Ideally crops would be grown in mixed covers with as little soil disturbance as possible while feeding, balancing and enriching the soil’s ecology with mulches, humified compost, raw humates and soil drenches to harvest warmth, light, water, carbon dioxide and nitrogen from the atmosphere.
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 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.
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.
(1) Rudolf Steiner, Agriculture: Spiritual Foundations for the Renewal of Agriculture, trans. Gardner and Creeger (Kimberton: Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association, 1993), 34-35.
Originally published in BIODYNAMICS 233, January/February, 2001
Biodynamic Preparations and Drought
How certain notions arise and become entrenched is a bit of a mystery, especially when they are wrong. Yet they do get started and entrenched. One of these is the belief that when things dry up and little moisture is available we cannot put out biodynamic preparations—as if these were delicate microbial cultures that must have moist conditions to establish and thrive. This is so far from true it seems impossible that it ever got started. Yet it did.
Dear Hugh and Shabari,
Trust you enjoyed your trip to SA and will return with more of your wisdom. I heard talk that we could receive the recording but this did not happen??
Please could you help me understand the biology or process of oil production in plants. Rosemary or Rose petals for instance…. I am interested in Essential oil production and need to understand the inner processes so as to know which one and when to apply our field sprays to maximise this production ; I would guess 501 one or two days before and harvesting… I assume that oil is highest before flowering, the flower sign before full moon or just after… and time of the day according to the ‘rulership’ planet of the plant taken from Culpepper. Would a single spray of one of the compost preparations be of benefit and if so ‘when’ and why?.
In truth, I do not actually know how to work out this influence of the ruling planet. Does it mean when the planet is in opposition to the Moon? or a trine involving that planet… ? Which is more powerful?
I understand that Nettle as a companion plant increases the oil content. Why? what is it about Nettle that does this? I have also been told that Yarrow does the same. ?
Any information on this subject would be greatly appreciated, or a reference/book etc.
Thanks for asking the right questions. Though I don’t know what your levels of essential oil production already are, I feel sure you can raise them if you put a little more effort and a lot more use of biodynamic preparations into it. Let’s look at correspondences between the various preparations and the processes involved.
500 — lime, digestive (transformative), earthly, gravitational processes
501 — silica, formative, cosmic, levitational processes
Horn Clay — intensifies both cosmic and earthly processes by working with that truly cosmic element, boron, to improve sap uptake and root exudation (Sap must go up in order to sink back down, and root exudation is what feeds nitrogen fixation)
502 — yarrow flowers in stag bladder, strongly intensifies boundaries (organization arises at boundaries), sulphate of potash, Venus, concentration and excretion of spent nitrogen as uric acid.
503 — chamomile flowers in cow intestine, intensifies protozoal digestion around plant roots that supplies amino acids and mineral complexes to plants, lime complex and amino acids, Mercury, provides the nutrient stream for cell division.
504 — Stinging nettle leaf and stem, charges or intensifies plant sap with organization (nettles are 36% protein and rich in every mineral, especially magnesium and iron) Sun, intensifies circulation and enriches the blood process. Jack of all trades, helps everything, central to organization.
505 — Oak bark in cow skull, densifies structural processes and reduces the tendency of amino acids to lose their organization and nitrify or become dead nitrogen. Works with both silica and calcium as bone cells are silica framework filled by calcium. Moon, works on both the skin and bones and provides dense, structural strength. Use in conjunction with horsetail for wet conditions where moon forces are strong but disorganized.
506 — Dandelioin flowers in cow mesentery, enhances fruit development working with the embrionic fruit’s potassium gateways in its silica cell walls to facilitate the uptake of amino acids and minerals responsible for cell division in early fruit development. Jupiter. Responsible for size and fullness of fruit.
507 — Valerian flower juice, works with phosphorous metabolism and oxidative processes occurring in flowering, as with lungs and haemoglobin in blood oxidizing carbon in muscles. Mars. Enhances flowering process in plants.
508 — Horsetail decoction, works to strengthen silica forces in cell walls, surfaces and transport vessels. Saturn. Enhances photosynthesis, integrity and immunity.
Perhaps this will help guide you in the use of preparations in various weather and soil conditions and at various stages in plant development. For example, stinging nettle can more than double essential oil production by its Sun-like rich, jack of all trades, capacity to organize things. But if you are having a wet, overcast spell of weather you will also need oak bark (Moon) and horsetail (Saturn). Since essential oils are like an excretion from plant cells, yarrow (Venus) will specifically target this process at the cell walls (boundaries) where it occurs.
It isn’t too clear what this Azotic Technologies mob is on about, but it looks like a microbial product not a DNA insertion or GMO tech. One of the annoying features of most of these sorts of things is the marketers like to keep the details of what they are selling very clost to their chest. Let me tell you a story.
Twelve years ago I used to spend a couple afternoons a week with a microbiologist by the name of Kyle Merritt who worked for Nutri-Tech. We would go to the pub and have a coffee together and brainstorm about nitrogen fixing microbes. As we were both aware, the varieties and numbers of species of nitrogen fixers is quite enormous and by no means limited to the Rhizobia that form nodules on legume roots. There are also the Azotobacters, of which large numbers of different species have been cataloged in river deltas, and Azospirilla which have been found in most Brazilian soils and elsewhere–again with large species diversity. There is the blue green algae, Anabaefa azota, famous for fixing nitrogen in the fronds of the aquatic weed Azolla, and several species of Azolla as well as large numbers of nitrogen fixing blue green algae that live in the ocean as well as phosphate rich ‘fresh’ water. Then there is the gram negative anaerobe, Acetobacter diazotrophicus, that fixes nitrogen in the stems of sugar cane and coffee and other plants. And also certain species of Clostridia are anaerobic nitrogen fixers. The list goes on and on and may involve even the Archaea, the most primative microbes on earth which eat rocks. Archaea, which are extremely tiny, are thought to be predecessors of the mitrochondria which handle energy within the cells of Eukaryotes, which are all modern organisms with chromosomes. Since somewhere around 10% of the earth’s microbial life has been studied so far, I wouldn’t be too surprised about much of anything. But the point of this story is Kyle left Nutri-Tech and working with a new company developed his own nitrogen fixing microbial product called Twin-N. Twin-N has been tested by the USDA and other research facilities and is capable of infecting a wide range of crops from wheat to bananas and including rice and sugar cane. One of Kyle’s problems with this very effective product was sometimes it didn’t work. First, the plants had to have adequate supplies of lime complex elements from calcium to molybdenum as well as adequate phosphorous and silica uptake. And N fixation takes a lot of energy so the crop’s photosynthesis had to be efficient as well, which meant this didn’t work in a high nitrate environment. And it seems that the nitrogen fixing microbes did not just sacrifice themselves and donate their precious amino acids to the crop plants. Protozoa living within the plants as endophytes, had to consume the nitrogen fixers, digest them and excrete free amino acids. And in some cases as with ginger and tumeric nematodes and other tiny somewhat parasitic animals were responsible for digesting the nitrogen fixers. In the case of Acetobacter the microbe itself may have brought about its dissolution and release of amino acids due to excessive acid production, but that may not have been the main way the amino acids were made available to crops. There was a lot we didn’t know. Yet, in many cases Twin-N was a very effective means of obtaining N for crops as long as nitrogen fertiliser applications were kept low (and usually coupled with soluble humates). You can google Twin-N, which might not be licensed in the UK, I don’t know. Azotic Tech says they are coating seeds with Gluconacetobacter diazotrophicus, where Twin-N used more than one different type of N-fixers.
I just thought you ought to be aware there may be various approaches to nitrogen fixation and from my experience with using biodynamics to create the right environment for nitrogen fixation you may not have to buy anything special to get it to supply all the N your crops require. These microbes are found in environments all over the earth. Radionic application of biodynamic preparations, soil mineral balancing and good management of diverse vegetative covers may be all you need and you need these things anyway to get the N-fixing products to work. This doesn’t mean to avoid the products. If they can be any help, go for it. Just don’t get too many stars in your eyes.
Hugh Lovel 13/06/2017 Wiangaree, NSW, Australia
“You can’t be free when you depend on someone else for your food.” –Wendell Berry
News Flash: Man-made warming may have begun earlier than we thought
Gayathri Vaidyanathan, E&E reporter
ClimateWire: Thursday, August 25, 2016
Before gasoline-powered cars crowded roads, before even the first coal-fired power plant was built in the United States, humans had begun warming Earth’s climate.
By 1831, the signals of man-made global warming could be seen in the Arctic and the tropical oceans. By 1850, all of the Northern Hemisphere was warming. The Southern Hemisphere followed a half-century later. On the continents, people were clearing land, building railroads and mining coal at the start of the Industrial Revolution. That is when global warming began, scientists announced in Nature yesterday.
Part I: Agriculture and Global Warming
Potentially agriculture could repair global warming by catching and sequestering warmth, light and carbon dioxide. It would do this without subsidies because working in co-operation with nature is cheaper and easier if farmers only learned how. Vegetation is the answer. However, the common cultural belief is we must bare more and more soil, plough, erode, and wage war on nature with chemicals to feed the world’s increasing billions.
The story we are told by those at the top of agricultural industries and commodity traders is the world will run out of food if we don’t ratchet up the war on nature—even though the farmers doing this are drowning in debt, crippled by world surpluses and forced to take prices below their production costs. Meanwhile, first world populations mow their lawns every week, pull weeds and herbicide traffic ways. Bare soil is perfectly acceptable. The warmth and light this contributes to global warming goes unnoticed even though anyone in summer with bare feet walking on bare sand, soil or pavement should recognize bare surfaces are a leading cause of warming. Bare soil keeps increasing and agriculture is chief among its causes. Any alien visitor from outer space would look on this with disbelief. In some places herbiciding roadsides is mandated by law, as though making war on nature is politically correct, desirable, justifiable and somehow beautiful.
Just about everywhere environments are spiralling towards chaos. Weather is driven by warmth. Free warmth and light—given off from bare surfaces—slowly drives our weather systems to greater and greater extremes. If there is any reason for shame, it is turning the soil over and leaving it exposed to die. But shame and justification fall short of remedy.
It’s more empowering to ask how farmers can make a difference. Many examples show things could be other than the present. Agriculture is a two-edged blade. One might even say agriculture is central to global warming—both the unwitting cause and the potential solution. We need clarity about how nature works, how to feed nature’s armies of plants and animals, and the benefits that result. We can improve how we handle atmospheric cycles, and the nitrogen, oxygen, carbon, hydrogen and sulphur the atmosphere contains. Though this may sound complicated, it is really quite simple. An historical look at how this occurred may help.
Part II: An Historical Overview
“Maybe some readers find that I have expressed my convictions with too great of a frankness, that I have not always been polite enough. But the times are so serious in which we are living, that if we want to make any impression at all, we must speak in strong terms.” –Lilly Kolisko, Agriculture of Tomorrow
With farming came tillage, erosion and a host of problems as soil life was lost and restoration of soils failed. Re-vegetation is essential to store up warmth, light, water, CO2 and proteins as soil life, resulting in balance, vitality, health and, hopefully, self-realization. The alternative may be extinction if all we do is accept environmental degradation.
Middle Ages to 18th Century Europe
Back in the old days ploughs were made of wood, usually shod at their tips with metal. These ploughs wore out rather swiftly, and the modest damage they wreaked on the soil food web up through the 18th century was fairly sustainable.
Shallow ploughing and harrowing produced a good seedbed for hand sown crops, which benefitted from the nutrient release that followed. As long as the soil food web’s microbial life restored itself tillage was little more than a scratch on the arm. There wasn’t much concern about fertility or weeds. When weeds occurred, folks took an interest in using them. This retained diversity, keeping soils healthy and vital. For the most part farmers built fertility by grazing, storing up warmth, light and carbon as humus. Bare soil was occasional and brief.
As industry awakened, steel ploughs started coming into use all over Europe and its colonies. By the end of the 18th century folks had learned to turn over the soil with their new, sharp mouldboards that left entire fields of bare earth in their wake. Farmers ploughed more and deeper. Teams of animals pulled these steel ploughs and harrows, and at first this seemed far better as long as the soil food web was ignored. Yet this began to liquidate the better part of soil life, draining momentum from the soil’s humus flywheel. The increased release of nutrients led to higher production in the short term, but in the long term this exploited the soil’s fertility—selling off key capital and treating it as income. These were the seeds of soil bankruptcy.
As the 19th century proceeded, fertility declined, even where livestock residues were returned to fields. Better equipped estates with more horses ploughed deeper, and tended to have faster fertility losses, particularly on light soils. Even so, with deep, rich, black soils this seemed sustainable. With mechanical sowing and reaping the nineteenth century saw improvements in crop yields while more and more territory was laid bare. Agriculture subscribed to a treadmill of borrowing from its future.
Obviously, at least to some, when you found an old, well-managed pasture, you could expect good yields the first year you ploughed it and released that sweet, clean Actinomycete smell while wrecking the soil food web. It smelled and felt great, but the penny didn’t drop about the damage and loss. Instead standard practice was to grow a cover crop and plough it down prior to planting a following crop for harvest. Ploughing vegetation under was problematic, as burying cover crops caused purification that encouraged weeds, insects and diseases. Nevertheless this also produced a temporary lush effect that seemed restorative. Cover cropping made up for some of the losses while slowing the apparent decline, but not much changed. Ripping up the soil food web and leaving the soil bare ran the soil down.
In those days most ploughing involved ploughs that turned the soil over. There were debates about the relative worth of ploughing shallow or deep. Deep ploughing buried plant residues where there was little oxygen. In response some folks stood their sods up rather than ploughing them over. This was messier and didn’t produce as smooth a seedbed, but some felt it was healthier and better for soil life. In some places farmers formed the soil up in ridges and planted in the ridges. The extra oxygen boosted crops, but ploughing still impaired nitrogen fixing capacity and wrecked the soil food web.
Chemical war on nature got in full swing with the birth of the ammonia industry in 1907, while mechanical tractor power enabled chisel ploughs to rip through the soil food web without turning. This left much of the vegetation and trash on the surface, limiting wind and water erosion while allowing the soil food web some chance for recovery—unless soil sterilants like anhydrous ammonia or potassium muriate were applied. But there also were rototillers which completely churned through the soil, destroying whatever structure there was—even where anhydrous and muriate were not used.
The last half of the 20th century really shut down the soil biology with bigger and bigger machinery and round after round of toxic chemistry. Soluble soil testing, which ignored soil reserves, became the fertiliser industry’s tool of choice to sell NPK salts. Yet, the more these salts were used the less fertile the soil became. Organic growers followed this model. They substituted organic inputs for chemical ones, but they too bared the soil and lost fertility.
Throughout this de-evolution, farmers were fascinated with cutting into the soil food web and smelling the rich, fertile smell of Actinomycetes while preparing their seedbeds. Chemical-free succession planting with minimal tillage and humified compost crossed almost no one’s mind. Everyone wanted to prepare a smooth seedbed. Almost no one sowed a mixture of seeds onto the soil and grazed, mowed or rolled down existing vegetation—even throwing down a bit of mulch in bare spots—knowing that something would grow as long as the soil was covered. Lost in the mists of antiquity, the idea of maintaining soil cover was so new it was ignored.
Now comes the question, can 21st century agriculture address the roots of the problem?
Part III: Meeting the Challenge
Change in agriculture is up against the likes of D.C. Edmeades, Hamilton, New Zealand, author of a lengthy paper entitled Pseudo-science: a threat to agriculture? (http://www.mannkal.org/downloads/environment/2011conferenceinvitedp.pdf)
Edmeades brandishes the buzzword “pseudo-science” 37 times in a ten page paper intended to slander Dr. Christine Jones’s admirable work on soil microbiology, cultivation, artificial nitrogen fertilization and carbon sequestration—topics much in need of investigation if we are to arrest the alarming weather trends threatening our economy, safety and well-being. He trots out the fallacious assumption that we must put more land under cultivation to feed world population. And his arguments for continuing the NPK/toxic approach show his 19th century understanding of chemistry hasn’t caught up with cutting edge soil biology, biochemistry and biophysics. He makes no mention of quantum mechanics and chaos theory. He would replace what he calls “pseudo-science” with something illogical and unsustainable that has long been refuted, outdated and surpassed. His paper is replete with references, graphs, sophistries and scientific double-talk designed to confuse the unwary and uninformed.
Inertia to Change
Top agricultural authorities whose livelihoods depend on current agricultural practices tell us the world will run out of food if we don’t keep intensifying the war on nature, disregarding how this devastates soils, pollutes ecosystems and fuels global warming. Yet, the further we go along this path the closer we come to tipping points where the earth’s self-correcting life support systems spiral out of control.
Evil exists to awaken our appreciation of good. The pity is we often wake up when what is good is gone. What is obvious is we need to reverse the degradation of the land already under cultivation and improve its productivity. To do that we need to reduce mechanical cultivation, nitrogen fertilisation, contamination, erosion, overgrazing, monocropping, deforestation and desertification while we improve ground cover, build soil biology, restore nitrogen fixation and practice controlled rotational grazing, biological no-till and diverse intercropping—all proven alternatives. If, along the way, permaculture and biodynamics give us tools with which to achieve these ends with ease and grace, what could be better?
What Nature Does
What nearly everyone missed, as agriculture borrowed from its future, was looking at how nature works. Nature builds fertile soils without ploughing as farmers do. Nature’s army of soil workers come up to feed and breathe, and then tunnel down again, aerating the soil in the finest ways wherever they go. In the daytime, most of these animals hang out in the near vicinity of plant roots where the soil biology is rich. When pooping and peeing they give the soil food web freshly digested remnants of what they consumed at the verges of their sub-surface habitat. This feeds new growth at the finest level while recycling surface litter in a steady way. Left to itself, nature’s intelligence cultivates the soil in ways we can’t duplicate. What we can do is support nature’s work.
Look at earthworms munching on decaying roots, leaves, microbes and other tasty morsels. They require oxygen to metabolize what they eat, so when need arises they eat out air passages and cast off the soil they excavate at the surface. Although soil animals give off carbon dioxide from the foods they consume, they oxygenate the soil as they travel. Many earthworms prefer a bacterial diet, though some of the larger types prefer fungi. Yet ants are the best fungal farmers, complementing earthworms while building and regulating the soil food web’s activities.
When the Masanobu Fukuoka* and Alan Savory† visions of building a living blanket to regenerate the earth came along with diversified no-till summer/winter cropping or grazing, most mainstream farmers dismissed this as nonsense and impractical. The gulf between their cultural beliefs and how nature actually works was too great. Yet, a few serious, large-scale farmers and stockers used these ideas to regenerate their farm and livestock operations, thus building a partnership with nature that improved yields and lowered costs.
There it was—plant with as little disturbance as possible while feeding, balancing and enriching the ecology. Harvest warmth, light, water, carbon dioxide and nitrogen out of the atmosphere for free. While academics ignored such stuff, these early pioneers proved storing warmth and light in the soil’s humus flywheel worked. Foreseeably this would continue to build life into the environment into the future.
Although often ignored, humus acts as a magnet for hydrogen, especially when this prince of protons is in the form of water. Carbon attracts hydrogen. That’s basic chemistry. When plants cover the earth’s surface, they soak up warmth, light, CO2 and H2O, fixing nitrogen and improving rainfall.
Obviously if planting trees restored forests this would help arrest global warming. It may seem a no-brainer to oppose coal mining and plant trees. The worry is forests build their carbon onto the soil, which makes them subject to harvest and fire. Holistic pasture management builds carbon into the soil as humus. Environmentalists on the one hand, and conventional farmers on the other, need to shed their misconceptions and join forces. Prejudice is our enemy. Grazing livestock is only a moral problem if we don’t do it constructively.
Part IV, There Can Be an Answer, Let It Be
“A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don’t necessarily want to go, but ought to be.” –Rosalynn Carter
What built the world’s most fertile prairies, steppes, savannahs and plains were herds of animals and their predators. Unassisted, nature isn’t going to re-forest the Sahara without first growing pastures, because forests only occur where rainfall is abundant. Observation, the basis of intelligence, shows periodic intensive grazing is the opposite of confinement animal feeding operations (CAFOs). The true costs of CAFOs and their stream of environmental pollution, waste and suffering are not all paid at the supermarket, but rather in physical and social dysfunction.
Though the Sahara was forested 15,000 years ago, today can we re-plant such forests without first improving rainfall and water retention? We will have to re-vegetate step-wise, as forests require lots of rain. We need grazers and chicken herders to store carbon in pastures with well-run pastoral operations. We can grow grass quicker with less water in less time than we can grow forests, and grass stores carbon in the soil. Pastoral animals maximize biomass gains when they eat old growth and recycle it as fertilizer while making way for new growth.
The regenerative practices of farmers who pay attention and cooperate with nature are cheap and productive. Though it takes intelligence and hard work, the quality of what these farmers send to markets is superior. At the same time they cure rather than contribute to global warming. As farmers and environmentalists learn to read from the book of nature they will discover the best practices of restorative farming, grow quality products and prosper from their partnership with nature. Meanwhile regenerative farmers can take advantage of collapsed ventures that extracted value and left an empty husk behind for somebody who knows how to use it. Look ahead to the glass half full and see revegetating as an opportunity we need to embrace.
Our job is to open public eyes and show that the true cost of the war on nature is hidden in plain sight, and it will dawn on everyone in time. The simple efficiency of working with nature to build a thriving, long-term, regenerative agricultural base will change agriculture. It is expensive to wage war with nature, and the will to continue along these lines is dying. Already first world agricultural universities are running out of new blood for this agenda. Why? Current practices lock participants into spiralling debt, toxic technology and soil degradation—more subtle but comparable to living in a battle zone. Fresh out of high schools, today’s students don’t want careers in a hazardous, toxic, depressing, morass of debt.
More and more examples show how vegetation on the earth’s surface soaks up warmth, light and CO2—which otherwise fuel global warming. New farmers need only realize their opportunities to educate themselves. The information age ensures the necessary information is accessible as long as farmers are discerning of truth. The farmers of today and tomorrow have an opportunity to take up nature’s bounty of nitrogen, carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and sulphur and turn these gifts of the heavens into the means for social health, wealth and happiness.
In A Nutshell
It’s urgent we understand how nature works. Nature is a system. Everything is interwoven and interactive at the finest levels everywhere. Farming starts with the soil food web and interacts with everything all the way to the farthest stars. Life processes start with hydrogen, which is everywhere and in all things. Hydrogen joins with carbon, cinder of the first stars, and its siblings, nitrogen and oxygen. With a little help from a few soil minerals, sulphur, the catalyst, along with hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen and oxygen—free from the atmosphere—incorporate warmth and light as living protoplasm.
Nitrogen is an amazing player. As the basis of awareness, memory, sensation and desire, it forms the genetic blueprints for life and its reproduction. Carbon provides the framework, as we are all carbon based life forms. Like money in the market, oxygen is life’s medium of exchange, the basis for activity. Since organization arises at boundaries and organization is the basis of life, hydrogen with its infinitesimal content and infinite context is the universal source of organization, the basis of life. Plants take in CO2 and give off O2. Animals take in O2 and give off CO2. With sulphur for ignition, we have nature’s chemistry in a nutshell.
We can also talk about the five percent of biomass that comes from the soil—the cations, sand, clay and humus that interact with the atmosphere’s free gifts which make up the other ninety-five per cent of our biomass. There’s never been greater opportunity to cover the earth’s surface with living organisms, soak up warmth, light and CO2, maximizing vegetative growth and digestive activity. This will end global warming.
When market forces drive change, the rest will follow. Re-vegetate the earth at every opportunity. Seize the initiative. Build life back into the land. Pioneer a new agriculture in partnership with nature. Invent a new way of farming that knits together well-meaning but misguided sectors of society. There’s a long road ahead with health, wealth and satisfaction along the way. My book Quantum Agriculture, Biodynamics and Beyond is an early step in this direction.
Radionics Cards used by Quantum Agriculture Radionic Instruments are printed with magnetic ink on high quality photo paper. They work best with Quantum Ag Instruments.
Magneto Geometry was developed by Malcolm Rae, one of a group of pioneering Doctors, Homoeopaths and Radionic researchers working in Britain from the 1940s through to the 1980s. This group included Dr. George Laurence, founder of the Psionic Medical Association; George de la Warr; Dr Aubrey Westlake; Dr Guyon Richards; John Da Monte; David Tansley, and others.
Rae himself had a distinguished career in the Royal Navy, where he rose to the rank of Commander during World War II. While in the Navy he was introduced to Radionics by a Captain Atkinson. Although he rejected Radionics at the time, he later became interested in it during the 1950s and carried on to develop remarkable new techniques and instruments. Some of this work is described in detail in the book DIMENSIONS OF RADIONICS by Tansley, Rae and Westlake (ISBN 0-914732-29-3).
At first Rae worked with ‘conventional’ Radionic instruments, derived from the work of Abrams and Drown. These instruments coded the vibrational quality of a selected substance in terms of a chain of numbers – Diamond, for example, is 442337. Rae discovered that distinct pendulum reactions are obtained at certain angular relations to the earth’s magnetic field. These may be marked within the circle (see below) as radial lines. The resolution of each line is to one degree of arc. The result is a system of cards, two of which are illustrated below. There are currently more than 25,000 cards in the MGA system.
These cards are used in various instruments designed by Rae, Nick Franks and Hugh Lovel, and may also be used in the contemporary range of instruments. Kelly Research ANALYSER is used to build up a picture of the quality of the patient’s energy field to discover any disturbances to it. The basic method is Location (e.g. Respiratory system) – Factor (e.g. Infection) – and Correction (e.g. Homeopathic remedy).
Quantum Ag Radionic Instrument with manual available from Quantum Agriculture Consultants worldwide. Quantumagproducts@gmail.com for more information.
Quantum Agriculture Farm Advisory Service—A Holistic Approach
Our farm advisory visits and phone/email consultations provide the most comprehensive overview available of the physics, chemistry and life of your soils along with down-to-earth experience with farming. Learn how to farm both the atmosphere, which provides 95 percent of plant material (carbon, oxygen, hydrogen and nitrogen) and the soil, which provides the other 5%. For the best interactions between the soil and sky to occur, the soil needs to be finely balanced in regards to sulphur, silicon, calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, potassium and many more minor co-factors. Following our soil testing specs, our labs analyse not only the usual soluble array, but also they test the soil totals using an extremely acidic reagent. This saves money because the grower finds out whether he is actually deficient in something, or whether he only lacks the biology needed to release it.
Consulting For All Crop Types—It’s All About LIFE
All plants and animals share the same basic chemistry of carbon, nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen and sulphur. Nevertheless, the variations on this theme are enormous.
Increasing Yield and Quality—Consumer Loyalty, Higher Profits
Whenever a plant takes up amino acid nitrogen rather than nitrogen salts, it becomes a weak, watery and thirsty plant. But when it takes up biological nitrogen this changes. Then it becomes more efficient, makes more sugar and feeds nitrogen fixation better. Before long this translates into higher and more reliable yields—to say nothing of better quality.
Field Observation and Farm Visits—Revealing and Informative
Seeing is knowing as compared to knowing about or supposing. This is the most important of our services because growers need to know what is good about what they are doing and what is. Without a farm visit, how will you know? We try to as many visits as possible in an area so that the transportation expense can be shared by a group of farmers. (Visits are $1000 per 8 hour day)
Comprehensive Soil and Plant Testing—Saves Money
Silicon is the means for transport in plants and nothing else works without it. Using this system of soluble plus total testing, developed in co-operation with Environmental Analysis Labs in Australia and Texas Plant and Soil Labs in the US, saves money whenever we find the minerals are there and all we need is biology to gain mobility.
Precision Recommendations—Balance Is Everything [almost]
Based on both soluble and total testing along with our graphing and experienced interpretations, our recommendations are just right, never too much. The commonest errors in farming involve too much—too much cultivation, too much fertilizer, too much pesticides and too much debt. It is so easy to think that if a little is good, more is better. Finding the perfect balance is elusive and is why we offer our services. (Our reports cost $100 for the 1st soil test and $50/per additional test, in addition to lab fees.)
Phone and Skype Consultations—Our Time Is Valuable
which may include soil test interpretations and answers to questions regarding your challenges: $125 per hour with prior appointment.
Pattern Energy Is Key To The Future—Biodynamics Is Science
Quantum physics grew out of the realization that matter arises due to wave functions which perfectly meet themselves. These vortices recur, concentrating charge in self-organizing, self-reinforcing resonance and thus are stable. Basically this means that everything in the universe is vibration, either free and experienced in waves such as light, or bound in vortices in self-reinforcing, self-similar spirals. Both are influenced by quantum non-local pattern energy, which can be broadcast using a stationary, self-driven equivalent of a crystal radio set. Called a Field Broadcaster and built by Hugh Lovel using his copyright design, one of these units can cover 6000 or more acres.
There is a common belief that humus is the result of the breakdown of organic materials in the soil. While this is true it is less than true because the organic materials do need to break down into simple organic compounds—and from there they need to be built back up again into large, complex carbon molecules by soil organisms whose role is to store nutrients for rainy days. These organisms, primarily actinomycetes and mycorrhizae, work in tandem with plants, storing humic acids in an easy to access form. Humic acids are too large for most organisms, such as bacteria, to absorb. Yet they are accessible to the actinomycetes and mycorrhizae and thus are insoluble but available nutrients. And that’s how we want nutrients in the soil—insoluble so they are not easily lost when it rains, but available.
The NPK theory that all soil nutrients must be soluble all at once is rather like feeding a pig six months’ worth of slop in one meal—initially it is too much. Try though the pig will, he can’t handle it all. As time goes on the banquet sours and the pig is left lacking a balanced diet while flies, yeasts, moulds and various pests move in. This is modern agriculture, and it’s not a pretty picture—you wouldn’t feed your kids that way. Surely, plants are more resilient than pigs, but as living organisms they aren’t that different.
Basically we do not want most of our nutrients to be soluble. Rather, we want them to be insoluble but available. A plant can only consume a small amount of its needs every day. Having more soluble than the daily optimum in the near vicinity of uptake roots invites unwonted guests to the table, and this creates unnecessary problems for crops. Nature, left to her own devices, provides insoluble but microbially available nutrients in the humus flywheel. Crop-symbiotic micro-organisms mop up loose nutrients and store them in the humus reserve in large, carbon complexes. Acting like bees storing honey, they maintain this nutrient reserve. Photosynthesis and root exudation feed the microbes that stock this storehouse when conditions are good, and when conditions are poor these microbial plant partners—along with protozoa—draw energy and nourishment from the humus reserves to feed the crop.
The Humus Flywheel
This reveals humus as the soil’s flywheel to keep plant growth going by feeding the digestive activity around plant roots. Humus sustains this microbial activity by providing uptake of a steady stream of quality amino acids and mineral complexes—like mother’s milk—that makes it easy for crops to assemble their proteins and grow, photosynthesize, and make nectars that are shared with the soil as root exudates—like honey. These root exudates provide energy for soil microbes that unlock minerals, fix nitrogen and feed the soil’s digestive activity—which in turn provides a milky, mineral amino acid rich feed for growth. Observation of this millennia old interplay in nature is honoured in Mosaic Scripture and elsewhere as a land flowing in milk and honey. Humus is the flywheel whose momentum fosters and sustains the milk and honey flow through thick and thin—the better the storage of insoluble but available nutrients, then the more momentum the system has.
Soluble nutrients, such as the salts of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium, must be extremely dilute or they interfere with the sensitive micro-life of the humus flywheel. Like urine, these salts are the wastes of microbes that fix nitrogen, solubilize phosphorous and release potassium. In the soil these salts shut down the microbes that otherwise might make them available when they are awash in their own waste. If these salts are applied at rates sufficient for a couple months’ supply, they kill off soil microbes and release nutrients—which results in a flush of crop growth; but it also leads to leaching of key minerals such as sulphur, boron, silicon, calcium, copper, zinc and manganese. Chlorides tend to sterilize the soil, while phosphates and sulphates, though useful to soil microbes, can still cause harm in excess. Nitrates are especially notable for causing a flush of available nutrients and a lush response that looks good, but it’s like the long haul trucker using ‘speed’, keeping double log books and driving 5 day runs in 48 hours. The result is problematic, and there is a price.
Humic vs Fulvic
Both humic and fulvic acids are so complex and varied they are only distinguished by the size of their molecules. Fulvic acids are of low enough molecular weight they can pass through bacterial cell walls as bacterial food. Humic acid molecules are larger and can only be consumed by microbes that can ingest them, like protozoa, or by silica oriented microbes like fungi and actinomycetes (aka actinobacteria) that can take the carbon skeleton apart. Since fungi and actinomycetes often live in close partnership with plant roots, especially our food crop roots, they provide access to the humic complexes in the soil, stripping out the silicon and carbon frameworks of the clay/humus colloids, thereby releasing all the other nutrients held on these structures. However, like bees drinking nectar and concentrating it into honey, these microbes also can mop up root exudates and loose nutrients in the soil solution and combine them for storage in clay/humus complexes so bacteria and leaching do not let them go to waste.
Many bacteria and protozoa are consumers that thrive in a nutrient rich broth and break things down. When soluble nutrient levels are high in the soil, the bacteria that fix nitrogen, solubilize phosphorous and release potassium can’t function because they are awash in their own waste. This is why tilling in a green manure crop requires a waiting period of 3 or 4 weeks, over which rampant bacterial breakdown subsides, before humus formation resumes and the excesses are stored in insoluble but available complexes. Only then can crops be planted and a stable plant/microbe partnership established.
Justus von Liebig, the great 19th century chemist who introduced chemical agriculture, acknowledged toward the end of his life his mistake in assuming productive soils required the nutrients to be soluble. By then, however, the chemical industries had seen great prospects for sales. Liebig, in his retirement, was ignored, and today the error of thinking solubility is good still continues.
Consider that most crop seeds contain a food supply so they can give off nourishment for beneficial microbes—thereby attracting and multiplying their microbial partners as their roots emerge. On the other hand, most weeds have tiny seeds which rely on soluble nutrients rather than microbial partnerships. They soak up loose nutrients by design, sprouting and growing vigorously when cover crops or raw manures are tilled in. They do not rely on the humus flywheel or feed its microbes. If crops are planted immediately after mixing in fresh vegetation or manures they do not grow well. It doesn’t take much experience to see the difference between application of raw manures and the application of humified compost—the former feeds weeds and the latter feeds crops.
Likewise if we apply large doses of highly soluble fertilisers—anhydrous ammonia, superphosphate and muriate of potash—our crops then have to compete with weeds that love soluble salts like potassium nitrates. It is only when we apply humified compost that we feed the crop/microbe interactions that feed our crops with a mix of amino acids and minerals akin to milk.
Most soil tests use mild acids that do not reveal what is stored in the humus flywheel. The concept behind these tests is that several months’ worth of nutrients, especially the nitrogen, must be present in soluble form. But in reality, feeding a plant is more like feeding your kids. Plants only need a little bit of soluble food on a steady basis, rather than having it all on the table at once. To reveal what could be available from the humus reserve on a daily basis requires a testing method more like what is used for tissue analysis—a total acid digest.
Many organic growers take it on faith that if they build organic matter they will have good crops and their problems will go away. However, this is rarely the case. The clay/humus complexes in the soil are like a storehouse, and unless this storehouse has everything it needs, growth is limited to whatever is in short supply.
Since sulphur is the bio-catalyst that acts as the key in the ignition, when it is deficient both soil and plant life suffer. When boron—which leaches unless held in clay/humus complexes—is deficient, nutrient uptake lags because boron’s interaction with silicon is what draws fluids through the plant’s capillary system. And silicon, which lines the capillaries themselves, must also be sufficient, along with boron, to transport calcium and other nutrients. And, if calcium—which is essential for nitrogen chemistry and cell division—is deficient, then growth suffers. Moreover, if too much soluble potassium gets in the way of calcium and magnesium uptake, photosynthesis suffers. And even if everything else is working, without sufficient phosphorous and its trace element co-factors, chlorophyll burns up because its energy can’t be transferred into making sugar. So all these things need to be stored in the right proportions, which means we need to get the mix of major and minor nutrients right in the humus flywheel.
Understanding the Mix
In some of the world’s premier soils, such as the Ukraine, Western Missouri or Australia’s Liverpool Plains, nature’s virgin conditions provided black, crumbly clays with cation exchange capacities of nearly 80, and the first couple plantings of wheat and other cereals produced crops beyond anyone’s previous experience without any fertilisers. However, with insufficient understanding and poor management these soils went straight downhill and their enormous momentum was lost. Nevertheless, measurements of the carbon to nitrogen ratios in unexploited remnants still in their virgin state are between 9 and 10 to 1, carbon to nitrogen. Interestingly, it takes roughly 10 units of sugary carbon to fix one unit of amino acid nitrogen, so this does not seem mere coincidence. Even making industrial ammonia takes ten units of methane to make one unit of ammonia.
Comparing hundreds of total acid digest tests to field responses also revealed that a six-to-one nitrogen to sulphur ratio is desirable. When these two ratios are achieved and major and minor nutrient targets are approached so that microbial partnerships interact efficiently with the humus flywheel, then the only limit to nitrogen fixation is the energy provided by root exudation.
Since grasses make more sugars and can get them to their roots a lot faster than legumes, they can feed several times more nitrogen fixation than legumes. However, because legumes unlock minerals better with their acidic root exudates, they can feed nitrogen fixation in nodules on their roots and kick off nitrogen fixation in an otherwise mineral deficient soil. Because legumes unlock far more minerals than they use in nitrogen fixation, and because they leave these minerals behind for plants that follow, they have a reputation for getting nitrogen fixation going under tough conditions. Besides, it is easy to measure their nodules and estimate how much nitrogen was fixed, though it may be a mistake to credit their follow-on effects solely to the nitrogen fixed in their nodules. After legumes have made sufficient minerals available, grasses can easily supply the energy needed for further fixation.
Soil test information is useful in blending the right amounts of major and minor nutrients into composts or fossil humate fertilisers to ensure that both grasses and legumes have what they need. Composts and raw humates can be combined in humus based fertiliser programs, and as such they are food for life and are appropriate for growing quality crops.
Manure composts are richer in minerals and nitrogen than fossil humates, but either or both are an excellent way to add deficient nutrients in a humate complexed form. Even at only a quarter ton per acre composts and mined humates fortified with deficient nutrients can deliver significant adjustments, although imbalances and deficiencies usually require many small corrections. Fossil humates, which are more notable for nitrogen and sulphur deficiencies, generally need ammonium sulphate added along with whatever else is needed as rock phosphate, gypsum, borax, copper, zinc, manganese and sea minerals.
The total test ratios of carbon to nitrogen and sulphur can be used for nitrogen and sulphur targets while calcium, magnesium and potassium targets are derived from their percentage of base saturation. Other targets vary depending on the test used, and achieving these targets is likely to require many partial adjustments. Exact formulas for restoring optimum balance in soils is the job of a professional consultant, but in general never add more than 10 kg/ha borax, 15 kg/ha copper sulphate, 25 kg/ha zinc or manganese sulphate or 1 kg/ha sodium molybdate, cobalt sulphate of sodium selenate. In sum, blending these mineral supplements in with humified compost and/or raw humates before spreading turns an expense into a capital investment.
BD Preparations and Drought
By Hugh Lovel
How certain notions arise and become entrenched is a bit of a mystery, especially when they are wrong. Yet they do get started and entrenched. One of these is the belief that when things dry up and little moisture is available we cannot put out biodynamic preparations—as if these were delicate microbial cultures that must have moist conditions to establish and thrive. This is so far from true it seems impossible it ever got started. Yet it did.
When things dry up with rain months away is when we most need to apply our field sprays. When the organization of moisture in the atmosphere is at its lowest is when we need to enliven both atmosphere and soil to get them working together. In a drought nothing else does so much good for so little effort.
During summer, evaporation is high. Moisture rises up into the troposphere and as it cools it glides downward toward the polar vortex, flowing like a river in the sky to the pole. Variations in the jet stream determine where and when this river feeds moisture into storm fronts that drop—or fail to drop—summer rainfall. And yet, what organizes things in general, but particularly moisture, is life—and life activities is what biodynamics is about.
Organization is the basis of life, and life defies the rules for inanimate objects. Life draws organization out of chaos into more life. Biodynamic preparations are so rich in life they draw organization into wherever they are applied. The very reason we can impart life by stirring up tiny doses of preparations in water and sprinkling them over large areas is because life energy flows from lower to higher concentration. When we spray an area and enrich its vitality, more life energy, i.e. organization, flows to the area sprayed. The more we spray an area, the more strongly that area draws in organization from the surrounding universe.
Back in 1988 a small group of biodynamic farmers held the first Southeast US Biodynamic Conference at my farm in Blairsville, Georgia. Hugh Courtney, who founded the Josephine Porter Institute of Applied Biodynamics (JPI), came from Virginia to lead workshops on making and applying biodynamic preparations. The attendees all stirred and applied every preparation to my farm despite the whole southeast being in summer drought. Out of the blue a summer thunderstorm drenched us thoroughly. Courtney went back home and did the same thing at JPI and the summer drought was history. The next summer the same thing happened at our second conference, also breaking a summer drought. By then Hugh Courtney had given preparation workshops at various widespread locations. In every case, rain—or at least technical precipitation—occurred when all the preparations were applied in a back-to-back sequence. Courtney explained to me, Harvey Lisle and others that he believed the preparations could draw to themselves whatever was needed to make life thrive, including moisture.
[[wysiwyg_imageupload::]]This was the beginning of what Courtney later called Sequential Spraying. At first we didn’t know that preparations could break droughts, but experience demonstrated applying all the preparations in sequence gave us the most gratifying results.
I have applied this technique with favorable outcomes on many occasions since. It seems to work best if launched when the moon is in a water or earth constellation at the approach to full moon, so use the Astro calendar and plan ahead to get the right amount of rain (rather than a flood).