remineralising the soil

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grian
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remineralising the soil

Postby grian » 20 Nov 2004, 15:41

About 20 years ago, a theory emerged that the soils of the earth were in need of remineralising. It suggests that glaciers spread highly mineralised soil over the earth, increasing fertility when the glaciers retreated. Since then, most of this has been used up, and needs replacing.

Spreading rock dust (from quarries) has been tried for years by the SEER centre in Scotland, near Blairgowrie - good results are claimed, such as larger, healthier veg from previously infertile soil.

'We have been dismissed as cranks and loonies over the years' says SEER founder, Cameron Thompson, 'but we must be doing something right'...

Glasgow Uni has just begun a three year examination of his methods and results.

http://www.seercentre.org.uk

what do obodies think of this theory?

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Postby frank » 20 Nov 2004, 16:11

Well, from his theory, the tropical rain forests (which have never been glaciated) should be lawns. That, I think, is the best comment on his idea.

The problem he's missing (and he's not alone) is that mineral nutrients recycle pretty darn well. Plants die (as do leaves, stems, etc), and return nutrients to soil. In the tropics, recycling tends to be very, very tight, and that's why you can grow the trees so big. Abundant sun and water help too, of course. But the tropical forest soils are often horribly low in nutrients. It's all in the biomass.

Now, there is leaching, and nutrients leave the system. So, it's possible to get nutrient deficiencies. It's possible he's adding a needed nutrient to the system.

It's also possible that he's downwind from a smoggy city, and that nitrates are literally raining down on him. That's a problem all over Europe, and nitrogen can be a major limitation on plant growth.

Finally, I'd be interested in knowing if he actually did a controlled experiment, fertilizing some fields and not others.

Frank

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Postby grian » 20 Nov 2004, 16:25

erm, i dont think he's looking at tropical rain forests, frank, just scotland!
still, there's probably a bit of truth in all the theories...
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Postby Sol Green » 29 Nov 2004, 20:29

I don't think the theories is far fetched either considering what he has produced. Certain types of plants cannot grow in different areas even though the climate is the same. The difference is within the soil. This fellow might be on to something and believe me we really need to start considering becoming self sufficient in growing and canning our own food. I created another thread about Permaculture. At least an attempt to explore it. I need to get more books on the subject though.

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Postby frank » 29 Nov 2004, 21:30

Well, let's set this straight--I do a fair amount of work with soil biology, and personally, I don't think there's anything wrong with paying a lot of attention to soil nutrients. I absolutely agree with you, SolGreen, that they're vital to permanent agriculture. In fact, they're vital to agriculture, period.

What I'm pointing to here is that this guy's approach is simplistic: the "soils of the earth" do not need remineralising, if taken in total. That's the point of my counterexample of the tropical rainforests.

If he's talking about adding insoluble elements to fields in Scotland through ground-up rock dust, that's fine, but it's really no different than, say, fertilizing a field with rock phosphate, or liming the field to increase the pH of an acidic soil.

I'm glad that someone's doing a controlled experiment with his ideas. My personal take on Thompson's methods is that they're a little, ummmm, unsophisticated.

Now, if you want to see some really interesting permaculture methods, I'd recommend reading about the O'odham (papago) farmers in Nabhan's The Desert Smells Like Rain. In the Sonoran desert, they manage to attain field fertility levels close to those seen in Iowa cornfields. How they do it is truly fascinating--and documented scientifically, at least in part.

Frank

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Postby Sol Green » 30 Nov 2004, 01:25

Quote:
If he's talking about adding insoluble elements to fields in Scotland through ground-up rock dust, that's fine, but it's really no different than, say, fertilizing a field with rock phosphate, or liming the field to increase the pH of an acidic soil.
I was thinking along those lines but I have not taken the time to read the the fellow's theory behind it. I am going to have to order that book you mentioned. Thanks! Ah, one more thing, why does certain vegtables or plants not grow in different areas though the climate is similar. I am just curious to why soil conditions could not be duplicated.

BB--Sol

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Postby frank » 30 Nov 2004, 02:35

Hi Sol,

There are a lot of potential issues. Here are a few off the top of my head:

One is microclimate. Generally this has to do with shade vs. sun, cold pockets, etc.

Another is soil. Even where the climate is the same, soils can be vastly different. This is particularly true in places like California and the Mediterranean. This isn't just nutrients, it's also the structure of the soil, presence of salts and other toxic chemicals, water level, etc.

A third are the other organisms. Sometimes, disease organisms will build up in a particular field so that a particular species (or family even) cannot grow in that patch. This is a problem with tomatoes, which also catch diseases from tobacco, potatoes, eggplant, etc.

On a bigger scale, gophers, squirrels, pigs, and other organisms can pretty effectively keep crops from maturing.

Frank

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Postby Sol Green » 30 Nov 2004, 04:33

I thank you for educating me on that Frank :D It makes perfect sense now. I do lack a lot of knowlege on agriculture and I will always admit that. But I am glad that I have a green thumb.

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Postby frank » 30 Nov 2004, 05:08

Thank you, Sol!

I've got to admit that my ignorance on most of these things far exceeds my knowledge.

Basically, I figure that ultimately, the proof of any gardener is in the quality of the produce, and by that standard, I'm not a great gardener. However, I am up on theory, and if it helps, I'm always willing to share.

Frank


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