soil is nitrogen fixation, it is small wonder that many nitrogen fixing microbes also solubilize phosphorous in order to ensure they have enough available energy to fix nitrogen.

In terms of nitrogen and consciousness, the human brain is rich in phosphorous which is engaged in producing silicic acid in extremely fine dilution so it can flow down nerve fibres to tense muscles. Calcium and magnesium, along with the electrolytes potassium and sodium, are essential for the muscles to relax again, and for this to occur phosphorous once again releases energy in the muscles. Muscle spasms where muscles seize and cannot relax usually is a phosphorous problem, and the same biodynamic preparation herb used for switching on the phosphorous process in the soil—valerian—is noted for its relief of cramps and muscle spasms in herbal medicine.

The occurrence of a red wine colour in petioles and leaf tips is an indication of insufficient available phosphorous, but seeing this symptom does not tell us how much P is actually in the soil or what should happen to make it available if it is present—hence the need for total tests (aka an aqua regia analysis) in soil diagnosis. Particularly on pastures soluble phosphorous may be only a few ppm (parts per million), while an aqua regia (total) digest may reveal a thousand ppm or more. Since it takes life to release insoluble phosphates, plants may need a bit of soluble phosphorous to start releasing the energy bound up in carbon compounds in order to ramp up soil microbial activity that can release more reserve phosphorous.

Of the major nutrients, phosphorous best shows the need for both soluble and total (aqua regia) tests to see what is actually there. If phosphorous is plentiful in soil reserves we only need to prime the pump with a small amount of soluble phosphorous along with a microbial food source—such as vermiwash and/or molasses—in order to start unlocking the reserves. Only when phosphorous is missing should it be added in bulk; and once phosphorous is working biological nitrogen fixation and potassium release tends to function smoothly.

Here is where either bone meal or home made bone ash extract can provide sufficient soluble phosphorous to prime the pump so that phosphorous reserves are released. Bone meal may be available from large animal processors who steam clean bones and grind them up to sell as a dry product. Otherwise fresh bones from local slaughter or road kill can be cleaned up via composting and then burned and crushed as bone ash.

Waste bones, including heads, may be available in quantities from abattoirs or processing facilities, and it may be more economical on a large scale to grind them up with a stump grinder or wood chipper and incorporate them into compost windrows instead of burning them. Sometimes knackers process carcasses by cooking the meat off them and then processing the bones. In whatever the fashion bones are obtained it is a good idea to clean the flesh off them prior to burning to avoid waste and objectionable odours.

Verily, bones should never be wasted, and phosphorous fertiliser production as part of a self-sufficient operation may require burning them. Gardeners may find they can process left over bones through their wood heaters. In general, burned bones may come from almost any source, and some will burn more easily than others. Burnt bones can be crushed into powder and extracted with vinegar or other organic acids using moderate heat to yield soluble phosphates for liquid applications, and if a little elemental sulphur is needed, the vinegar stage is a good place to add it as a small percentage of the total dry matter.

This crude phosphoric extract is useful diluted and combined with the vermiwash and a homeopathic dose of biodynamic valerian preparation to jump start the phosphorous process. Residual bone ash can be added to composts up to about 8 or 10% of the total raw materials, or it can be dried and scattered thinly under fruit trees and flowering shrubs.

Liquid Digest Fish

This deserves mention if fish frames, scales and related wastes are available. Grinding up fish wastes and letting them ferment in water can yield an end product with an excellent balance between lime, silica and phosphorous with enough nitrogen to jump start nitrogen fixation in the soil. However, this tends to be quite smelly, especially in the early stages of digestion.

Humified Compost and Compost Extract

Misunderstandings about compost abound. Many imagine that composts are simply broken down organic matter that is ready to be taken up by plants. All too often composters seek to simply digest a mix of wood wastes, plant matter, manures and protein rich processing wastes with little or no concern for producing an insoluble but available end product. They may test the end product for soluble N, P and K using the assumption that higher soluble analysis is better. Unfortunately such composts feed rampant bacterial flushes that grow better weeds than crops and pollute streams and groundwater with run off and leaching. If soluble N is high these products often reek of ammonia and volatile amines.

In nature composting tends to be is far wiser where materials are more scattered and have good contact with soil. Beneficial soil microbes gather up loose nutrients and tuck them away in high molecular weight clay/humus complexes like bees gather nectar and store honey. Actinomycetes and mycorrhizal fungi in particular store loose nutrients this way so they only become available to newly planted crops when root emergence and root exudation occur.

Often what we think of as weeds are nature’s back-up team to sop up loose nutrients when humification has not occurred. We can observe this loose nutrient condition in the first three or four weeks after ploughing down a green manure crop. Initially the bacterial breakdown of vegetation runs rampant, nutrients are released and if we plant before the humus builders take over we get a field of weeds that overwhelms whatever we planted.

In composting large piles or windrows, the breakdown phase runs rampant at first, producing plenty of simple sugars, amino acids and soluble salts. However, this sets the stage for organisms which clean up this heady brew, toning down the nutrients to non-toxic levels and quelling bacterial activity while storing large organic clay/humus complexes that tie up amino acids and minerals so they are insoluble but available. It is these large, stable compounds—available to crop beneficial microbes—which provide the most beneficial forms of boron, silicon, calcium, nitrogen, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, zinc, etc.

Most soils have remnants of these beneficial microbes that can be awakened using a proper food source—humified compost. It doesn’t take much to nurse theses remnants back, and awakening them primes the pump for further humus formation as root exudates feed the soil. At some point re-enlivened soils can become self-fertile and self sustaining with diversified cropping and abundant carbon capture.

In the near term liquid extracts of humified composts can be of especial benefit to boost this recovery when used as liquid injects on top of seed at planting. Often in broadacre and pasture renovation, liquid inject formulas based on compost extracts can be the most economical way of feeding this all-important microbial population where it does the most good—on new roots as they emerge. In garden and small farm applications this is essentially what is accomplished with vermiwash, and such liquid formulas can be sprayed on stunted areas in pasture and broadacre paddocks.

Large Scale Humic and Fulvic Extracts

Sometimes when we are dealing with grazing or broadacre acreages where the scale is too large to address needs with on-farm composting it can be useful in the short term to buy in humates in the form of activated brown coal solids or humic and fulvic extracts. In general these inputs are excellent in rebuilding soil microbial life so the soils become self-sustaining. While these are a compromise with self-sufficiency they can be especially helpful when they incorporate necessary nutrient deficiencies, which are best determined by testing both soluble and total soil nutrients. In this fashion progress toward self-sufficiency can be made. After all, inputs that get us off the treadmill of future inputs are what we are looking for, no matter the scale of our operations.

Sea Minerals and ORMEs

         Unless one lives on the ocean sea minerals may have to be bought in rather than being produced locally. Sea minerals are a by-product of salt evaporation due to the fact supermarket buyers overwhelmingly prefer free running salt. As a result, most evaporators market the first precipitate, sodium chloride,[12] which leaves a pot liquor that is dense and almost oily. Only fully evaporated (aka macrobiotic) sea salt contains the fully array of minerals in sea water. Sea minerals are a waste product that usually can be obtained in bulk at reasonable prices. At rates from 1 to 5 litres per hectare per year, this bounty of the sea should never be wasted as it contains a well-balanced blend of almost every element in the periodic table. Moreover, it will contain ORMEs.

          Orbitally Rearranged Mono-atomic Elements (ORMEs) occur when large numbers of atoms of various elements align their electron orbitals so they resonate as though they were single atoms, thus becoming superconductors and virtually weightless as well as virtually undetectable. Atomic physics has only begun to shed light on this ancient mystery in the last couple of decades even though allusions to these substances and their seemingly magical properties can be traced back into ancient Egypt and Suma.

It is now evident that many of the puzzling features of plants and animals clearly mimic the quantum behaviours of single atoms even though they are thought to involve huge collections of molecules. For example, how can photons impact a concentration of a billion or more chlorophyll molecules in a leaf and have the photons simultaneously go down all the pathways available to transfer their energy into making sugar, thus achieving virtual 100% efficiency? How can a solution of zinc sulphate be detected at the tip of a very tall tree almost the instant it is poured on the soil at the tree’s roots? Living organisms exhibit on a gross level behaviours once thought to exist only at the level of atomic particles. If large collections of atoms can re-arrange their electrons so they all resonate in perfect alignment—as the evidence suggests—then theoretically they can behave as single atoms no matter how many atoms they once may have been made of individually. We see this sort of behaviour with helium when we chill it close enough to absolute zero that all the electrons simultaneously share the same base state, but recent research indicates a similar phenomenon can occur with elements as complex as gold, platinum and iridium. Furthermore there are indications that sea water is ORME rich and ORME extracts can be obtained by raising the pH of sea water to 10.78 using sodium or potassium hydroxide.[13] This results in a dense, white precipitate which can be separated from the original solution and used in agriculture with results that may seem startling, especially with leguminous crops such as lucerne and soybeans. Small quantities of ORMEs, on the order of 1 gm/hectare, are recommended per application with the understanding that this is something experimental.

Calcium Nitrate and Molasses

Lastly, here is another formula that requires buying ingredients in the short term to achieve long term goals. This is useful when planting in areas where tall, woody annual weeds, such as thistles, amaranths, ambrosias, etc. sprout prolifically. These weeds indicate soil imbalances of too much soluble potassium as compared to the available calcium. Shifting the equilibrium to favour calcium encourages clovers and other calcium/protein rich weeds such as daisies or nettles to take the place of the thistles and amaranths. This can be done when sowing—or even after weed emergence if conditions are dry—by boom spraying 2-5 kg of calcium nitrate along with 10-15 litres of molasses dissolved in 400 litres or more of water per hectare. A hectare is 10,000 square metres, so calculate your area and adjust the recipe accordingly. This amounts to a homeopathic dosage  of approximately 3x potency, as this is barely enough calcium nitrate to flick a stick at. Yet the dynamic tends to shift beautifully and shut down the weeds.

Many organic certification programs do not allow the use of calcium nitrate, and at the conventional rates of 75 to 250 kg/ha this extremely salty fertiliser is far too harsh. However, most organic programs allow a wide variety of trace minerals to be added at considerable dilution in their soluble salt forms as long as soil and leaf tests indicate they are deficient, and it could be argued that this very dilute dosage falls safely within that range. Such light dilution will not harm the soil biology and merely adjusts the calcium/potassium balance so favourable species are encouraged and undesirable ones are discouraged.

Where We Stand

Lest we forget, modern society is fundamentally agrarian. Without agriculture modern society would not exist. Those things that are amiss in our culture, such as crime, disease and environmental destruction, have their roots in agricultural practices that stem from an oppositional rather than a cooperative view of nature—as though we had to wrest a living from the soil in some sort of a war with weather, pests, weeds, diseases and faltering fertility. The kill mentality to solving problems illustrated by the Biblical story of Cain and Abel is just as seductive and unwise today as ever.

          The wisdom of the ages teaches understanding as the path to forgiveness and forgiveness as the path to perfection. The emergence of Chaos Theory and the discovery of the Butterfly Effect in the latter part of the 20th century illustrates that even the tiniest of changes in a dynamic system, such as human society, can have profound consequences downstream. This realization displaced the Kant/La Place cosmology, which assumed that only the evidence of our senses was real and the course of the universe was pre-determined.

As humans we are aware of our own awareness as well as our options, and thus we take a hand in becoming more than what we currently are. In other words, we have free choice and our choices matter—something to keep in mind on the path to being, doing, having and knowing higher consciousness.

 


[1] Epigenetics is the study of the influences of our surroundings on the expression of our genetic code.

[2] Chemists call carbon chemistry ‘organic’ chemistry even when it involves poisons such as dioxins or DDT. Nevertheless, carbon is basic to life chemistry, as we are all carbon based life forms even though not all carbon compounds are alive. For example, heat and pressure are catalysts that cause reactions between carbon, hydrogen and oxygen; but the CH4 and CO2 produced are nevertheless lifeless. It isn’t until sulphur interacts with carbon that life is imparted to carbon chemistry.

[3] This biochemical sequence of sulphur, boron, silicon, calcium, nitrogen, magnesium, phosphorous, carbon and potassium is the basis of plant growth.

[4] (Casuarina equisetifolia, C. cunninghamiana, etc.).

[5] (Allocasuarina luehmannii, A. torulosa, etc.).

[6] (Equisetum arvense, E. hyemale etc.).

[7] This refers to rhythmic shaking (aka succussion) or stirring (potentization) where the creation of a series of alternating left and right vortexes are involved.

[8] Caution: When using this formula in foliar applications, it may be appropriate to dilute the boron tenfold. Used sparingly in foliar and fertigation programs this combination considerably strengthens the silica containment and transport features of everything in the market garden, orchard, vineyard or nursery.

[9] Be careful about overusing this formula. Even on high organic matter soils, which greatly buffer the effects, eight or ten times in a growing season should be ample. A rule of thumb in agriculture is that if a little bit is good a little bit less more frequently is better.

[10] The most common sulphur containing fertiliser is calcium sulphate, otherwise known as gypsum.

[11] Syntropy is where available energy accumulates instead of dispersing as occurs with entropy. For more than a century it was fashionable to believe that all heat driven systems invariably ran down. Entropy was enshrined in what was called ‘The Second Law of Thermodynamics’. However, living organisms quite obviously both accumulate and disperse available energy. Thus they concentrate a stream of order on themselves and grow, even while running down. Only at death does entropy rule.

[12] At 90% evaporation most of the sodium chloride precipitates and the remaining pot liquor contains all the other elements in solution in the sea. Many of the functions of these elements are unknown, even though such elements as fluorine and caesium, which are abundant in sea water, are promising subjects for research. It is this pot liquor that is referred to as sea minerals. Although beneficial results are often easily seen, the mechanisms at work are too complex to be clear.

[13] A large amount of information on this subject can be found by googling ORMEs and Barry Carter.

 

H

Growing and Breeding Superior Corn and Maize

Corn Breeding: Another Perspective

Hugh Lovel

Originally published in BIODYNAMICS 233, January/February, 2001

I found Walter Goldstein’s article on corn breeding (in BIODYNAMICS 232) at Michael Fields Institute to be a model of vision, dedication and precision. This is a field of endeavor that for much too long has gone in the direction of removing seed saving from farmers’ hands, making them dependent on things entirely beyond their control. I have the utmost respect for Walter, and this is yet another instance that justifies my estimation. 
    I say this because I don’t want folks to think I’m critical in presenting a different perspective on corn breeding. Walter is breeding corns for large farmers, while what I’m breeding is for small CSA market gardeners. Not only are our aims quite different, but so are the resources at our disposal. Of course, as a market gardener with cows, chickens and sometimes pigs, I am working with corn not only for market but for feed. My sweet corn, popcorn and cornmeal corns primarily are for humans, but the seconds as well as some of the stalks go to the animals, providing a significant portion of their diet. Moreover, the stalks are a major food source for earthworms, and I grow corn as a soil improvement crop. More on that later. 
    Because my location is in the mountains of North Georgia, I enjoy a longer, warmer season than at Michael Fields. But I also have the shortest season in Georgia, spanning a mere five frost-free months. The coldest temperature I’ve recorded here is -22 degrees F, which means I have a rather intermediate situation. Given these conditions, I can develop varieties with a wide range of characteristics that can be used by CSA and market gardeners throughout the continent as a genetic base from which to select strains uniquely suited to their individual farms. In short, I breed for diversity. Hugh's corn (1) Hugh Lovel corn breeding program    I ought to mention a few things about my growing practices. Here in Georgia we have warm temperatures and plenty of moisture so our soils digest rapidly and require a lot of replenishment. In my market garden I use a forty inch wide spading machine to produce beds while leaving a thirty-five inch wide path between them that the tractor rides on. These walking/driving strips are kept in permanent grass and clover cover. By mowing them in the growing season I provide a lot of earthworm fodder while the corn or other vegetables are young. The clippings get digested in place as long as earthworm populations are high. So the earthworms have a balanced diet I interplant soybeans down the middles between the corn rows. Since I plant the large seeded Vinton 81S which make a great edible green soybean that sells for high prices, where the beans flourish I can pick a money crop. The beans never compete with the corn and if anything enhance its growth while suppressing weeds. And since I’m keeping my earthworm populations high in summer with the lawnmower clippings, when I mow and spade in my corn stalks there are plenty of earthworms to ensure their digestion. This allows me to plant my fall/winter spinach/garlic crop behind my early sweet corns without any compost, just tillage. 
    The application of biodynamic preparations makes a huge difference in how my corn grows. I’m planting with a Cole “no-till” planters using the smallest corn plates I’ve got on everything except the popcorn. However, the corns I’m working with, even the flint cornmeals, are small seeded so I get an average distribution in the row of about six or seven corn plants in two feet of row. For conventional methods that may be too much, though it is what my equipment does. I compensate somewhat by wider row spacing and my plant population per acre is probably in the same range as Walter’s. 
    I’ve been getting very good results without using any fertilizers, because with the preparation 500 I’ve got a good soil food web, and with the 501 I take a quantum leap in photosynthesis. This is standard biodynamic practice, but I add to it with the use of horn clay. Horn clay stimulates transport within the stem – and corn has a killer stalk. The abundant sugars created in the leaf go to the roots and are exuded into the soil feeding the mycorhyzae, azotobacters, and so forth. 

corn2 (3) Brace roots exude sugars

These in turn provide the plants with the best possible nutrition. This is especially true for nitrogen. If I put my nitrogen on as compost, some of this oxidizes into nitrates or reduces into ammonia before the corn soaks it up, rendering the corn somewhat salty and watery, though not as much so as with chemical fertilizer. Salts and water in the corn protoplasm makes field corn hard to dry down and encourages insect damage. However, if the corn as it grows feeds sugars to the microorganisms that fix nitrogen, the corn gets its nitrogen as amino acids which it turns directly into protein. Just as the corn matures it is getting abundant amino acids. Then I get corn of the highest quality while getting high yields. Reincorporating my crop residues allows earthworms to do the composting without me hauling anything to or from my barnyard. 
    As a market gardener with limited land and relatively unpredictable help, my resources, especially labor, are thin, as they are with many market gardeners. If things are to get done they must involve inspiration, or – for lack of a better word – fun. For me it is not great fun to conduct the sorts of patient, methodical assessment of individual plants as at Michael Fields, even though I greatly admire Walter’s work. Nevertheless, nature points out the successful individuals in any given corn population, and I watch for these. When evaluating a promising line of breeding, flavor is my best assessment. As chemical analysis goes, flavor is a very integrated and sophisticated method. My orange flint, which has fourteen years of breeding history, makes the best tasting cornmeal of any I know. A lab analysis would be interesting, but its rich, nutty flavor alone lets you know it is high protein. 
    Corn breeding is particularly interesting. On any given ear the genetic contribution from the mother plant is the same for every kernel. It is this genetic simplicity that allowed Barbara McClintock to win a Nobel Prize in 1987 for proving corn mutated every generation. For open-pollinated corn this means saving a minimum of two hundred ears to ensure a stable, reliable breed. Currently I only fulfill this requirement with my orange flint cornmeal, which I’ve bred for fourteen years. All my other corns are breeding experiments that I don’t guarantee as stable. However, I’m growing two kinds of sweet corn, one early and one late; three flint cornmeals, one multicolored hominy dent, and three popcorns. I’m particularly interested in developing a popcorn that is as robust as an ordinary tall flint while still having the small ultra-dense kernels that pop well. 
    I think, however, that a lot more attention should be paid to Barbara McClintock’s discovery that corn mutates with every generation. To be sure, it doesn’t turn into tomatoes. It stays pretty much the same kind of corn over the generations, but it does mutate. Every time. This is another case where what Dr. Steiner said in 1924 has proven true:

We usually think of the seed, from which the embryo develops, as having an extremely complicated molecular structure, and we set great store in being able to understand it in all its complexity. We imagine molecules as having certain definite structures, simpler in the simple ones and getting ever more complicated until we come to the incredibly complicated structure of a protein molecule. We stand there in wonder and astonishment in front of what we imagine to be the complex structure of the seed’s protein. We’re sure it has to be terribly complicated, because, after all, a new organism has to grow out of it. We assume that a whole new complicated organism is already inherent in the plant embryo in the seed, and that therefore this microscopic or submicroscopic substance must also be incredibly complicated in its structure. To a certain extent this is true at first. When earthly protein is being built up, the molecular structure is indeed raised to the highest degree of complexity. But a new organism could never, never develop out of this complicated structure. That is not how a new organism comes about. 1

    Steiner goes on to describe how the new plant arises out of the influences of the whole surrounding universe, and the parent plant only endows it with a tendency, “. . . through its affinity for a particular cosmic setting, to bring the seed into relationship with the forces from the proper directions, so that what emerges from a dandelion is a dandelion and not a barberry.” This is something Luther Burbank surely must have known and used to advantage many times in bringing new varieties into being. 
    What I’m trying to do is breed good starting material for market gardeners who save their own seed. Maybe I can save them ten or fifteen years by supplying a good genetically diverse sweet corn, popcorn or cornmeal corn that responds well to the biodynamic preparations (including horn clay) and has such diverse characteristics that market gardeners from Mexico to Canada can then develop their own breeds uniquely adapted to their locales. 
    Keeping in mind that each new generation arises out of the influences of the whole surrounding universe, and that the forces of the periphery influence the genetics more so than the other way around, I hope market gardeners will look to saving their own seed – not just to save money but to develop breeds adapted to their local conditions. When one thinks of all the heirloom varieties that are being lost right and left one has to wonder where they came from in the first place. It makes sense that they came from folks saving their own seeds on a small scale and conserving beneficial mutations when they arose.

corn_stalks_0

Note 
1) Rudolf Steiner, Agriculture: Spiritual Foundations for the Renewal of Agriculture, trans. Gardner and Creeger (Kimberton: Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association, 1993), 34-35.

Hugh Lovel, author of the book A Biodynamic Farm, is a biodynamic farmer, teacher, scientist and inventor

 

 

 

High Brix in Vegetables

 

High Brix in Veggies Getting brix high in veggies is usually a challenge due to low silicon and high nitrates. This can be where biodynamics comes to the rescue with oak bark and equisetum. Add these to EM and you reverse nitrification in the soil and improve photosynthesis.  We tend to think we have to feed veggie crops abundantly to get good yield. So we mix in compost and proteinaceous materials and they are distributed throughout the root zone. What happens if the amino acids oxidize? The plant takes up nitrate. It can’t avoid it, but it has nitrate reductase enzyme in the leaves to convert the nitrates to amino acids again. So everything is okay, right? Not exactly. First, nitrate has a salt index of 100, so it is practically a magnet for water. In the plant’s protoplasm it waters down chlorophyll to where there is only about a billion chlorophyll molecules per chloroplast instead of maxing out around 1.5 billion. So it impairs photosynthesis and the plant expands its cells and leaves stretching the silica in its cell walls and connective tissues thin. Second, it takes a lot of energy to resurrect nitrate into the amino phase–somewhere in the vicinity of 10 units of sugar per unit of nitrate. So the sugars are used up in the leaf before they go anywhere. The result is the plant does not develop nitrogen fixation in the soil around its roots because there’s not enough root exudation to support it. The whole cycle is hard to break out of as long as the proteinaceous material in the soil keeps breaking down and the plant keeps taking up nitrate. Something has to happen to arrest nitrification in the soil and concentrate the soil’s digestive activity in the root zone of the plant. The oak bark does this, and I always used my radionic instrument and the oak bark and horsetail cards at 30c in my EM brews. EM brews scavenge nitrate in the soil and their anti-oxidant effects make silica more soluble. The long term solution is to hold back on mixing nitrogenous material into the soil. Apply them at the surface and let the soil animal life cycle them down into the soil. The little critters will tend to excrete them around plant roots. Also, you can brew compost teas rich in nitrogen fixers by using a bit of soy flour as a feed in a compost tea–maybe 1 pound per hundred gallons. I’d also ensure a trace of molybdenum was working–generally I put this in my field broadcaster at 30c, but you could put a pinch of sodium molybdate on the Prue plate and set it at 423 for 30C and have that pattern in your EM too. Be very careful with moly because if you get too much it robs copper of its ability to transfer electrons from tri-phosphate to di-phosphate and then phosphorous doesn’t work and all sorts of other problems result. Moly is used as an alloy in mining tools because it won’t let the steel spark, you know. There must be something analogous going on with it’s ability to open up nitrogen gas and and get it to react with hydrogen.  carrot farm Carrot Farm

True Excellence in Growing Food

 

True Excellence in Growing Food

By Hugh Lovel

Obtaining true excellence relates to the way nitrogen works within each farm. This can be complex and sophisticated or crude and rude. Nitrogen is the essence of protein chemistry, which is what gives us the character and flavour of what we grow. Each farm has its unique protein signature, especially when it generates all its own nitrogen inputs. The wine industry calls this terroir as it comes from the earth. It is the key to protoplasmic density and nutrition. However, few farms today are consciously run with this in mind, and few people think about maximizing sophisticated nitrogen and minimizing the crude and rude stuff. Nevertheless the benefits implicit in robust nitrogen self-sufficiency—production cost, market share, profitability, nutritional excellence and social evolution—are enormous.

 

Vibrant Personality

 

Kicking things off may require inputs from off the farm, but these should be thought of as medicine rather than fertiliser. Growers already addicted to nitrogen fertilisers need to adopt this line of thinking so they wean themselves from buying nitrogen. After all, who wants to keep paying the bill? The key to quality is getting the soil biology really cooking and keeping it cooking with the most minimal outside inputs. There are roughly 1.5 tons of nitrogen over every square foot of soil, and it makes no sense to ignore this abundance.

The chemistry of plants parallels the chemistry of our bodies. Both are carbon based life forms. While plants harvest energy and build carbon chemistry, animals digest and transform this harvest. In the process both depend on the nitrogen in DNA and RNA for memory and sensitivity. Maximum in-place nitrogen fixation requires abundant energy, which plants supply. Animals, particularly protozoa, digest nitrogen fixers and supply amino acids so chlorophyll and haemoglobin can build chloroplasts and red blood cells. This complex plant/animal symbiosis suffers whenever it is short-circuited.

 Our amino acids are supplied by digestion—which is hugely dependent on symbiotic microbes living in a synergistic relationship with us. Vibrant health depends on generating blood in our own bone marrow, while blood transfusions are purely a stop-gap measure. Similarly, nitrogen in plants is provided at the cellular level by endophytes, which live in between plant cells, as well as symbiotes. For example, we may talk about plants fixing nitrogen, but the actual fixation and digestion comes from endophytes and symbiotes that plants share their energy with. If we treat the farm—no matter how large or small—as its own entity this accumulation of energy means life force and farm vitality.

 

How Plants Grow

 

Chemical agriculture tries to feed the plant directly, while the soil is there simply to hold the plant up. This amounts to hydroponics on a weekly or monthly schedule instead of a daily or hourly timetable and it ignores the importance of the soil foodweb.

At first glance the chemical method seems simple and easy, but it is guaranteed to achieve less than optimum quality even when it delivers quantity. Soluble inputs use up humus and nutrient reserves while they take the soil foodweb on a rollercoaster ride between excess and shortage. Chemical fertilisers amount to the residual waste of the microbial network that releases minerals, fixes nitrogen and stores insoluble but available nutrients in humus. The result is soil depletion when we meant to encourage an optimum response. Our rule of thumb should be to feed the soil foodweb so it feeds the plant. This far surpasses anything we can do either chemically or mechanically, and it is wasteful and unjustifiable not to feed and maintain this complex biological system.

The principle components of protoplasm are hydrogen, oxygen, carbon, nitrogen and sulphur while minerals such as silicon, calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium and traces make up only a few per cent. Carbon—which stores energy—enters into plants from the atmosphere while nitrogen—which provides awareness and coherence—enters from the soil. This carbon/nitrogen duality means plants depend on a dynamic interplay between what goes on above with what goes on below. Humus provides a reservoir that acts as a biological flywheel that stores momentum.  The more we build it, the better the soil foodweb nourishes the plant, and the more ably the plant grows and feeds carbohydrates to the soil foodweb.

 

 

 

Soil Biology and Vitality

 

Nitrogen, which is inert in the atmosphere, is basically restless and elusive. It is most content when sharing its beauty, cleverness and sensitivity with itself. Nitrogen fixing microbes require abundant energy to seduce it away from this narcissism and engage it with hydrogen, oxygen, carbon and sulphur to form proteins and mineral links. But unless nitrogen is in use, or stored in clay/humus complexes, it goes to waste by volatilizing or leaching. Waste nitrogen suppresses nitrogen fixation, and growers who think they must use nitrogen will find  using it requires more use.

Feeding crude nitrogen to the soil foodweb along with humic acids or clay/humus complexes is the safest way to tie it up as amino acids and minimize its effect on crop complexity, flavour and vitality. From there high production growers should watch closely, leaf testing every three or four weeks, to phase these nitrogen inputs out. The goal is to encourage thriving fixation and protozoal digestion so there is always an abundance of freshly digested amino acids to build the farm’s terroir. Since this is a complex and delicate process, we need to know how to enhance it.

 

Boundaries

 

Life builds up on boundaries and surfaces, both in the plant and in the soil. The greater the habitat, the greater the diversity—which ramps up the synergy where ten plus ten becomes a hundred or more. Sulphur containing amino acids play a key role in this boundary process even though they are not especially plentiful. Sulphur also has an intimate relationship with the transition metals essential for enzymes and hormones, which makes it the premier catalyst of life chemistry. As the ignition key to growth sulphur deficiency holds back all other biological processes. This led Rudolf Steiner (1861 – 1925), a biochemist way ahead of his time, to group sulphur with hydrogen, oxygen, carbon and nitrogen as essential for life.

 

Biochemical Sequence

 

Beyond sulphur, the minerals plants need from soils have a certain hierarchy of importance. One thing must work before anything that depends on it can. The earlier deficiencies occur in this sequence the more everything else is affected. For example, silicon provides the capillary action that allows plants to draw water and nutrients from the soil. All biological transport vessels—to say nothing of cell walls and connective tissues—are rich in silicon. Silicon is most stable when it forms four chemical bonds. However, boron, which loves to react with silicon, can only form three bonds. This leaves silicon unsatisfied and seeking a fourth electron partnership. It only takes a small amount of boron to make silicon thirsty for water and electrolytes—which means boron is the key to sap pressure. Without it silicon cannot take up water and nutrients from the soil.

Of course, both boron and silicon are essential for plants to take up other nutrients such as calcium and amino acids. Without adequate boron and silicon, the protein chemistry and enzyme activity of the plant—particularly chlorophyll and photosynthesis—will suffer.

Furthermore, phosphorous is essential for all energy transfers in both soil and plants, from soaking up energy via chlorophyll, to microbes breaking down soil carbon for energy. Because phosphorus transfers energy, it energizes the complex processes in soil and plant chemistry. It is essential for utilizing iron, copper, zinc, manganese, cobalt, molybdenum and traces of lesser significance. Even though energy first enters via photosynthesis, phosphorous and the various trace elements play a huge role in the soil foodweb in providing nourishment for crops from root emergence onward.

Lastly, potassium, the electrolyte, is responsible for all the electronic communication and movement processes going on in the plant starting with nutrient flow and the opening and closing of doorways in cell walls.

Understandably NPK fertilisation, which breaks down organic matter and disrupts the soil foodweb, works in the short term because it solubilizes reserves, but in the long term it peters out and loses effectiveness as reserves are depleted. This ignores the biochemical sequence as well as the relationship of micronutrients with sulphur and phosphorous. The truth is NPK fertilisers destroy soil biology and ignore the biochemical sequence, as N, P and K are not of primary importance.

 

Soil Biology

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It shouldn’t need emphasis, but nitrogen fixation depends on soil biology. It requires abundant energy as well as the availability of calcium and certain trace elements. The abundance of energy is determined by the efficiency of photosynthesis, which  depends on sap pressure and amino acid rather than salt nitrogen uptake from the soil. Sap pressure depends on microbial symbiosis to access boron and silicon at crop roots. Probably the most important microbes in this regard are the Actinomycetes, which are the source of many antibiotics and are responsible for the clean smell of healthy soil. By forming a fine fuzz growing outward from young roots, they build as well as provide access to the nutrients in clay/humus colloids. Often they live as endophytes within crop tissues and may be found in their seeds. Because they work at the beginning of the biochemical sequence to break down clay/humus structures and release boron and silicon, the Actinomycetes and mycorrhizal fungi, provide optimum plant nutrition. In return this ensures plentiful root exudation in the active root zone and an excellent habitat for nitrogen fixing microbes and other microbial symbiotes, which again provides optimum plant nutrition. This activity can be seen as soil adhesion around plant roots and a delicate, dense, finely branched root development. This never occurs with heavy applications of soluble NPK fertilisers as they create salty conditions that inhibit both Actinomycetes and mycorrhizal fungi.

 

More of the Story

 

Although the Biochemical Sequence can help to determine the key deficiencies when soils do not perform, in living soils everything happens in an integrated way. Above ground phosphorous follows magnesium, but in the soil foodweb phosphorous is the key to energy availability. Soil microbes need phosphorous to release energy from the carbohydrates crop seeds give off as they sprout. Thus most planting formulas include phosphorous and its co-factor trace elements to get seeds and their symbiotes off to a good start.

However, if the soil reserves of phosphorous and its co-factors are depleted, the Actinomycetes and mycorrhizal fungi will struggle instead of providing access to nutrient reserves.

 

Compost

 

Lest we forget, the rule of thumb is to feed the soil foodweb and let it feed the plant. This is best done with humified compost, although the term ‘humified’ deserves explanation.

Many people imagine that composting is a process of breaking down organic materials until somehow they stabilize. This is over-simplified and poorly informed. If breakdown of organic materials was all that occurred the result would be carbon dioxide, methane, ammonia and residual mineral salts and oxides. Cellulose, for example, is a long chain polymer of glucose, a simple sugar. If all it did was break it down the resulting glucose would be used up. However, beneficial fungi and Actinomycetes build up large humic acid molecules much like bees store honey in the comb. All sorts of amino acids and minerals are tied up in humus formation, and the clay/humus complexes that result are so stable that bacteria cannot break them down. Protozoa and higher animals may release their nutrients, but in a healthy soil foodweb the mycorrhizae and Actinomycetes that stored them have primary access. This provides insoluble but available nutrition, as they are so stable they may last for decades or even centuries. Most soil tests do not reveal what’s there in humus rich soils without a total aqua regia digest.

The fungi and Actinomycetes that build humic complexes grow particularly well on clay surfaces, so making humified compost requires some sort of clay or soil dispersed throughout the materials being composted. The resulting humified compost makes a perfect medium to restore key—often missing—micro-nutrients and rebuild the soil foodweb. Even at six hundred pounds per acre, such compost can be spiked with five pounds of borax or solubor per ton, ten pounds per ton of copper, zinc and manganese sulphates, one pound of cobalt sulphate and a gallon of sea minerals to feed the foodweb of a senescent soil and restore it to robust interaction with crops. Incidentally, sea minerals are the dense, almost oily pot liquor left over after the evaporative extraction of sodium chloride from sea water. This contains every element in sea water and can round out the picture with traces like selenium, molybdenum, fluorine and ORMEs (Orbitally Rearranged Monoatomic Elements). Compost of this sort also makes a good microbial feedstock to combine with applications of gypsum, rock phosphate, lime, basalt or granite dusts. Without feeding these inputs to the soil biology via compost, soluble inputs at five times this dosage may miss the mark and wash away.

 

The Keys to Success

 

Syntropy is a process where order arises out of chaos and energy accumulates at boundaries. Chaos theory shows that infinitesimal changes at the borders of chaos can effect large scale changes in a medium. The richer soils are in surface area and internal order the more strongly they draw a syntropic energy stream to themselves.  The boundaries inherent in the surfaces and patterns of soil particles are where microbial life arises. As islands of order amidst an ocean of chaos, living organisms depend on syntropy to grow and multiply. Carbon particles are particularly rich in internal order, and carbon based life forms provide a dynamic dimension to this order, as life begets more life.

Synergy is where two or more organisms working together generate a greater joint product than their products taken separately and added together. Synergy shows us that the greater the diversity and interaction between living organisms the more we can expect ten plus ten to equal a hundred or a thousand. When we take syntropy and synergy seriously the self-sufficiency of kissing nitrogen inputs good-bye is achievable—even while we harvest and sell eight or ten per cent of our total annual biomass production.

Food of true excellence and sophistication supports the development of human potential so we produce art, music and poetry of incredible beauty and poignancy and perform seeming miracles. Clairvoyance, telepathy, healing at a distance or accessing the akashic record need not be rare if we nourish our children so they have the physical capacity to develop their abilities more fully than we, with our dietary handicaps, have managed. As a by-product I believe we will reclaim the Sahara Desert, but first we must reclaim the deserts in both our souls and our bodies.

In nature there are many master plants and animals, and by isolating these and growing them as mono-crops modern agriculture has done a few things. By themselves grains, fruits, vegetables, fibres, even bees, cows, and earthworms are impressive, but we really don’t know what is possible until we integrate them into a concert of life. If we work like members of a vast symphony orchestra to achieve true excellence in food, the progress we make may amaze us.

 

How We Get Our Nitrogen

 

At birth we each have a unique nitrogen signature stamped upon the assembly of our proteins and the replication of our DNA. We digest proteins into amino acids and re-assemble them according to our individual DNA patterns. Our protein chemistry has our singular identity stamped upon it. Everyone is a bit different, and our immune systems maintain this personal integrity.

The same is true of a farm or even a suburban garden. It develops its own nitrogen character. Its nitrogen fixing microbes take in nitrogen from the atmosphere and build proteins according to that location’s unique stamp. All the animals at that location eat, digest and transform this into their unique organisations. The soil microbes and plants that recycle these animals’ digestive products get an even more enhanced nitrogen organization. As the terroir builds, its plants and animals, and ultimately the people that eat them, take the enhancement of nitrogen round after round higher. When we bring in artificial nitrogen fertilisers we water this down significantly.

Even manures, humates and other biological fertilisers brought in from off the farm or garden have to be integrated into its identity. Instead of getting nitrogen from elsewhere, we want to produce crops within each farm or garden’s nitrogen cycle. This makes the most out of biological enhancement. On any given property the more we increase the density and variety of plants and animals and build self-sufficiency, the more we ensure its depth of character. If we keep this in mind, we will achieve true excellence.

Eden is far too shrouded in our past to see from present vantages. Nor can we return. But, having experienced the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and savoured its bitter lessons, we stand on the threshold of creating future Edens.

 

 

 

Boron’s Role in Silica Uptake

Dear Andrew,

 

To the best of my knowledge, chemists and ag scientists doing research on the mechanism of boron’s working in plants has been few. It has been widely observed, discussed and research that boron is necessary for the uptake of calcium. I myself spent 30 years figuring out how boron worked, and I believe the problem has been obscured by the famous disregard of, or lack of interest in, silicon. This trend started with Liebig’s rule that to prove an element essential it must be excluded from the growing medium, and this has proven impossible with silicon. Thus by Liebig’s rule silicon has been ignored as non-essential. As far back as 1924, when Rudolf Steiner gave his Agriculture Course, the biodynamic movement has identified silicon as one of the two most important elements in the chemistry of plants and animals. Steiner was a chemist by training, and one of the most forward thinking of his time. But because he was far more famous for his teaching of the science of the invisible—i.e. spiritual science—his contributions to agricultural and medicinal chemistry have tended to be ignored.
Change has been slow, but silicon has increasingly been ‘coming out of the closet’ lately. One of the best agricultural biochemists of our times, Horst Marschner, discusses the role of silicon, the nature of its essentiality and its interactions with boron on pages 417-422 in his maximum opus, Mineral Nutrition of Higher Plants, first published in 1995. Marschner points out the deposition of silicic acid (as well as silica’s sibling, germanic acid) and traces of boric acid in the cell walls and linings of xylem cells, but even though he acknowledges the interaction of these acids on ortho diphenols, he considers these silicic and boric acid complexes inert. In short the mechanism by which boron works to provide calcium uptake is poorly understood.

 

From my own studies over 30 years of research in actual farming situations involving over 100 cultivars of more than 40 kinds of fruits and vegetables I found that with grasses, particularly, ginger, turmeric, sweet corn, maize and sorghum, that demand for boron was lower than in broadleaf plants such as clover, alfalfa (lucerne), garden beans, soybeans, potatoes, tomatoes, pecans, apples, stone fruits, etc. Over the course of several years, starting with the initial advice from my local coop agronomist that legumes would fail to nodulate on my soil (B = 0.2 ppm) without a 5 lb./acre supplement of borax (which I applied and got beautiful nodulation in clover and soybean covers, I investigated the mechanism of boron’s working over the following 30+ years. Boron certainly was not directly involved in nitrogen fixation, so why was it essential for effective nodulation? And why did legumes like clover and soybeans require 5 times the levels of grasses such as maize? One of the clues was that nitrogen fixation is a VERY energy intensive process, requiring at least 10 units of sugar for every unit of amino acid produced. Another was that leguminous crops such as lucerne and beans, peanuts, etc., to say nothing of potatoes, and brassicas in general, were obviously hollow stemmed when lacking in boron, but with sufficient boron the stems were solid. All manner of visual signs showed improvement in water uptake with solid stems—lack of wilting in noon day sun being one of the most obvious. Other signs, in other vegetables clearly pointed to boron’s involvement in sap flow. Boron deficient sweet corn and maize would not fill cobs, strawberry hearts were hollow, citrus (where sap flow moved down the central pithy core to the stylar end and then filters back in a network of capillaries under the skin to fill out the fruit) would be insufficiently juicy toward the stem end, pecans had similar problems with shrivelled butts, potatoes developed hollow heart, tomatoes suffered from blossom end rot, and, of course, legumes failed to receive enough energy in nodules, fed by sap from the phloem carrying the photosynthetic products needed for nitrogen fixation.

 

While continuing my research in the tropics it soon was apparent that bananas set more hands of fruit with higher boron levels. And when available mono and polysilicic acids increased bananas were both more productive and sweeter, but this also depended on increasing boron availability along with the extra available silicon. In instances where only diatomaceous earth was applied without supplemental boron there was little change. However, one of the most dramatic occurrences was with mangoes. Nutri-Tech Solutions had spent years selling products based on the relationship between humic acids and boron uptake and had developed a dry granulated product called humate stabilized boron. This was water soluble, could be applied via fertigation, but could also be applied via fertiliser box or broadcast. I lectured in 2004 in Atherton concerning my Biochemical Sequence and mentioned this product as a boron supplement to be applied at a rate of 25 kg/ha. A mango grower from Georgetown picked up on this relationship of boron and 25 kg/ha but failed to associate the humate bit. Not knowing that Nutri-Tech’s product was only 3% actual boron, he applied solubor at 25 kg/ha—roughly a 7 fold overdose. He was in a panic by the time his conundrum was conveyed to me. The bark on his trees was splitting and cracks were opening in his fruit. I advised him to quick, visit the (not yet in commercial production) diatomaceous earth mine in nearby Mt. Garnet and get a tipper truck of diatomaceous earth fines and spread them about 5 mm deep under his trees and irrigate as much of this into the soil as possible, and he did this immediately. To his immense relief the cracks closed up in both the bark and fruits and he saved his crop. The next year he had the best mango crop in memory.

 

The reasoning behind this was from observation there was a relationship between the ratio of boron to silicon in providing sap pressure and the observation of how charge affects chromatographic analysis and separation of compounds, as for example, in column chromatography where ion exchange resins affect rates of flow of various compounds. Silicon has four bonding electrons while boron has only three. Thus when boric acids intersperse  with silicic acids in the lining of xylem tissues where upward transport takes place via capillary action, a higher ratio of borates increases the concentration of unpaired electrons and thus there is greater attraction for water and electrolytes. If the concentration of borates is too high this can be remedied by increasing the concentration of silicates, and thus shifting the ratio of borates to silicates back to lower values. This hypothesis is further supported by the reverse case where in calcium saturated  soils with high pH there is a tendency at low boron to silicon ratios to not generate enough ionic attraction in the xylem to transport calcium laden fluids upward, resulting in swelling of the roots, which is alleviated by addition of borates rather than silicates to the soil solution.

 

As a scientist I’m a bit outside the fraternity as I hold no formal degrees, nor do I rely on others to do fundamental research before I consider a hypothesis such as the above. I need only make practical observations and test the hypotheses that arise in a variety of practical circumstances. To the mainstream fraternity of pedigreed science professionals this verges on anathema. They put in long years gaining accreditation and degrees to bolster the credibility of their work. I, on the other hand, find this approach as confining as a straitjacket and wasteful of my precious time. I’ve spent even longer years gaining practical experience, and have as deep or a deeper background and training in the minutiae of observation. (Dad was a keen observer and one hell of a poker player, and I spent a lot of time with him growing up.)

 

I believe that there has always been a lowgrade undercurrent of scientific interest in silica. Dr John (Sara, Sura, Sulu? something like that) who taught at Virginia Tech back in the mid ‘80s was keen on the study of silica and lectured on the topic at our Georgia Organic Growers’ Association convention in ’86. But I fear he was a little too much outside the square to gain tenure and lost his teaching position. I don’t know what he is doing now. The Safer’s soap rep who also delivered a talk at that ’86 convention confided in me that he always added soluble potassium silicate to his product formulations (organic insecticidal soaps) because it was the silica that made the skins of fruits and veggies strong and shiny and unappetizing for insects. Even back in the late 70’s the university of Missouri did a study of maize where those plants without corn ear worm damage analysed 6-8% higher in silicon than the field averages.

 

But as for boron’s role in the silica uptake of nutrients via the lining of capillary structures in the xylem, I wish you luck in finding references in the scientific literature if my credentials don’t satisfy. My investigations of boron’s role span 35+ years, so I don’t rely on the depth of scientific literature on this one. But I know and can unerringly  fix a dairy paddock where the clover isn’t producing effective nodulation because boron levels show up on the soil test at 0.3 or 0.5 ppm (despite 1 or 2 ppm molybdenum). My local coop agronomist in Blairsville, Georgia had it right back in 1976 that clover or soybeans wouldn’t nodulate effectively without 1 ppm B. I asked him and he didn’t know why back then, thus setting me a puzzle I spent the next 30 years sorting out—a great mystery and a satisfying discovery.

 

Best wishes,

Hugh Lovel

Boron’s role in sap uptake

I realize Marschner doesn’t make the role of boron very clear. I refer to Marschner’s second edition on silicon, pages 417 – 426. Marschner classifies silicon as ‘beneficial’ rather than essential. Boron he considers essential, pages 379 – 396. Although he acknowledges their close similarity, he doesn’t make the connection I do. And Marschner is, I reckon, the best of the lot as far as academia is concerned. For instance he does make a connection between manganese and silicon, which I reckon is a very important connection, (p. 423).

 

Unfortunately an over-reliance on such tools as gas chromatographic/mass spectroscopy tends to miss some of the broader connections in nature. We get a snapshot at a point in time and it fails to reveal the processes that are going on.

For example, I work directly with farmers who farm on a commercial scale. I was lecturing in Atherton, QLD Australia and remarked the appropriate way to apply boron was with humic acid because humic acid was food for the microbial species that took up boron and silicon. I mentioned applying a rate of 25 kg/ha boron stabilised humate granules. These are 3% B. A mango farmer in the audience made a note, 25 kg/ha boron. I got an emergency call while in the states from a colleague in Queensland saying the farmer–who we both knew–had applied 25 kg/ha solubor (disodium octaborate tetrahydrate which is nearly 21% B) and the bark is splitting on his trees and his fruit is starting to split open. What can he do? I knew the farmer had a tipper truck and bobcat, so I recommended he go to a diatomaceous earth deposit in the not too distant vicinity (90 km) and load up his truck with DE and crush and spread it like he was frosting a cake (about 1 cm thick) and water it in. He did this and the fissures in his bark and fruit closed up. He saved his trees and his crop.

 

My reasoning was that boron embeds itself in the capillary linings of the cellular transport system in the xylem, and if the ratio of boron to silicon was too high and the sap flow too great, the remedy would be more silicon to correct the ratio. The next year this farmer came in to our depot in the industrial park near Atherton and gave us all a case of mangos because he was picking the best crop he’d ever grown.

 

This sort of macro rather than micro evidence is often dismissed as anecdotal–as if what we see in the big picture can only be accepted if we can demonstrate at the micro-level what is going on and it gets published in the peer reviewed literature. I don’t accept those limitations. I can do a paper disc chromatogram and see the charged particles (dominated by the cations Ca, Mg, K and Na) adhere to the central region of the disc and the silicon particles flow to the periphery since they are the most non-polar, or have the least charge. Urea, if present, actually will out-strip the silicon as being the most non-polar and mobile–but it is a minor component in relation to silicon complexes.

 

That’s proof enough for me at the chemical level that silicon is the non-polar contrast to the polar lime, but you could take it further and analyse cell walls and connective tissues and compare them with cell nuclei and see the contrast there too. I don’t want to go too far toward isolating details because I think it is an unnecessary detour unless we first look at the evidence of our senses and see what the bigger picture tells us about the on-going processes in nature. Isolated details are fine, but they don’t do much for understanding the processes in the wider realm of nature. Once we understand the processes the details make more sense. We need to understand the silicon process is one of containment and transport and the boron process stirs up the silicon process, makes it ‘thirsty’ and this drives nutrient uptake and sap flow. Then I think we are getting somewhere. To understand that too much sap pressure will cause the bark to split and fruit to fissure, then it becomes clear that when you have too much sap pressure (boron) for your transport system (silicon) you need to strengthen your transport system (more silicon). That got the farmer out of some very serious trouble because he could have lost his whole orchard. As it was, his mistake ended up improving his production. I take that as evidence I had correctly observed the boron process and its interaction with the silicon process. I don’t think that’s going to get me past peer review into publication in a scientific journal, but it is all the evidence I need.
 

Homemade Phosphorus Fertilizer

Verily, bones should never be wasted, and phosphorous fertiliser production as part of a self-sufficient operation may require burning them. Gardeners may find they can process left over bones through their wood heaters. In general, burned bones may come from almost any source, and some will burn more easily than others. Burnt bones can be crushed into powder and extracted with vinegar or other organic acids using moderate heat to yield soluble phosphates for liquid applications, and if a little elemental sulphur is needed, the vinegar stage is a good place to add it as a small percentage of the total dry matter.

 

This crude phosphoric extract is useful diluted and combined with the vermiwash and a homeopathic dose of biodynamic valerian preparation to jump start the phosphorous process. Residual bone ash can be added to composts up to about 8 or 10% of the total raw materials, or it can be dried and scattered thinly under fruit trees and flowering shrubs.

Definition of Biodynamics

WHAT IS BIODYNAMIC AGRICULTURE?

 

BIODYNAMIC AXGRICULTURE:  Bio (life) dynamic (processes); Biodynamic agriculture involves working with life processes.

This does not mean physical substance or chemistry are ignored. The biodynamic approach to agriculture emphasizes life processes which have potent organisational (syntropic) effects to engage minerals and chemical reactions. The use of what are called ‘biodynamic preparations’ establishes, increases and enhances life processes. The question is, what is a LIFE process and what are the life processes we are talking about?

Nineteenth and twentieth century physics focused on life-LESS processes. With these energy flowed from higher concentration to lower concentration, as without life all energy flows from order toward chaos in a process called entropy. However, it became recognised in the mid twentieth century that order also arises out of chaos. It does this cyclically at boundaries or surfaces, which means energy flows from lower to higher concentration over time periods that begin and end in a process called syntropy. Life processes are syntropic, and a variety of these can be distinguished in regard to plants, so let’s look at what these are.

In the soil, the processes involved in life are mineral release, nitrogen fixation, digestion and nutrient uptake. These are related to the lime complex commonly referred to as the CEC or as cations. Because biodynamics comes from an awareness of the influences of the context on life processes, these processes are correlated with the planets between the sun and the earth, namely mercury, venus and the moon.

However, plants live both in the soil AND the atmosphere, and in the atmosphere the processes are quite different and complimentary to the soil processes. What goes on in the atmosphere is photosynthesis, blossoming, fruiting and ripening. These processes are related to silica and to the planets beyond the sun and the earth, namely mars, Jupiter and Saturn.

In large part, biodynamics involves getting a dynamic interplay going between what goes on above ground and what goes on below.

Plants draw in energy and carbon—the basis of life—via photosynthesis. By doing so, they build up sugars and carbohydrates in their sap during the day and a portion of this drains down to plants’ root tips and are exuded into the soil around the tender young root growth of the plant. This feeds a honey-like syrup to the soil foodweb which uses the energy to release minerals such as silica, lime and phosphorous along with various trace mineral co-factors that provide for nitrogen fixation.

Nitrogen fixation is VERY energy intensive as it takes roughly 10 units of sugar to fix one unit of amino acid. Moreover, nitrogen fixing microbes don’t just gift the nitrogen they fix to plants. However, protozoa and other soil animal life eat mineral releasing and nitrogen fixing microbes, thus excreting a steady stream of freshly digested milk-like nourishment rich in amino acids and minerals chelates, which the plant takes up from the soil. This milk-like nourishment is the basis for chlorophyll assembly in the leaf and for the duplication of the DNA and the protein chemistry basic to plant growth.

From the biodynamic point of view it is enormously important that the soluble salt levels in the soil are as low as possible while the insoluble but available nutrients stored in humus are abundant. Partly this is because when the plant takes up amino acids instead of nitrogen salts the efficiency of the plant chemistry is dramatically increased and photosynthetic efficiency is multiplied. Also, soluble salts in the soil are toxic to the nitrogen fixing and mineral releasing micro-life in the soil as soluble salts amount to their waste, in which case they shut down and fail to function as might be expected of any organism which had to live in its own waste.