Sunday, June 3, 2007

6. Soils/Dirt/Hydroponics

Living soil is the basis of food security and thus sustainability. The basis of good, living soil is the mycelium that helps generate the humic acids.

See this short video about the multi-billion year old history of where we got our living soil. The lesson is to learn how living soil is made, long before there were humans, then, we create that process though with ourselves within that process in the commodity ecology arrangements locally designed for specific areas.

The short stunning video demonstrates that mycelium is an excellent base for starting the commodity ecology on a groundwork of living soil because literally mycelium was the later basis for all land base life that depended and grew up from that living soil. Mycelium was the first land dweller that prepared everything chemically for soil formation that other creatures utilized later.

Paul Stamets: 6 ways mushrooms can save the world (17 minutes)
http://www.ted.com/talks/view/id/258



"Entrepreneurial mycologist Paul Stamets seeks to rescue the study of mushrooms from forest gourmets and psychedelic warlords. The focus of Stamets' research is the Northwest's native fungal genome, mycelium, but along the way he has filed 22 patents for mushroom-related technologies, including pesticidal fungi that trick insects into eating them, and mushrooms that can break down the neurotoxins used in nerve gas. There are cosmic implications as well. Stamets believes we could terraform other worlds in our galaxy by sowing a mix of fungal spores and other seeds to create an ecological footprint on a new planet."

Other frameworks of creating living soil like hot composting, worm farming (vermiculture), or mulching potentially are separated from the long term embedding of humans in the larger ecological relationships that can be institutionalized at the same moment. These other techniques can be done, though with re-basing commodity ecology, the ecologizing of human commodification, on mycelium seems the added sounded basis to start maintaining and constructing novel ethnobotany relationships in particular ecoregions.

Moreover, it is probably to be expected because mycelium was the first arriving "'life organ' of ecology" that these species would be an integral start for life--and for other commodity ecology paths. It has THE MOST cross-connects or overlaps SO FAR with leads into other categories. It connects very well with:

58. Remediation
16. Herbicides/Pesticides
6. Soils/Dirt/Hydroponics
5. Garbage/Garbage disposal
7. Drugs/Medicines
11. Mycelium based food
72. Packing Materials (for seeding forests, mycelium and seeds embedded)

THAT means mycelium's many local multiple consumptive positional uses makes it a good place to start upon the commodity ecology for branching in multiple directions from this locus. He says 6 ideas. I count seven. Really, all the difficulties with sustainability are already solved. It merely means putting all the pieces together combined with challenging the corrupt developmentalism with the bioregional state institutional arrangements, challenging the arrangements that keep sustainability, sustainable politics, and territorial states from happening.

Intimately related to this section are the categories on herbicides/pesticides and fertilizers. That is, if you have to use them. In many cases, you can get soil that is healthy, live, and productive without them. For instance, a quote from the short film below:

"You can fix all the world's problems, in a garden. You can solve them all, in a garden....And most people today don't actually know that,...and that makes most people very insecure [to see salty dead desert soil bloom and desalinize before their eyes because they are more attached to their worries and mental constructions than solving the issue]."

Greening the Desert
5:20 min
http://permaculture.org.au


A short film on turning around worst case scenarios of soil in the world, turning them into a (mycelium-rich) garden. The heavily salty desert around the even more heavily salty Dead Sea in Israel becomes a garden without pumping in extra water or artificial fertilizer/herbicides. "We could green the entire Middle East in this way," Geoff Lawton says in the film.



In the above video, the permaculturist notes that nearby degradative and self-destructive farms burn away the secret that could save their soil. The degradative farms burned off so called 'waste from agriculture' and turned it into easily erodible and easily-lost ash because they were ignorant of what to do with it. For the permaculturist, these so-labeled wastes were a key feature of creating their oasis of desalinated soil in the desert, without adding any water artificially and just working with what they had to create solutions for everything.

This is a longer film about Tasmanian/Australian Bill Mollison, who invented the permaculture term with his 1970s book Permaculture One.

From the following film, Mollison noted by 1989--nearly twenty years ago--there were already over 1,000 working examples of permaculture in the world.

Permaculture (1989 film) [The Life of Bill Mollison]
52 min 33 sec


Details the rise and rise of the "Permaculture Concept" as espoused by Bill Mollison and Geoff Lawton. (Another version of the same here.)



The term 'permaculture' was meant to reflect 'permanent culture' and permanent agriculture,' after noting that all historical societies predictably destroyed themselves with soil destruction and desertification. Societies have been desert creating entities--though is it required? Hardly so. Permaculture is a word originally coined by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren in the mid 1970's to describe an "integrated, evolving system of perennial or self-perpetuating plant and animal species useful to man", as a consciously designed landscape which mimics the patterns and relationships found in nature, while yielding an (over!)abundance of food, fibre and energy for provision of local needs. People, their buildings and the ways in which they organize themselves and plant species spatially are central to permaculture. Thus the permaculture vision of permanent or sustainable agriculture has always been one of permanent or sustainable culture, or sustainable society.

Bill Mollison as an inventor of the concept of permaculture (with David Holmgren) and Geoff Lawton as founder of the Permaculture Research Institute are names associated with international 'permaculture activism'. All help spread working test plots of permaculture examples around the world.

This is a lecture about permaculture:

Introduction to Permaculture - segment 1
19 min 47 sec

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=8298358562571067395

A lecture given by Mary Shalhub-Davis at Sacred Grounds Coffeehouse in Tampa, Florida, on the subject of Permaculture.

The definition she likes is "permaculture is an holistic approach to landscape design and human culture. It is an attempt to integrate several disciplines: biology, ecology, geography, agriculture, architecture, appropriate technology, and community building." Importantly she notes that permaculture can be urban or rural, small or large in land scale. The secret is creating the low-labor cycles where the plants, the animals, and the (potentially modified) landscape, interact in such a way as to provide an overabundance of food without much 'farmer' labor input, if any at all. In the Bill Morrison video he talks of 'abandoned' permaculture plots where its owner had moved away. However, the permaculture kept on producing, creating a veritable garden of Eden without any farmer to watch over it.

Permaculture is: without any synthetic pesticides or herbicides (species interactions achieve this effect for free), has a radical reduction of farmer labor required, has zero tilling, is without additional water requirements, as well as is a form of perennial agriculture (instead of annual plantings), is without a clear planting cycle, and can be integrated (typically) into pre-existing forest ecologies.

(If forests don't exist groups like the Colombian llanos-residing dwellers at Gaviotas (see the book Gaviotas: A Village to Reinvent the World (1999)) solved that difficulty as well by creating a forest-creation cycle from nothing that provided a foreign species fast-growing tree as a trellis for later 'local domestic' forest growth that would take over from the foreign species. They were able to start a process of forest generation in an area that had been desert and eroded soil for thousands of years in the frontier of Colombia. They expanded their community built on an economy of forest creation and profit--leading to expansion of forest lands with expanding human settlement and agriculture from virtual desert conditions.)

This is another example from Australia. People began to be interested in this man, Peter Andrews, and his ideas during a decade-long drought in Australia (that ended slightly in 2008) that revealed ONLY his farm had maintained its greenery. Everyone else around him was desert. He created a soil-creating framework, an oasis of permaculture techniques. He had just as much water or raw materials issues as the rest of neighboring farmers and ranchers. However, only his organization of them was sustainable while others were creating deserts from their forms of organization.

Australian Story - "Land Regeneration"
29 min

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=8960194180325234816

Details the use of basic permaculture concepts to change a piece of salted and degraded land into a productive oasis.




Effectively 'learning from Ladakh,' Australian Peter Andrews is applying and reinventing the EXACT water harvesting and soil infiltration techniques as Northern India (15 minutes into it).

Ancient Futures: Learning from Ladakh
1 hr 0 min 11 sec

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-5314168278683386338

Are we facing the prospect of going 'back' to the future? Will the future be more like the past? These kinds of questions need to be raised, and they are with great insight and understanding in this film about the development of Ladakh, in Northern India. A poignant and timely look into the dark face of globalisation, this documentary contrasts the once utopian essentialisms and sustainable practices of the Ladhaki's, with the disastrously destructive modern encroachment and infiltration.... In this gripping and authentic film, both local markets and local identity are undermined and soon everything is exploited.



Here is a forest garden based permaculture started with experiments by Mr. Robert Hart.

Forest Gardening with Robert Hart ... a film by Malcolm Baldwin (1 of 2)
7 min 25 sec

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=weGAe9NM0kg

"[A] haven of tranquility and abundance....His vision was to plant a major edible forest which could fulfill a healthy diet in beautiful surroundings. Some thirty years later, this....provides a model of what can be achieved in any backyard...grown in a secession of layers that imitate nature. The natural forest is regarded as having seven stories...the top story as being tall, light-demanding trees, the second story being short shade trees, the third story is the shrub level, the fourth the herbaceous, the fifth plants that spread horizontally, the sixth the rhizome or root layer, and the seventh the vertical level [of] climbers and creepers." He is indebted he says to Toyohiko Kagawa (1888-1960), a Japanese inventor of "3-D" methods of linking soil and conservation with food production (fodder trees to conserve soil, supply food and feed animals).



(2 of 2)

Here is a 'permaculture trio' of three short films in one. Another one about Robert Hart, edible forest gardens, as well as urban permaculture.

PERMACULTURE TRIO: Forest Gardening, Edible Landscaping, Urban Permaculture
48 min 5 sec


[T]hree short (about 15 minutes) documentaries.... 1) Robert Hart's Forest Garden Find out loads about what forest gardening is, and how to make your own.... 2)Edible Landscapes Second is an amazing case study about Rural Permaculture in Britain, showcasing loads of amazing edible plants and aquaculture and flowers, as well as fantastic medicinal plants. Look out for a cure for female infertility that's dropped in here.... 3) Urban Permaculture This is a brilliant and inspiring documentary of permaculture techniques used effectively in an urban back garden. With little more than 2 hours of work a week, this couple produce about a fifth of their food intake....



Another example of a working permaculture in a temperate and high altitude climate. The coldest places in Austria are growing lemons at 3,000 ft and much more: the Kramaterhof alpine farm of Sepp Holzer is an alpine garden of Eden with strategic uses of large rocks for passive heat in the winter in the farm's water system.

Farming With Nature: A Case Study Of Successful Temperate Permaculture;
A visit to the farm of Sepp and Veronika Holzer; The Krameterhof in Lungau, Austria
37 min 10 sec

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=727825431796194016

Permaculture is a design-based approach to practical sustainability, using systems thinking and approaches that combine regenerative ethics with ecological principles to create sustainable environments. Permaculture was developed in the sub-tropics (Australia) and thus there was some debate about how well it could adapt to practiced in Temperate climates. [Like Robert Hart's temperate forest-based permaculture,]...[t]his film dispenses with any such worries. In this documentary, we take a look at a case study of permaculture in the Austrian Alps, which is snowed over for much of the year. Despite this, by using permaculture design and a lifetime's experience, the farm here produces abundant and diverse yields, while attracting interest from people and restaurants far and wide.




Here is greater detail about permaculture in practice.

Permaculture in practice
49 min 42 sec

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=7629806485951726891

Permaculture in Britain, interspersed with case studies from all over the country. Packed with inspirational design features and beautiful Permaculture systems.



Here is an permaculture 'eco-subdivision'. It was conceived as an integrated landscape of human and ecological relations with multi-species (plants and animal raising mixed with agriculture/orchard and housing for a full community.

Murrnong - a permaculture subdivision
8 min

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xOW-RdCFax0
A permaculture community subdivision based on tree crop agriculture, on the edge of an Australian country town....



If this can be done in arid Australia, it be done virtually anywhere.

Here's a smaller home version, 'square foot gardening' might be called 'square foot permaculture' due to the employment of many permaculture principles at a very tiny scale, though still based on seeding and harvesting processes (unlike permaculture that just grows an "Eden" of food endlessly without tending). There is a very tiny amount of tending in this model:

Square Foot Gardening
36 min






As if it's not obvious, I don't care for totalitarian unsustainable police states whether they are Cuban or based in the United States. However, for a LARGER working model of organic, soil-creating agriculture--and political mechanisms that support it instead of destroy it--take a page from the "accidental agricultural revolution" in Cuba after they lost access to subsidized Soviet Block inputs and petrochemicals from 1989:

Cuba: The Accidental Revolution PT-1 and PT-2 (1989 to present in agriculture)
Canadian Broadcasting Company
90 min

(split into in ten minute segments at
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZdnlcYx6AIE )

Other Secrets of Sustainable Soil Creation

However, another secret of sustainable soil has been recovered from Amazonian archeology. See the below BBC video about this.

The lost urbanized societies in the Brazilian Amazon and the western half of Bolivia are yielding other secrets of soil sustainability, how to create renewable soil with large agricultural techniques, instead of creating a social process that destroys the soil. One key to this process of sustainable soil involves 'char-and-burn' remineralization of the soil instead of 'slash and burn' (meaning remineralization by burning items to white ash).

For remineralization, in a lower-temperature, lower-oxygen char-and-burn of any 'agricultural waste' you create charcoal instead of white ash. Then you mix that charcoal in the soil. Since charcoal is hard to erode and only partially turned to free chemicals, this remineralization by charcoal-in-the-soil facilitates a slow and stable release of minerals into the soil--over centuries. This places minerals durably in the soil instead of with white ash turning these minerals into something erodible and easily-lost.

In the below video, see a working example of this ideal anthropogenic (human-created) 'char-and-burn' form of agriculture that makes a soil-creating agriculture instead of a soil-destroying agriculture. Even after these urban Amazonians are long gone, their anthropogenic soil is still incredibly rich. Learn one of the 'secrets of the 'terra preta'' below: this sustainable char-and-burn mineralization of the soil to move away from the unsustainable slash and burn styles of mineralization. (Some of these videos have been removed though I leave the titles to see so you can find them, as well as because I assume someone will repost these elsewhere. Then I will update the links).

Unravelling Human Creation of Amazonian 'Terra Preta'/Dark Soil (Or, How to Make Permanent, Anthropogenic, Self-Renewing Soil); 7 min.:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4kUvgOPAPnA



"This is a short excerpt from a BBC Horizon documentary entitled "The Secret of El Dorado". It recounts how a previously unknown highly populated area of Eastern Bolivian Amazonia extending into the Amazon River Basin gave the area a major urban/agricultural society. It completely disappeared as Europeans arrived. However, it left its 'terra preta'--the dark earth of the Amazon--that is still mined and carried off because it is so beneficial a soil. And it still self-replicates--long after the original human/indigenous creators have died off and their secret lost. We are slowly unraveling how to recreate this perpetual self-renewing soil. Some secrets of it are featured in this short video clip. One secret is slash-and-char instead of slash-and-burn. The charcoal mixed later into the soil creates a slow release of minerals instead of burned ash that is eroded away very quickly. Very smart. See the amazing differences of scale of yields by only varying the addition of charcoal! Watch the longer video below for more detailed information about other aspects of the terra preta."

BBC - Horizon - The Secret of El Dorado
49 min

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-2809044795781727003


"New evidence that advanced societies flourished in the Amazon Basin before the arrival of Europeans. It was the most notorious wild-goose chase in history: the Conquistadors' search for El Dorado, a fabulous kingdom of gold that Indians said lay hidden in the jungles of the Amazon Basin. But now, at last, archaeologists have uncovered the truth behind that myth. They have found evidence of a huge society, as advanced as the Egyptians or the Incas, right in the heart of the rainforest. And this is more than the story of a lost world rediscovered. For it seems that the people of the real El Dorado possessed a secret with the power to transform our world and their secret in the soil could be the solution to solving famine in the Third World and other nations [by making local independent and autonomous agricultural sound for poor soil areas--because you can invent the soil out of nothing in a low-tech way!] once and for all."

So, one of the main points is that a long durable human agriculture (permanent culture) would be soil creating instead of soil destroying. Actually at the herbicides/pesticides I go into this as well, so see that link.

Below is something I wrote for the Encyclopedia of Social Problems (2008, pending) on "Erosion." Perhaps I'll add some more of the details that were clipped out of the accepted draft. It helps you understand the generalizable biochemical processes involved in good soils.



Erosion

Erosion can refer confusingly to effects of human and natural processes, and human-natural interactive processes, the latter serving here as the focus in discussing soil erosion and biodiversity loss, particularly as a result of surface water runoffs in both urban and rural environments.

When humans disrupt soil creation processes habitat fragmentation, habitat destruction, and general ecological unraveling begins in that soil gradient's plant and animal life specific to it. Worldwide, the majority of biologists blame anthropogenic soil erosion and biodiversity loss for the current sixth major mass extinction event in the history of planet Earth. This is the first anthropogenic mass extinction event, and it is far more rapid than any of the “Big Five” in past geologic times.

Natural Erosion and Soil Creation

In different soil gradients, a specific slow, organic and inorganic physical process of natural soil creation occurs that involves beneficial erosion. This process jockeys increasingly with a faster, human soil erosion and sheet runoff that kills plant and animal life within a soil gradient—carrying the slowly formed soil away. Thus, anthropogenic soil erosion and associated biodiversity loss start in the alteration of this balance in the creation or destruction of soil and in how humans affect water dynamics.

Understanding soil creation chemically and physically is necessary if one wishes to understand and arrest the process of soil destruction. Soil creation results from a mixture of decayed organic and inorganic matter relationships which create an all important macro-molecular chelate arrangement of humic acids. Humic acids are a major component required for making humic substances, created via microbial degradation of once living matter. A large amount of humic molecules are hydrophobic, meaning they innately allow in the presence of water, clumping into `water avoiding' supramolecular nodes.

Only the acidic component of humic substances, mainly carboxylic acid, gives soil a capacity for chelation, a capacity to ‘store’ inorganic minerals as ions without them having a strong chemical bond with anything else. Chelated inorganic ions are both more readily bioavailable for plants or are sequestered away from them if they are poisons. Thus one of the most important properties of humic acid is this chelation ability to solubilize many ions into hydrophobic cations (water avoiding, chemically positive ions). For bioavailability chelation, ions like magnesium, calcium, and iron are made available for plant absorption. For sequestering chelation, humic acid holds apart as ions many elements that otherwise would form toxic molecular salts to poison the soil without positive biological effect (like cadmium and lead). For instance, sodium and chlorine ions naturally want to combine to form a salt. Instead, in good fertile soil they are attached as separate ions to humic acids and clay—rendered harmless by chelation. Thus, many good soils contain large quantities of safely chelated “salt,'' held apart in ionic form from precipitating out in this way. Plant growth thrives in such “theoretically saline'' soils, in many cases. In short, humic acid chelation capacities have an important dual role for living systems: making biological uptake of nutrients possible as well as sequestration of poisons. Chemistry of varied humic acids has a profound influence on chelation capacities as well.

On the contrary, human soil erosion processes chemically have in common destruction of the humic acid creation process. This causes [1] loss of chelation capacity and [2] loss of water permeability and loss of soil infiltration capacities as a consequence. For agriculture, the latter can lead to [3] forced excessive watering, and in turn, a raised pH. Water as slightly alkaline (chemically positive) as well as dilutive would demote the slightly acidic (chemically negative) environment that encourages humic acid creation and would thus demote chelation action further. Such watering as a consequence can lead to [4] artificially raised water tables that can bring in external salts to precipitate from below, creating a hardpan and encouraging soil erosion of the drier soil above it. These four interactive soil destruction factors cause increased salt precipitation in chelated soil. This encourages a chemical and physical change toward poorer soil and less water-absorbent soil in both urban and rural areas. This primes the conditions that cause soil erosion whether by sheet water runoff or wind.

Erosion: Just Add Water or Wind

Poor land/soil uses like deforestation, overgrazing, styles of chemical and physical agriculture (tilling), unmanaged construction activity, and urban impermeable surfaces demote humic acid formation. This leads to erosion because less humic acid means less hydroscopic soils, resulting in an innately dry soil—regardless of climate. Human-created poor soils facilitate ongoing natural water erosion and wind erosion above rates of natural soil formation. In heavily eroding water conditions, it is not water alone that erodes, but also suspended loads of abrasive particles of poor loose soil, pebbles, and boulders which expand the power of erosion as they traverse and scrape soil surfaces. Waterborne soil erosion in these conditions is additionally a function of water speed and suspended particle dynamics.

Wind erosion occurs in areas with little or no vegetation, often in areas without sufficient rainfall. However, the common factor of a less humic acidic hydroscopic soil facilitates wind erosion regardless of climate. One example is the long-term shifting dunes in beaches or deserts, which advance to bury any plant life even when underground sources of water may be sufficient. Huge areas of western China are experiencing expanding desertification and wind based erosion, whipped into incredible dust storms caused by mostly anthropogenic climate change. Both water and wind erosion cause further biodiversity loss from receiving water sedimentation and ecosystem damage (including fish kills).

Anthropogenic soil erosion and biodiversity loss expand from edge effects, the ecological juxtaposition between contrasting environments. The term identifies boundaries of natural habitats and disturbances by poor land use choices. When an edge is created to a natural ecosystem and the area outside is a disturbed system, even the natural ecosystem fragment is affected for great distances inward from the edge. This edge effect area is called the external habitat and has a different microclimate than the residual interior habitat. This partially compromised external habitat starts a feedback loop process, leading to further soil erosion and microclimate change unraveling and exposing more interior habitat to further habitat destruction. For example, Amazonian areas altered by edge effects exceed the area actually cleared, and fires are more prevalent in the external habitat area as humidity drops and temperature and wind levels rise. Increased natural fire frequency from the 1990s in the Amazon, Indonesia, and the Philippines is an edge effect.
In such contexts, an ecosystem unravels toward a simpler ‘emergy’ state (embedded or sequestered biomass energy). Intrusive exotic species are part of this, further causing biodiversity loss to levels of lower complexity. Exotics are hardly to blame. The blame is human soil erosive processes that create edge effects and biodiversity loss which exotics opportunistically utilize.

Shifting Blame and Shifting Cultivation

The blame for much of the world’s soil and biodiversity erosion usually focuses on the poor—the slash and burn cultivators of mostly the Developing World. However, transnational corporate Developed World logging around the world with Developed World directed mining, export-driven grazing of cattle and plantation agriculture linked to a war economy demoting political expression of local ecological self-interest. This combines as the major blame for soil and biodiversity loss, as well as the major factor keeping such degradation in place. In short, current faulty and unsustainable Developed World models and associated warfare are the larger origin of soil erosion, defoliation, and biodiversity destruction. Another example of misplaced priorities of exclusive blame (though proper concern) on peasant slash and burn for erosion is its false magnification by politicized Developed World research institutions. Despite the largest blame for soil erosion and biodiversity loss coming from Developed World developmental models, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) assessed shifting cultivation of the last independent natives to be the main cause of deforestation—ignoring more invasive and destructive unsustainable Developed World logging. The apparent discrimination and policy focus against independent shifting cultivators (whom the FAO recommend be forced to work on export economy rubber plantations) caused a confrontation between FAO and environmental groups who saw FAO supporting unsustainable commercial logging and plantation interests against local rights of indigenous people to be independent economically.

The lesson here is that the infrastructural and cultural adherence of more than 3-4 billion people (at least ambivalently) supportive of Developed World political economic models and commodity choices are far more dangerous to soil erosion and biological diversity than the estimated mere 250 million people subsisting on slash and burn. Instead of nomadic slash and burn sustenance-minded shifting cultivation villages, it is the expansion of permanent agricultural monocropping techniques particularly in export frameworks of high herbicide/pesticide commodities, mining pollution, transnational corporate logging, and tree plantations that has led to more soil erosion and biodiversity loss. Massive export-oriented sheep and cattle herding, for instance, led to soil erosion and biodiversity loss in Australia, New Zealand, the United States, and the Amazon. In less than 150 years in Australia, export-oriented monocrop agriculture in New South Wales led to clearing 90 percent of native vegetation. The same chosen agricultural strategy and chosen commodities removed 99 percent of Tallgrass prairie in North America in the same period, leading to extreme habitat fragmentation and massive suspended loads (sediment) flowing down the Mississippi River. In the past fifty years, erosion is affecting even oceans, with over sixty massive ‘dead zones’ of deoxygenated ocean water appearing off the littorals of the Developed world.

In short, organizing developmental paradigms of more locally attenuated human-environmental commodity relationships to maintain local natural soil gradient formation processes and to maintain soil infiltration are two generalized goals common to addressing soil erosion and biodiversity loss. There are already many land use techniques developed in urban and rural areas to allow for quick sedimentation and slowing water speed. Wider goals are to demote contexts that allow suspended loads or soil destruction in the first place—by altering agricultural and construction practices to mitigate against loosened soil or heavy watering. There are frameworks of urban water handling and agricultural water and soil handling already developed to allow for more water infiltration, less (sometimes zero) soil tilling, and elimination of chemical pesticides and herbicides.

Integrating ecological relationships into urban infrastructural relations and making rural extraction sustainable by encouraging soil-creating human activities instead of soil destruction are both crucial. This seems to be the only route to demote massive soil erosion and biodiversity loss that follow soil gradients. Comparatively historically, soil and biodiversity survive with human societies, or all will fall together.

Mark D. Whitaker
See also

Environment: Runoff and Eutrophication, Sewage Disposal; Environmental, Degradation, Movement; Water: Organization, Quality, Supply.


Further Readings and References

Ascher, William. 1999. Why Governments Waste Natural Resources: Policy Failures in Developing Countries. Baltimore, Maryland: The Johns Hopkins Press.

Diamond, Jared. 2005. Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. Viking.

Hillel, Daniel. 1991. Out of the Earth: Civilization and the Life of the Soil. New York: The Free Press.

Ponting, Clive. 1992. A Green History of the World the Environment and the Collapse of Great Civilizations. New York: St. Martin’s Press.

Potter, Christopher S., and Joel I. Cohen. 1993. Perspectives on Biodiversity: Case Studies of Genetic Resource Conservation and Development. Washington, D.C.: AAAS Press.

Pye-Smith, Charlie. 2002. The Subsidy Scandal: How Your Government Wastes Your Money to Wreck Your Environment. London Sterling, VA: Earthscan.

Quammen, David. 1997. The Song of the Dodo: Island Biogeography in an Age of Extinction. Scribner.

Steensberg, Axel. 1993. Fire-Clearance Husbandry: Traditional Techniques Throughout the World. The Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters’ Commission for Research on the History of Agricultural Implements and Field Structures. Herning: Poul Kristensen.

Books on Permaculture:

Permaculture One: A Perennial Agricultural System for Human Settlements by Mollison and Holmgren (Paperback - 1990)

Permaculture Two by Mollison (Paperback - Jun 1979)

PERMACULTURE: A Designers' Manual by Bill Mollison and Reny Mia Slay (Hardcover - Oct 1, 1997)

The Permaculture Way: Practical Steps To Create A Self-Sustaining World (Practical Steps) by Graham Bell, Bill Mollison, David Bellamy, and Brick (Paperback - Mar 30, 2005)

Permaculture Magazine by Permanent Publications - Magazine Subscription - 4 issues / 12 months

Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability by David Holmgren (Paperback - Dec 2002)

How to Make a Forest Garden by Patrick Whitefield (Paperback - Jun 22, 2002)

Or contact the Permaculture Research Institute, founded by Geoff Lawton.


In comments below are strategies of zeolite, soil remineralization from mining tailings, and other material inputs utilized to make soil sustainability.

14 comments:

ericswan said...

Most people haven't heard about zeolite because it's natural occurance was not discovered until 1985. The application as a growth medium in a relatively new fied called "zeoponics" is only now being investigated.

http://agron.scijournals.org/cgi/collection/zeoponics?ck=nck

Mark said...

Centralized Urban Composting

It's important for urban waste streams that are biodegradable do go into biodegradable frameworks, like urban composting. There are quite a few nice description of huge composting projects in some Florida cities. The compost then becomes something that is sold to the consumer back once more. Turning waste into a benefit. "Waste is just energy in the wrong place."

Nice descriptions can be found in the book _Dirt: The Ecstatic Skin of the Earth

Mark said...

Interview Steve Varga, ProGrass Landscape Horticulturist.

WHAT: Wilsonville-based ProGrass announces NaturalCare: Natural
Solutions For A Healthy Landscape. ProGrass NaturalCare becomes the
safest, most natural landscape care service available to Oregon
homeowners.



WHERE: Yard, Garden & Patio Show, Convention Center, Booth # 1030


WHEN: Friday, Feb. 24 - Sunday, Feb. 26, 2006, 10a-9p Fri & Sat, 10a-6p Sun.

WHY: Concern for the environment

Concern for the health; safety of children; pets

Confusion about how to create a vibrant, healthy landscape

Confusion over the when/how/why to use chemicals in landscape care

To improve the health of your landscape by improving soil quality

NaturalCare creates sustainable landscapes by providing long-term solutions rather then short-term results

NaturalCare provides a new way of caring for your landscape. Your
goal will be lots of biological activity in the soil so healthy grass
can form a thick cover to discouraging weeds and an extensive root
system that is resistant to drought. Healthy soil means lots of
earthworms and microorganisms, which need plenty of organic matter to
flourish. Doing this successfully is a difficult task for homeowners
and requires specialized knowledge and products not available to the
general public.

When you use only chemical fertilizers, your lawn can become more
susceptible to drought and disease. Over time, lawns can become
chemically dependent. Natural organic fertilizers work in a different
way, providing the key elements to develop rich, healthy soil that is
the building block of healthy plants.

VISUALS: Steve will demonstrate how NaturalCare provides a safe
& healthy alternative for landscape care. Comparison chart listing
ingredients of both NaturalCare and well-known national fertilizer
products.

GLOSSARY OF SOME NATURALCARE TERMS:


· Mychorrhizae - Naturally occurring soil organism which promotes
root growth in plants. This contributes to water absorption, nutrient
uptake, general plant growth, decreases in plant diseases and improved
tolerance to heat and stress.

· Humates - Organic acids which are abundant in natural minerals.
They help transfer nutrients from soil to plants, improve water
retention of soil and stimulate the development of microorganisms in
the soil.

· Fishmeal - Natural form of nutrients and soil mulch used by
Native Americans. Supplies nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium.

· Organic fertilizer - Dry and sterilized form of animal manure,
bone meal or feather meal which release nutrients when decomposed.

· Sea kelp - Provides natural plant hormones and nutrients for plants

· Yucca -- Natural extract from desert plant acts as wetting agent to allow materials to move in the soil freely.

· Biological control- Insect control derived from a
naturally-occurring bacterial or fungal spores such as Bacillus
subtilis
· Botanical control - Insect controls derived from plant extracts such as pyrethrum.

· Horticultural soaps - Insect control products from soap-based fatty acids which kill soft-bodied insects.


CONTACT: Jack Rubinger, Media Relations, 503-788-7325

Steve Varga, ProGrass Horticulturist, 503-969-8950

Mark said...

[Look at these example of the capacities of plants, given the right soil conditions! And it would ideally be a way to utilize treated crushed waste (if non-toxic to the soil) from mining areas as a benefit and tying some different strands of commodities together for a particular area.


Remineralize the Earth
http://www.remineralize.org/about.php

In this unintended "experiment" in our garden, we remineralized soil in one raised bed with finely ground granite residue from a water well drilling site. The remineralized soil produced the carrots on the left. Carrots planted earlier, in soil not yet remineralized, but otherwise more improved, are shown at the right for comparison. Dust obtained from a mixture of rock types would have even more dramatic results, according to Weaver and Hamaker. These results were typical for all crops receiving rock dust in our 1985 garden.
--Dan Hemenway


* Benefits of Remineralization
* Soil Remineralization in Context
* A Rock Dust Primer
* Soil Remineralization and the Climate


As Ward Chesworth and co-researchers write in Agricultural Alchemy: Stones into Bread:

"Our most optimistic expectations are no less than the realization of an old dream: 'What will fertilizing with stone dust accomplish? It will turn stones into bread...make barren regions (fruitful) (and) feed the hungry.'"

Julius Hensel
Bread From Stones (1894)


Don Weaver (right) with the late and great John Hamaker to whom this website is dedicated and whose work has inspired Remineralize the Earth.

Remineralize the Earth is a non-profit organization incorporated to disseminate ideas and practice about soil remineralization throughout the world. Membership and donations are tax-deductible. Remineralize the Earth networks to a community grassroots network that stretches to every continent.

The book The Survival of Civilization by John Hamaker and Don Weaver is regarded by a growing movement worldwide as a blueprint for the survival of the Earth, restoring ecological balance, and perhaps even recreating Eden.

The remineralization of forests, farms, orchards, and gardens with glacial gravel and rock dust is nature's way to regenerate and fertilize soils.

During an Ice Age, as glaciers grind rock to a fine dust over millennia, a fertile soil is created. Adding finely ground gravel dust to soils is a tremendous boost to organic agriculture and can make it truly viable by adding up to a hundred elements and trace minerals needed by all life.

Rock dust also nourishes the microorganisms in the soil, whose protoplasm is the basis of all living things.

There is evidence to suggest that as forests begin to die off worldwide, giving off carbon dioxide, the climate of the Earth is altered, triggering the transition from the warm interglacial to an Ice Age. We are hastening this process with the burning of fossil fuels.

Undertaking the task of remineralization is urgent to restore our agricultural soils, to save the dying forests in the temperate latitudes, and to stabilize our climate.

Remineralization revitalizes soils by imitating natural processes and using materials that are a result of glaciation, volcanic eruptions, and alluvial deposits.

Executive Director
Dan Kittredge

Associate Research Scientist
Andrew Harley, PhD

Board of Directors
Joanna Campe, President
Christian Campe, Treasurer
Susan Witt, Executive Director, EF Schumacher Society
William C. Holmberg, Chairman, Biomass Coordinating Council at ACORE.org
Ned Kennan, Zen Peacemaker Circle Foundation

Board of Advisors
William Fyfe, Ph.D., Professor emeritus and former chair of the Geology Department and Dean of Science at the University of Western Ontario, and Former President of the International Union of the Geophysical Scientists
Ward Chesworth, Ph.D., University of Guelph
Peter van Straaten, University of Guelph, author of Rocks for Crops
Dr. Robin Szmidt, Active Compost Limited, Scotland
Don Weaver, co-author of The Survival of Civilization
Graham Harvey, "We Want Real Food" book and campaign
Bob Cannard, Cannard Farms, Greenstring Institute
Prakash Laufer, United For a Fair Economy
David Yarrow, New York Champion Trees Project
Barrie Oldfield, Men of Trees, Australia
John Todd, Ocean Arks International and the Center for Restoration of Waters


Why remineralize?

* Provides slow, natural release of elements and trace minerals.
* Increases the nutrient intake of plants.
* Increases yields and gives higher brix reading.
* Rebalances soil pH.
* Increases the growth of microorganisms and earthworm activity.
* Builds humus complex.
* Prevents soil erosion.
* Increases the storage capacity of the soil.
* Increases resistance to insects, disease, frost, and drought.
* Produces more nutritious crops.
* Enhances flavor in crops.
* Decreases dependence on fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides.

...

Soil Remineralization in Context

Soil Remineralization (SR) creates fertile soils by returning the minerals to the soil much the same way the Earth does: during an Ice Age, glaciers crush rock onto the Earth's soil mantle, winds blow the dust in the form of loess all over the globe. Volcanoes erupt spewing forth minerals from deep within the Earth, and minerals are contained in alluvial deposits.

Within silicate rocks are a broad spectrum of up to 100 minerals and trace elements necessary for the well being of all life and the creation of fertile soils. Glacial moraine or mixtures of single rock types applied to soils create a sustainable and superior alternative to the use of ultimately harmful chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides.


One of many anecdotal photos sent over the years to the magazine in the early remineralization movement in the 1980s. These two oak leaves were sent by Jeannie Stevens from Victoria Australia. The larger leaf was that of an oak tree that was remineralized in March 1984. At that time the leaf was the same size as the smaller one on the left. There was a magnificent forest of seedlings under that tree in December 1986. The oak tree nearby with the smaller leaf on the left was not given an application of rock dust and had very few viable acorns and weak seedlings.


SR has been shown in scientific studies to increase yields as much as two to four times for agriculture and forestry (wood volume), and to have immediate results and long term effects with a single application.

Hundreds of thousands of tons of appropriate rock dust for soil and forest regeneration are stockpiled by the gravel and stone industry.

A Brief History

Remineralization has mainly been researched and explored by three distinct groups:

* First, German nutritional biochemist, Julius Hensel, pioneered SR in the 1880s with his book Bread from Stones and a modest agricultural movement came into being. Following his contribution, many scientists have done research on SR since the late 1930s in Germany and Central Europe for agriculture and forests.

More recent researchers include Peter von Fragstein at the University of Kessel, Germany, who has researched remineralization as a slow-release fertilizer with many different rock types and to deter insects.

The technology was not available at the turn of the century to produce finely ground rock dust, so SR, as promoted by Hensel, could not be produced feasibly on a large scale. SR was revived about thirty years ago in Europe. Many rock dust products for agriculture, forestry and sewage sludge treatment have been created in Germany, Austria and Switzerland in the last few decades and have been successfully marketed by the natural stone industry. Companies such as Lava-Union (Germany), Sanvita (Austria) and Bernasconi (formerly known as Zimmerli, Switzerland), along with many others and the Natural Stone Industry (Die Naturstein Industrie) based in Bonn, Germany have also done a great deal of research.

* Second, is the more recently developed field of agrogeology. This research has been carried out mainly in Canada, Brazil, Tanzania, the Canary Islands, and West Africa--especially on laterite soils. Because of the intense tropical rainfall, NPK fertilizers are washed out in only a few weeks and cannot be stored by the soils, and are especially harmful to the groundwater. Rock fertilizers not only give nutrients over longer periods to cultivated plants, but also improve the ion-exchange-capacity of soils by forming new clay minerals during the weathering of the fertilizer. Researchers include William Fyfe and Ward Chesworth, among others.

For current information about agrogeology, see [[Rocks for Crops. ]]The book Rocks for Crops by Peter van Straaten from the University of Guelph can be found online [[here.]]

[

find it at this link:
http://www.remineralize.org/context.php

]

* Third, the grass roots movement concerned with the premise of John Hamaker in the book The Survival of Civilization, co-authored with Don Weaver, asserts that SR is not only the key to restoring soils and forests, but in the larger context, absolutely necessary and urgent to reduce levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and stabilize the climate. Especially recommended are rock gravels and glacial moraine from glacial deposits which provide the most natural mixtures of rocks with the broadest possible spectrum of minerals and trace elements.

This movement began with Hamaker's writing in the early 1970s and expanded in the 1980s into a global grassroots community consisting of ecologically concerned individuals and organizations, farmers and gardeners, scientists and policy makers.

To facilitate networking and the flow of information and promote SR as advocated by John Hamaker and Don Weaver, Soil Remineralization, A Network Newsletter, began in 1986 and became the Remineralize the Earth magazine in 1991.

The magazine has networked to people all over the world, collected research and a wealth of anecdotal results of farmers and gardeners to substantiate the results of SR.

In October 1995, Remineralize the Earth, Towards a Sustainable Agriculture, Forestry and Climate, was incorporated as a non-profit organization.

On May 24, 1994, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) (Beltsville, MD), the U.S. Bureau of Mines (USBM) (Washington, DC), the National Stone Association (NSA) (Washington, DC), and the National Aggregates Association (NAA) (Silver Spring, MD) co-sponsored a forum on "Soil Remineralization and Sustainable Agriculture" at the USDA Agricultural Research Station in Beltsville, MD.

The Forum brought together the by-product rock fines generating industry and the proponents of SR to explore environmentally-sound uses of rock fines and to identify the state of the science supporting their use and the gaps in knowledge that need to be filled.

The USDA began a series of demonstration trials with rock fines (from Georgia, Maryland and New York) and other industrial by-products. Dr. Ronald Korcak, research leader of the fruit lab, directed the trials over a three-year period. They are also beginning to research the use of rock dust in compost under the direction of Dr. Larry Sikora. The now defunct U.S. Bureau of Mines designed a prototype for a GIS (Geographic Information Systems) database to target soils in most need of SR and their distance from regional sources of rock fines to calculate transport costs and marketability of specific rock fines.
The National Aggregate Association has a Task Force on Remineralization exploring the possibilities for creating sustainable products for agriculture, forestry and other uses. Research projects are currently underway at universities and as part of research and development programs of some of the largest aggregate companies in the US, Europe and Australia and through organizations such as Men of the Trees in Australia.

Just a paradigm shift away from conventional chemical NPK farming is a vast new frontier, SR - key to the sustainable agriculture of tomorrow. The agenda for SR is clear. It will create abundance in an era of diminishing resources and shift us away from fossil fuels.

Remineralization is nature's way to regenerate soils. We can return the Earth to earlier interglacial Eden-like conditions through appropriate technology.

http://www.remineralize.org/context.php

...

A Rock Dust Primer

What type of rock is best?

Feeding poor soil with mixed rock dust may be compared to feeding an ill person a varied diet of unrefined, natural food. If no one single food is a panacea, it might follow that no single rock type is "ideal." Indeed, the virtue of glacial gravel is said to lie in its broad spectrum of rock types. The late John Hamaker advocated the use of glacial gravel dust, ideally followed by river and seashore gravels and mixtures of single rock types.


In the book The Survival of Civilization, John Hamaker suggests finely-ground glacial gravel because that is nature's way throughout millennia to create fertile soils. Glacial gravel, which is a natural mixture of rocks, will create a broad spectrum of minerals in the soil in a natural balance.

Much of value can also be gleaned from Europe and the research and experiences there where single rock types and combinations of single rock types such as basalt are used.

Hamaker asserts that "Micro-organisms select what they need to make the compounds of life, and reject to the subsoil what is not needed, [such as] aluminum, silicon, iron, etc., which are generally in excess [in gravel dust]," further pointing to "the Kervran research on biological transmutations", which suggests that biological organisms may play an active role not only in selecting specific elements, but also in modulating their elemental nature to create needed materials where they are in short supply. Hamaker says "As long as the soil is neutral [in pH] or close to it, microorganisms will control what goes into the plant roots. These controls are off when the soil is acid or acidic chemicals are added."


Composting with rock dust

Combining gravel dust with organic materials in compost is a great way to solve application problems and speed up the process. Don't forget a handful of soil to inoculate with organisms. Gravel dust improves aeration and structure and therefore prevents rotting. Gravel dust is assimilated even more quickly in compost than in poor soils.

Compost and gravel dust are a symbiotic combination: the compost provides an excellent medium for the "microorganism population explosion" promoted by the dust, and the gravel dust will not only help create more organic matter, but will also help hold it in place, reduce odors and conserve it.

Add 2-20 lb. of rock dust per cubic yard of compost, if one is doing pile or window composting.

Soil acidity

Soil pH should be measured annually. If the soil is acidic, agricultural limestone may be added together with the rock dust to bring the soil pH to neutral. Gravel dust will also neutralize soils to a great degree, but limestone is a quick remedy for agricultural soils. Limestone is not recommended for forests as it will destroy the humus-building complex in the long term.

Keep insects in natural balance in your garden

For short-term rescue, very fine dust sprayed directly on plants and trees has been shown in research in Germany to deter insect infestations very effectively. Trails of rock dust around the garden help keep slugs out. And healthy remineralized plants will not be plagued by insect infestations in the future as they become healthier and more insect resistant.

How to apply gravel dust

There are many ways to apply dust to the soil; which method you use depends on the scale and your preference. It can be spread by hand out of a wheelbarrow using a shovel, or roto-tilled and disked in. You can use a wet agricultural lime spreader. If equipment is available that contains an agitator (to maintain particles in a suspended state), a wet spray can be used.

Organic farmer John Sundquist in Oregon applies it with a manure spreader, bander or an "E-Z Flow" type fertilizer applicator. He also uses rock dust in a potting soil made of compost, ashes and peat moss.

How much to use

A grower of crops or a gardener needs a good response the first year after a fall application. The response in any one year depends on the amount of minerals available to the microorganisms, soil moisture and the amount of inert organic matter.

If the last two factors are satisfactory, as little as 3 tons of gravel dust per acre worked into the top 4 inches of soil should give good results. However, I prefer about 10 tons per acre worked in about 8 inches, since one application will eliminate the cost of a number of more frequent applications and give high yields.

The Application Conversion Chart will help you to determine how much gravel dust to use: 3 tons/acre is considered the minimum application, 10 tons/acre is Hamaker's preferred long-term application, and 20 tons/acre is given as a major remedial application for especially dry, poor soil. Smaller amounts are recommended if the rock dust is finer than 200 mesh and larger amounts if much less fine than 200 mesh.

Finding local sources of gravel dust

To find gravel-grinding operations in your area, call your local gravel pit (look in the Yellow Pages under "Cement-Wholesale", or "Sand and Gravel") and ask if they have crushed gravel screenings made from mixed rocks, the kind that comes out of river beds - crushed and passed through a 1/4 inch or finer screen. The gravel dust will probably cost from $1-$8.00 per ton plus the cost of transportation if the gravel pit delivers it to your garden. As most of the cost is in transporting the rock dust, having a truck or access to one is an advantage. A cooperative initiative with friends and neighbors would also cut costs down.

The Particle Conversion Chart shows various categories of "soil separates" (ground particles) listed with their diameters in microns (thousandths of a mm.) and their corresponding screen mesh sizes. "Mesh" simply refers to a screen with a given number of holes per inch.

The more finely ground the rock, the more readily microorganisms will have access to the minerals. John Hamaker uses the term "gravel dust" to mean a dust "90% of which will pass through a 200-mesh screen."

You can also contact your local state Aggregate Producers Association, your local county DPW (Department of Public Works), your state DOT (Department of Transportation) Materials Bureau and you can contact the National Aggregate Association (Tel: 1-800-622-1020).

What does industry call the product?

It is referred to as pond settlings, rock dust, rock flour, classifier tailings, and minus #200 mesh. You should ask for minus #200 Mesh (-75 micron) material, pond settling, material that has gone over the weirs of a sand screw or the weir of a sand classification tank, or material obtained from the dust collection system. You should not use concrete sand, abrasive sand, filter sand, mason sand, blow sand (loess) screenings as they are too coarse.

What is the best material to use?

Glacial sand and gravel that contain a myriad or heterogeneous combination of various rock formation type or mineralogy is preferred.

Other metamorphic or igneous stone such as basalt, rhyolites, etc., are highly recommended. Most sedimentary rocks (limestone and dolomite) are used to balance pH and provide for calcium and magnesium deficiencies.

Testing your gravel dust

Several people have reported that gravel dust does not work or it will have [only] a temporary effect. They don't describe the dust in detail, but there may be very little dust in what they call 'dust.' Know what you are buying or you may be badly disappointed.

Here are three simple, quick tests you can perform at home:

http://www.remineralize.org/primer.php


...

Soil Remineralization and the Climate



Soil Remineralization

The soils of the entire world have become severely demineralized by erosion over thousands of years.

Plants require a continuous intake of minerals, just as we do, and for very similar reasons - calcium to build structural support, iron to carry oxygen, and so on. Plants growing on mineral-depleted soil do not get enough nourishment and so become smaller, less-abundant and less hardy, more vulnerable to the insects, worms and fungi that prey upon them.

Remineralization has been shown to cause a phenomenal growth of the microorganisms in the soil. It increases the nutrient intake of plants. It counters the effects of soil acidity, prevents soil erosion (for this reason alone, it would be worth applying rock dust), increases the storage capacity of the soil, contributes to the building of precious humus complexes, has anti-fungal properties, and when you spray it on plants it repels insects as well. The plants and trees become highly resistant to insects, disease, frosts, and droughts.

Remineralization also enhances and speeds up the process of composting, so if you are composting for your garden, consider putting on some rock dust.

Remineralizing by adding rock dust to compost is a very practical way to apply it to soils.

For Forests

* The results of long term experiments released in 1986 showed that in a forest where pine seedlings were remineralized, after 24 years the wood volume was four times higher than in the untreated area.

* Remineralization trials of a dying forest on Mt. Mitchell by Dr. Robert Bruck, Ph.D., showed that twelve weeks after application of rock dust, height of growth of red spruce was increased by 27% over non-treated controls, and height growth of Fraser fir was 19% greater than the untreated controls. (Forestry Research packet)

* The Men of Trees organization in Australia is doing remineralization trials with many species of trees in Australia with phenomenal results, such as five times the growth of trees seedlings of one variety of eucalyptus, over the untreated controls. (See Forestry Research packet)

For Agriculture

The best source of soil minerals is simple crushed gravel dust.

In 1976 John Hamaker spread gravel crusher screenings on part of his ten acres in Michigan. The following year, in an area of sparse rainfalls and dry summers, with no irrigation, his corn produced 65 bushels per acre, compared to yields of under 25 from other local farms.

Moreover, when independent analyses were done, Hamaker's corn was found to contain 28% more protein, 47% more calcium, 57% more phosphorus, 60% more magnesium and 90% more potassium than the same type of corn grown with chemical fertilizers nearby.

[

THAT IS IMPORTANT FOR HUMAN AND ANIMAL HEALTH AS WELL, SINCE INDUSTRIALIZED AGRICULTURAL TREATMENT OF THE SOIL HAS OVER THE 20TH CENTURY INCREASINGLY DESTROYED ITS NUTRITIONAL CAPACITIES.

SEE:

Sunday, December 11, 2005
SUPPLY VERSUS DEMAND: Veggies, Soil, Pesticides/Herbicides, and Your Incresingly Nutritionally Useless Food

]

Twenty years ago the USDA published studies which showed that cement kiln dust (a less-satisfactory source of minerals) also produced better crops, but they couldn't understand "what element" in the dust was responsible and dropped the matter.

Hamaker estimates that on fully remineralized soil, American agriculture could grow four times as much food as it is capable of now - or the same amount of food at about one-fourth the cost [which would be better] - and with no pesticides or chemical fertilizers.

The Nutritional Aspect

When we eat food grown on depleted soil we too, like the plants, lose our natural resistance to disease.

All the degenerative diseases have been on the rise in American in recent decades. Dietary fat, cholesterol, salt and overly-refined foods seem to be major factors, but a serious deficiency of minerals in our food may be another. Mineral depletion of soils has been found to be directly correlated with death rates. And deficiencies of only one of a number of trace minerals - copper, iron, selenium, etc. - have been found in laboratory studies to be associated with an increased risk of cancer.

A Global Perspective on Climate

The problem of soil demineralization also has a global perspective. It is known that the Earth's soil becomes demineralized during each interglacial period, the relatively short 10,000-year warm period between each 90,000-year major Ice Age. Consequent decline in the world's forests and other vegetation causes a release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and reduces available sinks for the collection of carbon dioxide.

The level of carbon dioxide in the Earth's atmosphere has been rising exponentially for the past century. Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases trap excess heat from the sun, potentially affecting the world's climate.

It is also well-known that when the glaciers advance and then recede during each recurrent Ice Age, they grind down rocks in their path, and this mineral-rich dust is blown far over the surface of the Earth, remineralizing soils and causing plant life to thrive again.

John Hamaker has supplied one missing piece to a cosmic puzzle, providing a long sought explanation, of the awesome 100,000-year cycle of major Ice ages.

Hamaker points out that the greenhouse effect occurs primarily in the tropics, which get the most sun, rather than in the polar regions which get very little. When the temperature differential between the tropics and the poles increases, there is a resultant cycle of fierce wind systems, hurricanes, tornadoes and storms.

The moisture absorbed by these increasing storm systems is transported to the higher latitudes, where it gets deposited as snow and ice, eventually inducing glaciation and the next Ice Age. Evidence points to this occurrence in recent years, with record snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere and a shortening of the growing season, by weeks in some places, a pattern which is also accelerating year by year. Hamaker estimates that within a few decades the growing season may have decreased so much that millions of people will starve, in the richer nation as well as the poor.

Remineralization of the world's soils and forests will propagate carbon sinks, thereby absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere - and overall, contributing to climatic stability. By assuming the task of remineralizing the Earth's soils, much as the glaciers do during an Ice Age, we can create fertile soils and abundance. We can re-create Eden.

The above information is condensed from writings of John Hamaker, Don Weaver, Larry Ephron and Joanna Campe.

http://www.remineralize.org/climate.php

Mark said...

[just getting some things off my chest dealing with poor soils and poor health, follow the links for more.]

AMERICANS SHRINK

Americans shrinking as junk food takes its toll

Poverty and poor diet mean the average US man is getting smaller, while Europeans keep growing taller
http://www.guardian.co.uk/usa/story/0,12271,1185457,00.html

"Researchers have made a startling discovery: Americans are shrinking. A nation once famed for its strapping, well-nourished youth is gradually diminishing in physical stature."

Of course, it's only Americans as the rest of the world continues to grow & grow.

DENUTRIFIED FOOD AND INDUSTRIAL AGRICULTURE

As early as the 1920s and 1930s, damage to the soil was noticed, and its effects on vitamin content in the food was noticed. From Ausubel's book Seeds of Change:

During the period of the 1920s and 1920s, several U.S. scientists noted that food quality, along with animal and human health, declined when the synthetic NPK trinity of nitrogen/phosphorus/potassium was substituted for organic manures and compost. So striking were these findings that the scientists and over four hundred medical doctors in England published a statement by the esteemed British medical journal The Lancet calling for a revolution within medicine. They argued for a greater emphasis on preventive medicine with a balanced fertile soil as the foundation of a healthy diet.

It was further noted that organic seeds actually did much better than chemically treated seeds, despite the propaganda otherwise:

"In the 1920s, the nutritionist Sir Robert McCarrison experimented with cultivating seeds organically and chemically [for a comparison of outcome effects on each]. His tests showed that the seed from a manure-grown crop was superior in its germination rate to other seeds [chemically grown]. The longer the manure had been composted, the more impressive was this biological effect....This experiment is one of the only ones ever conducted on organic seeds. This oversight is more surprising considering the primary importance of the superiority of organically grown foods...[p. 130-1] "

And there were even Congressional testimonies given. The below is a verbatim unabridged extract from the 74th Congress 2nd Session: Senate Document 264, in 1936, showing they were aware that "modern" agricultural positional choices of herbicides/pesticides are really regressive politically since it is increasingly destroying the consumer instead of serving them. Minerals were being leached out of the food. However, still nothing is being done, belying that supplier are really looking out for us all--including themselves:

"Our physical well-being is more directly dependent upon minerals we take into our systems than upon calories or vitamins, or upon precise proportions of starch, protein or carbohydrates we consume."

"Do you know that most of us today are suffering from certain dangerous diet deficiencies which cannot be remedied until depleted soils from which our food comes are brought into proper mineral balance?"

"The alarming fact is that foods (fruits, vegetables and grains) now being raised on millions of acres of land that no longer contain enough of certain minerals are starving us - no matter how much of them we eat. No man of today can eat enough fruits and vegetables to supply his system with the minerals he requires for perfect health because his stomach isn't big enough to hold them."

"The truth is that our foods vary enormously in value, and some of them aren't worth eating as food...Our physical well-being is more directly dependent upon the minerals we take into our systems than upon calories or vitamins or upon the precise proportions of starch, protein or carbohydrates we consume."

"This talk about minerals is novel and quite startling. In fact, a realization of the importance of minerals in food is so new that the text books on nutritional dietetics contain very little about it. Nevertheless, it is something that concerns all of us, and the further we delve into it the more startling it becomes."

"You'd think, wouldn't you, that a carrot is a carrot - that one is about as good as another as far as nourishment is concerned? But it isn't; one carrot may look and taste like another and yet be lacking in the particular mineral element which our system requires and which carrots are supposed to contain."

"Laboratory test prove that the fruits, the vegetables, the grains, the eggs, and even the milk and the meats of today are not what they were a few generations ago (which doubtless explains why our forefathers thrived on a selection of foods that would starve us!)"

"No man today can eat enough fruits and vegetables to supply his stomach with the mineral salts he requires for perfect health, because his stomach isn't big enough to hold them! And we are turning into big stomachs."

"No longer does a balanced and fully nourishing diet consist merely of so many calories or certain vitamins or fixed proportion of starches, proteins and carbohydrates. We know that our diets must contain in addition something like a score of minerals salts."

"It is bad news to learn from our leading authorities that 99% of the American people are deficient in these minerals, and that a marked deficiency in any one of the more important minerals actually results in disease. Any upset of the balance, any considerable lack or one or another element, however microscopic the body requirement may be, and we sicken, suffer, shorten our lives."

"We know that vitamins are complex chemical substances which are indispensable to nutrition, and that each of them is of importance for normal function of some special structure in the body. Disorder and disease result from any vitamin deficiency. It is not commonly realized, however, that vitamins control the body's appropriation of minerals, and in the absence of minerals they have no function to perform. Lacking vitamins, the system can make some use of minerals, but lacking minerals, vitamins are useless."

"Certainly our physical well-being is more directly dependent upon the minerals we take into our systems than upon calories of vitamins or upon the precise proportions of starch, protein of carbohydrates we consume."

"This discovery is one of the latest and most important contributions of science to the problem of human health."

Senate Document No. 264, 1936. [[http://www.mich.com/~vit/gvt.html]]

LACK OF ACCESSIBLE HEALTH CARE AND THE 'WAR ON VITAMINS'

And the medical lobby wants to seriously demote vitamins because it interferes with their profit margins--supposedly by 2009 the Codex Alimentarius (a U.N./WTO amalgam) will attempt to outlaw certain vitamin supplements. It's already recently implemented in Europe as of two years ago.

his 2003 article excerpt, from the UK Alliance for Natural Health, an organization mounting a legal challenge to the Food Supplements Directive, was before Britain was roped into the same framework. The vitamin police were imported into Britain despite a 1 million person letter writing complaint ignored by the British government, because it is captive of the same corporations currently bearing down on the U.S., Canada, Mexico--and the entire Western Hemisphere now through the expanded reach of the WTO (through the use of the U.N.'s) Codex that makes the EU frameworks internationalized by 2009:


"ON 3rd JULY 2003, the European Food Supplements Directive was passed into English Law, which will, over the next few years, effectively ban around 5000 discrete products currently legal to sell in health food shops and pharmacies. This Directive has been devised and pushed forward by the unelected EU bureaucrats in order to "harmonize" the selling of health supplements throughout the EU, and was railroaded through the British Parliament by the Blair Government despite being rejected by the House of Lords. The way that the Government passed it was outrageous: just before the vote by the Standing Committee in the House of Commons, five Labour MPs who were going to vote against it were replaced by more obedient MPs. Even then, this directive was only passed by 8 votes to 6!

"So it seems that the European Parliament and the present UK Government are determined to pass the Food Supplements Directive despite the will of the people and even of MPs themselves. Why? Because it is the will of the EU Parliament which is very strongly influenced by the massive pharmaceutical companies in Europe. They are the only ones that will financially gain from the destruction of the health supplement industry. After all, people who take responsibility for their own health by taking supplements need less drugs because they are healthier.

"It is ironic that the Malnutrition Advisory Group has recently released a report showing that about 2 million people in the UK(!), including 60% of hospital patients, are not getting adequate nutrition and they admit that this is severally affecting their health and ability to heal. Of course, they don't mention supplements because they are still under the false and dangerous impression that this fictitious thing called a "well-balanced diet" exists that can adequately supply all the nutrients that the body needs. Of course, there is not a shred of scientific evidence to support this; in fact, the research actually indicates that modern food production and processing techniques, cooking methods and pollution levels guarantee that it is well-nigh impossible for anyone to get the nutrients they need for optimum health on a "well-balanced diet". (And if you can't get optimum nutrition using ingredients from the supermarket, how on earth are you going to find it in a disgusting NHS hospital slop canteen!) Given this terrible state of modern nutrition, it is astonishing that our governments are trying to move legislation towards a vastly reduced availability of nutritional supplements. What is going on?

"Many of us have been protesting about these proposals for the past five years, writing letters to our MPs and MEPs, signing million signature petitions and even marching on Parliament here in London. Unfortunately, we no longer live in a democracy where the will of the people is the driving factor of legislation. The EU Parliament is not interested in personal freedom, or even personal health… only control and more control. And they have tried to justify this assault on our rights to take supplements on the grounds of our safety, even though health supplements have a safety record second to none — see LaLeva's Safety of Dietary Supplements and Comparative Safety Graph. And given their incredible safety, it is rather odd that the tabloid newspapers have been running sensational headlines over the past few years on the dangers of nutritional supplements. (I wonder who is behind those media campaigns?)

"Already, the supplement market in Germany and Norway are severely controlled, and it is illegal, for example, to buy Vitamin C over 200mg in strength because it is considered by Brussels to be unnecessary, although of course, it is very necessary for the population to continue to buy cigarettes and alcohol as they are very healthy for governments' bank accounts. I have just heard (10/3/04) from a very reliable source that a woman has been arrested in France for selling 500mg tablets of Vitamin C because in that country doses of that strength are now considered medicinal! (There is absolutely no safety issue with Vitamin C and you can freely buy 1000mg tablets here in the UK and US at the moment… I take 3 a day.) Soon, these sorts of controls will be pan-European, and you will only be able to buy from a small and bland list of ineffective, inorganic supplements and in doses that the EU diktat considers appropriate. Many innovative products and companies will simply disappear, and it will become much harder for each of us to take responsibility for our health."

And so the WTO's Codex would 'harmonize' disharmoniously with current U.S., Canadian, and many other countries in the Western Hemisphere's more locally representative laws that benefit the consumer health freedom access to vitamins and minerals--forcing all countries internationally involved in the WTO to remove their pro-consumer and health freedom access legislation, like the EU.

[[http://energygrid.com/health/2003/07ap-supban2.html]]

THE WAR ON VITAMINS: WTO'S CODEX ALIMENTARIUS

We Become Silent - The Last Days Of Health Freedom http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=451097355502728465&q=codex+wto
28 min 37 sec - Apr 6, 2006

/International award-winning filmmaker Kevin P. Miller of Well TV announced the release of a new documentary about the threat to medical freedom of choice. 'We Become Silent: The Last Days of Health Freedom' details the ongoing attempts by multinational pharmaceutical interests and giant food companies--in concert with the WTO, the WHO and others--to limit the public’s access to herbs, vitamins and other therapies. 'We Become Silent’ is narrated by Dame Judi Dench, the noted UK actress who has won multiple Golden Globe awards, an Oscar, and a Tony for her on-stage work, in addition to dozens of other honors throughout her prestigious career.
/
Nutricide - Criminalizing Natural Health, Vitamins, and Herbs
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-5266884912495233634&q=codex+alimentarius

Natural Solutions Foundation - 40 min - Sep 2, 2006 -

/The Codex Alimentarius is a threat to the freedom of people to choose natural healing and alternative medicine and nutrition. Ratified by the World Health Organization, and going into Law in the United States in 2009, the threat to health freedom has never been greater. This is the first part of a series of talks by Dr. Rima Laibow, MD, available on DVD from the Natural Solutions Foundation, an non-profit organization dedicated to educating people about how to stop Codex Alimentarius from taking away our right to freely choose nutritional health.

/An updated news post about the points of upward bound limitations being spread via the European Union to demote health choice.

Mon 4 Jun 2007
Health food shops facing vitamin threat
JOHN MCKEE

MILLIONS of us buy vitamin tablets every week. But the number of shops from which we buy them is about to be dramatically reduced *as a consequence of new European laws.* ...

http://business.scotsman.com/index.cfm?id=869462007

WHAT TO DO?

http://commodityecology.blogspot.com/

much of this was excerpted from two bioregional state posts here:

http://biostate.blogspot.com/2005/12/supply-versus-demand-veggies-soil.html

http://biostate.blogspot.com/2007/01/bioregional-states-bodily-integrity.html

Anonymous said...

The difficulties with self-destructive poor soil agriculture in Amazonia has been solved toward stable forms of tenure that demotes the endless ecocline erosion frameworks-- destroying both forests and population capacities to live on the land. There was an interesting article in the British magazine The Ecologist (before what surmise was a recent 'editorial coup/lobotomy' that completely dumbed down the magazine from discussions of political economy toward shallow lines of thinking that change comes from only consumers instead of from the blame of the organizational frameworks themselves). Anyway, before the lobotomy at The Ecologist, this article was printed concerning a man working over 20 years in and out of academia in experiments in Latin America. He solved ‘solved’ the jungle/poor soil frameworks of agriculture, fuel provisioning, and salable commodities through a form of ecological modernization. The magazine The Ecologist wrote a short article about it several years ago, aiming for wider coverage of it’s combined features of local consumptive durability, poverty alleviation, and ecological security--all addressed simultaneously. [cite: “Rainforest Saver: After 20 years work a British tropical ecologist thinks this can save the world’s rainforests” [and generate income for local people without destroying it],” The Ecologist, Volume 35, No. 1, p. 56]

Mark said...

Making a Soil Creating Society: Secrets of the 'Terra Preta'

The 'terra preta' the dark soil of the Amazon basin was a Pre-Conquest invention of the native peoples there. It is still coveted today, hundreds of years later by our unsustainable socities, for its astounding agricultural capabilites.

We can relearn the secret of the terra preta. Most of the secret has been found out. One of the major secrets has been learning about charcoal and its interactive ecological effects in the soil.

Quote from above:

"a...durable human agriculture would be soil creating instead of soil destroying..."

It seems that a virtually unknown Bolivian savanna-based urban society and an Amazonian based agricultural/urban society existed that discovered a way to create soil via agriculture, instead of destroy soil by agriculture. Thus, in the area of Bolivia and the Amazon, societies that were soil creating instead of soil destroying came into existence.

Learn these Pre-Conquest societies' secrets and the secret of the 'terra preta'. It was human made! We are figuring out how to remake it in the present!

The terra preta is still valued today in Brazil, and no one clearly knows how to remanufacture it quite yet. However, it has something to do with the wider ecological synergy created by placing charcoal in the soil.

Why charcoal? There is the slow release factor. Charcoal keeps in the soil for centuries. Instead of 'slash and burn' to put ash-based plant minerals in the soil that quickly washes away, 'char and burn' processes that create only half consumed charcoal are soil creating.

The only half destroyed plant matter in charcoal releases its minerals into the soil slowly.

Second, charcoal seems to faciliate michorizal/fungi development in the soil. The fungi eats away at the half-consumed and charred plant material. At the same moment, the fungi encourage nitrogen fixation into the soil in this manner.

Third, there is another factor of what is hypothesized to be macrobiotic pecularities of the terra preta. It is known to 'self-reproduce' over a 20 year period even today, even when the topsoil has been removed. No one is sure how that works--yet. Though people are attempting to find out.

See this film that is mistitled. It is really about unlocking the secret of the terra preta:

Hello Mr. Hands,

After reading your article on alley cropping recently once more in The Ecologist (February 2005), it occurred to me that if a difficulty is fixing phosphorous combined with michroizal/fungi (fixing nitrogen) issues, have you tried inserting a charcoal base into alley cropping?

Charcoal keeps releasing things in the soil for centuries, a very slow and useful release in the fast-eroding soils of Latin American forests and jungles.

For a demonstration of the slow-release charcoal effect, watch this video below. Scientists are starting to unravel the secret of the 'terra preta' in the Amazonian basin as anthropogenic.

BBC - Horizon - The Secret of El Dorado [The Secret of the Terra Preta’] [49 min]
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-2809044795781727003

[A misnamed film which could be called The Secret of the Terra Preta (“Dark Soil”) of the Amazon. It shows visually the physical and soil evidence of a lost, massive, urban society in both the Bolivian savanna (on the eastern side of the Andes) and throughout the Amazon River area! No one even anticipated this because most dismissed the one European eyewitness as a liar when he reported to the Spanish crown that there was a massive teeming agricultural civilization in the Amazon in the first few years after Pizarro conquered the Inca in the Andes.

It was so completely destroyed by introduced European epidemics no one ever saw it after the one accidental Spanish explorer (Orellana). It seems he was telling the truth about Amazonian urbanization after all.

The secret of rainforest agriculture in poor soils was a 'charcoal based soil creation' to store the minerals and create a long term release of them, as well as being a fungi enhancer. This humanly created the terra preta is what the Brazilian peasant farmers still utilize (and even mine) to great profit today.

Even if you still have Inga tree supply difficulty as mentioned in your article, at least convincing peasant farmers to integrate 'char and burn' (that would create durable mineral release through charcoal, as well as serve as a base for fungi it has been found) instead of a complete 'slash and burn' (that only creates fast eroding ash with rainfall) would be beneficial. How beneficial? How about 880% increase in yield! (See the agronomist's test plots in the video).

My hat is off to you for your lifetime of work on this important road to sustainability for removing monocrop agriculture from its 10,000 years of tragedy toward more sustainable forest cropping/alley cropping.

From the film, it seems that the Pre-Conquest Amazonians knew about or stumbled upon a version of your sustainable alley cropping. They created a 'soil creating society' instead of one that destroys soil like we mostly have. Have you tried integrating charcoal? Ask the Pre-Conquest Amazonians about it...see the video.


My Regards,


Mark Whitaker

Mark said...

THE CALIFORNIA GARDEN
How do his veggies grow? The no-dig way

No-Dig Gallery
Email Picture
http://www.latimes.com/features/home/la-hm-nodig12-2008jun12%2C0%2C55177.story

Robert Lachman / Los Angeles Times

Pat Marfisi carries alfalfa hay into his Hollywood Hills backyard, but there aren’t any animals to feed. It’s for his “no dig” vegetable garden.

Pat Marfisi applies the low-water, layering technique to his Hollywood Hills plot and reaps an abundance of organic produce.

By Lisa Boone, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
June 12, 2008

PAT MARFISI carries bales of alfalfa hay and straw into the center aisle of his Hollywood Hills vegetable garden and begins tearing off pieces of the stuff. He doesn't have any animals to feed, just his "no-dig" landscape: raised beds using lasagna-like layers of fodder, bone and blood meal and compost -- and remarkably little water.

Now that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has declared a statewide drought, Marfisi's 300-square-foot patch seems more relevant than ever.

It's his personal horticultural laboratory for a low-water, sustainable technique he learned working on organic farms in Australia last year.

* Creating a no-dig garden
Photos: Creating a no-dig garden
* How to start a no-dig garden
How to start a no-dig garden

http://www.latimes.com/features/home/la-hm-nodig12-2008jun12%2C0%2C55177.story

Since he began gardening in this fashion, he says, he has been "inundated" with food.

With the exception of some recent losses to raccoons drawn to the soil's abundant grubs and earthworms, Marfisi's garden is thriving with beets, collard greens, chard, celery, tomatoes, chives, peppers, basil, chives, lettuces and leeks.

He estimates he grows enough food to feed three people daily.

When asked how much he waters, Marfisi shoves his hand deep beside some Swiss chard and pulls out moist, decomposed soil laced with remnants of straw. "I haven't watered in 10 days," he says. "This is what I want people to know: You can have beauty and abundance without a lot of water."

The retired Marfisi came upon the method while working as a volunteer farmhand Down Under, where the technique has been used since the 1977 paperback, "Esther Deans' Gardening Book: Growing Without Digging," promoted it as a solution to poor soil, rampant weeds, water shortages and costly food.


"Today, L.A. faces a lot of the same issues," Marfisi says. "In addition, we have global warming from pollution, and home gardening is a significant way to reduce transportation cost and related pollution."

He points out that noted food and science writer Michael Pollan, author of the recent "In Defense of Food," estimates that the distance traveled by food to the plate of an average American is 1,500 miles.

"This number is 150 feet for most home gardeners," Marfisi says. "That is a huge reduction in transport cost and pollution."

UNTIL HE had time for hands-on yard work, gardening was a passionate intellectual pursuit for Marfisi, who likes to sit for hours studying bugs with reference books in hand.

But after leaving his job as a management consultant, he enrolled in UCLA Extension's horticulture program, which inspired him to dump water-hungry annuals and replace them with California natives.

Then last year, Marfisi, who has a doctorate in economics, decided he wanted to become a farmer.

At age 60, Marfisi became a WWOOFer -- he joined World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms ( www.wwoof.org), an international cultural exchange program that provides organic farmers free labor in exchange for providing workers with food and lodging.

The former consultant for big-name clients such as Sun- America thought it would be the ultimate work-study program to learn about sustainable farming and lifestyles.

"The attraction was to get into the heart of the world of permaculture and biodynamics and experience it firsthand," he says. "Being retired, I had the time. I thought, 'I'm still healthy and strong.' I figured now is the time to do it." (He hopes to join WWOOF again next year in Costa Rica).

He started on a farm in New Zealand. Moving to Australia, he eventually worked on farms in six cities in Tasmania, Southern Australia and the Northern Territory. His friends thought he was crazy.

"Here is a guy who made the transition from corporate board rooms to the deserts of Australia and New Zealand to examine horticulture," friend Perry Parks says. "I couldn't get my head around it initially. At his age . . . hiring yourself off to various farms? Digging fence posts?" he says, chuckling.

"But tracking him through his e-mail messages, it seemed to be a real change of pace and it took on a kind of a meditative quality. Everything seemed to be slower, simpler and clearer. He got a lot out of it. Now he's come back and put it into practice," Parks says.


THOUGH there is some debate over the origins of the no-dig method -- Ruth Stout's "How to Have a Green Thumb Without an Aching Back," first published in 1955, and Masanobu Fukuoka's "One Straw Revolution," translated to English from Japanese in 1978, are other references -- one thing is certain: It is easy and it works.

Veteran gardeners will say that the greatest amount of work in creating a successful vegetable garden goes into soil preparation. One of the best things about this sustainable alternative: You don't have to break your back digging and pulling roots.

"It's a wonderful movement," says landscape designer and garden writer Rosalind Creasy, author of "The Complete Book of Edible Landscaping." "So many gardeners presume you have to start with a rototiller. That only destroys the soil structure and burns the organic matter."

No-dig beds are created by layering organic materials above ground on newspaper. Marfisi starts with alfalfa hay (Deans recommends Lucerne hay, but it's hard to find locally), then straw and finally compost. Marfisi dusts the newspaper, alfalfa and straw with blood and bone meal. (Details in accompanying story). The layers then decompose, turning into a nutrient-rich mixture much like compost.

Marfisi says no-dig is more efficient, water wise, because once a plant has a 10- to 12-inch root system, the layers of compost and straw keep moisture around the roots. And you can keep layering it over and over again as the organic matter breaks down.

Aside from its looking a little messy, Creasy finds few negatives to no-dig. She does urge novice gardeners, however, to learn about soil nutrients that vegetables need. "You still have to fertilize," she says. "You still have to renew the nitrogen. Peas are legumes and they have nitrogen-mixing bacteria. Broccoli is a heavy feeder. You [also] have to think about crop rotation."

Marfisi concedes that it is harder to get nitrogen and the acidity or alkalinity right in a fresh no-dig bed than in conventional soil. But once the organic matter has been in for two or three months and fertilizer is added, these imbalances seem to correct themselves, he says, and his harvests have been bountiful.

It seems Marfisi was destined to become a locavore from an early age.

He clearly remembers the first seeds he planted as a 7-year-old in Missouri.

The simple act of pushing seeds into soil and waiting to see what happened was the beginning of a lifelong yearning that would haunt him until he retired.

"I was blown away that seeds manufactured flowers," he says of discovering pink and orange zinnias weeks later. "Even to this day it still amazes me. . . . That picture remained in the back of my mind, while I was working 80 hours a week."

Now vegetables provide that same fascination. "Reconnecting to earth is huge for people who are contemplating retirement."

lisa.boone@latimes.com

---
http://www.latimes.com/features/home/la-hm-nodig12-2008jun12%2C0%2C55177.story

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