Nutrient Density Seminar Jan 2015
It was so refreshing today to attend an all-day seminar by John Kempf of Advancing Eco Agriculture. He is a genius agronomist in the field of regenerative agriculture, and has created highly effective programs for producing very healthy crops where flavour and nutrition are maximized. I have been focusing on the principles of biological and regenerative agriculture for a couple years, and have been very impressed with the results so far. It works! However, I lacked a way to measure the real-time nutrients in the plants, which meant that I was guessing at a lot of the nutrients I was feeding plants. I learned a lot today about plant sap analysis, which gives very clear direction on which nutrients to feed the crop at that point in time in order to produce crops that are top-notch, highest-quality-possible, as-full-of-balanced-nutrition-as-possible. And that's what I want.
Plant sap analysis is kind of like a blood sample from people. It shows what is going on right now in the plant (or person) and what nutrients are available for them to use. It's not cheap, but it provides some of the most valuable information on what to do to optimally nourish plants and therefore increase the quality of what the plant is producing.
This is relatively new technology, and vastly surpasses plant tissue testing and soil testing in informing the farmer about the true needs of the plants.
I've been monitoring Brix levels of my crops, which also uses plant sap. It is a general indicator of sugar levels, mineral levels, etc which is a general measure of quality. In comparison, plant sap analysis at the lab is much more detailed and shows levels of calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, nitrates, ammonia, and many other things.
John spoke today about regenerative-agriculture farmers being the ultimate doctors, and healthy agriculture being the ultimate health-care system.
By applying the right nutrients at the right times, we can control the quality of the food we produce, and it has the potential to contain exceptionally high levels of nutrients in forms that our bodies can use for health and healing.
It means giving the plants a diet of balanced nutrition, and promoting a very strong and healthy microbial life in the soil. It requires dedicated effort, regular monitoring of nutrients in the plants, fine-tuning of nutrient programs throughout the season, and extra time on the farmer's part to make it happen.
We heard a lot today about the plant's immune system.
When we grow plants that have a functional immune system, with lots of "plant secondary metabolites" (such as essential oil compounds, anthocyanins, resveratrol, bioflavinoids, terpenes, etc), there are direct benefits to the animals and people who consume those plants. This is in addition to higher levels of minerals and vitamins and amino acids (proteins) they contain.
Add all of this together, and the result is greater flavour, and more "substance" in the food.
We've often heard that "healthy soils produce healthy crops", and it's true to some extent. But, how do we create healthy soils? It was made very clear today that healthy soils are created by healthy plants.
Optimally-nourished plants --> feed microbial life in the soil by what they release from their roots --> which build healthy soil
Everything revolves around photosynthesis of the plants, and when we support that process and give the plants the materials they need (right from Day 1), the rest just happens on its own.
This is where foliar sprays come in. Foliar sprays are nutrients that are sprayed on the leaves of plants for optimum and rapid uptake. The main goal is to enhance photosynthesis / increased sugar levels in the plants. Second, we can add specific nutrients that the plants need at that point in their life cycle. Very powerful, as I've observed here in the last couple years.
Regenerative agriculture enhances natural processes and living systems. The focus is on the quality of the plants and what they produce... and as the quality increases, the yields go up.
Any time a plant is stressed (which happens by a deficiency or imbalance of one or more nutrients, extreme temperatures, too much or too little water, hail, high winds, etc), some of its yield potential is lost.
All the things a farmer does to "increase yield" are actually helping the plant cope with its stressors and therefore prevent some of the yield loss. In general, the most critical time to ensure optimal conditions is during the early life of the plant (just like with people & probably all other life!). Any stressors at that stage will have a large impact later in its life cycle.
One of the most fascinating effects of biological agriculture is that as the plants become healthier, they become resistant to pests and diseases. Truly amazing!
I've seen this first-hand in my gardens here. For example, I had a huge infestation of potato beetles literally covering the potato plants 2 years ago. I sprayed the plants with a nutrient mix, and within 2 days, the potato beetles disappeared. There were no living or dead potato beetles around. They were gone. There were no pesticides or anything like that in the mix... simply nutrients to help strengthen the plants 'immunity'. The beetles had already chewed lots of leaves, but the plants recovered and went on to produce a respectable crop of potatoes.
(Is this not the same as with people... when we are well-nourished and not under stress, we are much more resistant to illness.)
Oh - there is so much more I could write about, but this is long enough already! The seminar today was both inspiring (to keep working on producing nutrient-rich food) and confirming (of what I had learned already from my own research).
We heard about a lot of the nitty-gritty involved with creating plant and soil health. As he says, none of this information is new... but he has pulled together details from many sources to gain a more complete understanding of plant nutrition.
Perhaps my most inspiring observation of the day was of the speaker himself, who eats the kind of food he was talking about today: high Brix foods from optimally-nourished plants and animals.
He seemed to me to be one of the healthiest people I've ever met, which speaks volumes. Grounded, intelligent, energetic, with clear, full-of-life eyes (in itself, not so common these days), an unmistakable vitality and quick wit. It's hard to explain, and hard to pinpoint just what it is that gives such a clear impression of balanced health, but it's not so hard to make the connection between radiating health and eating these high-quality foods.
As a farmer, I want to keep learning more about growing food with increasing quality so that we can all enjoy better health. I'm looking forward to working with Advancing Eco Agriculture this year to take the quality of my crops to the next level.