Posted by & filed under Compost, Soil Biology, Soil Composition, Soil Rehabilitation, Structure.

Remineralizing soils that have been damaged by shortsighted agriculture practices can be done using Bio-Fertilizer. This video shows you how to get started!

by Theron Beaudreau

Working with damaged soils can be a huge challenge. In the world we live in today, it’s hard to find soils that haven’t been damaged through agricultural or urban misuse. If you are one of those lucky few who stumbled on a piece of land that already had pristine, rich deep and loamy soils than rejoice because you need not read any further… Still here? Yea, thought so. Most of us in permaculture design are working with or at least, have started out with, damaged, desiccated, mineral depleted, lifeless soils. One way or another, we have been tasked with reviving our soils from generations of abuse. But how do we return the basic building blocks of life to the soil quickly and efficiently so that we can get on with the high yielding polycultures we keep dreaming about? Enter — Bio-Fertilizer!

While interning at the Permaculture Research Institute Zaytuna Farm, I got my first taste (I did not actually taste it… and I don’t recommend anyone else try to taste it – it’s for the soils not the gut) of soil remineralization through Bio-Fertilization. During a Soil Biology course with Paul Taylor, we learned about compost, compost tea, and the relationships between various soil microorganisms. One piece that clearly stuck out for me was the understanding of the role of anaerobic versus aerobic microbes within this complex life web.


Paul Taylor, top left

Aerobes and Anaerobes: What’s The Difference?

Paul pointed out how important it is to maintain aerobic soils. Meaning, healthy soils are aerated soils with a lot of organic life and rich mineral content. To create aerated soils we need to promote the growth of aerobic bacteria. These are generally the bacteria that inhabit our compost and compost teas (so long as we are cultivating proper compost and compost tea!)

Aerobes, organisms that survive and thrive in oxygenated environments, help to create porous soils with a lot of area for water and air to seep in and stay put. Building a sponge like humic layer, aerobes are hard at work for us binding together various soil aggregates and other organic materials with their glue like excretions.

Anaerobes, on the other hand, thrive in environments that lack oxygen. These, often smelly, little microbes are keen to compact our soils. Desiring an environment that lacks oxygen, the biofilm excretions of these guys serves to seal up those porous soils you’ve worked so hard on. This is why it is so important to create a balanced compost system and highly aerate compost teas. Breeding anaerobes is asking for trouble!

Then, why am I so excited about an anaerobic fertilizer? Well, permaculture is not about prescribing human notions of right and wrong, good and bad, to the world around us. Permaculture simply asks us to observe what is, and design accordingly. Through this objective way of understanding our world, new patterns, previously clouded by our prejudice, begin to emerge (The principles "The Problem is The Solution" and "Everything Gardens" come to mind here).

That is what makes the anaerobes so exciting! When we stop placing judgments on how they smell or their preference for compacted soils, we start to recognize patterns of behavior that can be leveraged to our benefit as well as ways in which less than beneficial behavioral patterns can be limited.

During our 5-day soil course at the PRI, we learned that one of the many patterns of anaerobic microbes (particularly those that inhabit the gut of ruminant animals) is their proficiency at breaking down minerals in their environment. If you still harbor a prejudice toward these little guys, you might be thinking, "Oh no! They’re going to eat up all the minerals in my soil! How can that be a good thing?"

It’s true, anaerobes are going to eat up all kinds of minerals… and with smart design, we can leverage this to our advantage! This is where Bio-Fertilizer anaerobic digestion comes in. You see, once a mineral element finds its way into the body of a microorganism, it becomes available to other microorganisms. In this way, mineral elements can begin to climb the food chain and eventually reach your plants — and, from our plants, these important nutrients eventually find their way into ourselves and our families.

The Old Ways

In conventional agricultural systems we tend to think of the soil as a lifeless medium with the sole purpose of holding our plants upright. If microorganisms in the soil are considered, they are typically considered a threat to be eradicated. It is up to the plant, and the plant alone, to extract all the elements it needs to grow and stay healthy. So, when the soil is lacking in a particular nutrient, we simply apply that nutrient in the recommended dosages and wait for plant health to improve. When the health of our plants doesn’t improve, or only improves very marginally, we assume we need to add more, and more often, to obtain our desired result. All the while, our minerals, and all our hard work, and plenty of money, are all being washed down the not so proverbial drain as water-soluble nutrients get carried away with each watering.

What we’ve done is completely neglect a very important and very complex part of the process. By missing this important link in the chain of nutrient cycling, living soil, we’ve increased our work load, created unintended problems beyond the scope of the one we intended to resolve, and put ourselves on a treadmill of continual supplementation.

Microorganisms are not only a delivery vehicle for mineral nutrients to the plant roots, they also help prevent nutrients from washing away in the first rain event. As a result, minerals stay in the soil where they are needed, instead of in the ground water or rivers where they can be a pollutant. It behooves us to use these microscopic muscles to take care of the heavy lifting and save our precious time and money by holding on to vital nutrients and deliver them to our plants, where we want them.

Proper use: It’s a "Teeming" Effort

But how do we manage to accomplish this without creating the compacted (and smelly) conditions anaerobes are known for? As you might have guessed, proper use of Bio-Fertilizers provides some answers.

Bio-Fertilizer, as will be described here, is an anaerobic fermentation process used to secure vital minerals in bio-available form. In these bio-available forms, these minerals are less susceptible to leaching and more available to plant roots than minerals just scattered on the ground. But left to themselves, they can create harmful conditions in your soil — to use them properly they must be teamed up with the aerobes in our compost and compost teas.

How it works

Using a controlled environment (in this case an airtight 200lt. drum) we create a suitable habitat for our little anaerobes. Combining soluble minerals, a food source and the bacteria from a ruminate animal, we set in motion a fermentation process that will take about two months to complete. By the end of the fermentation process it is mostly safe to assume the bacteria have had an opportunity to consume most of the minerals provided.

There are several recipes that might be used depending on your soil’s needs. In the tropics and subtropics, where slash and burn agriculture disperses minerals into the atmosphere and monsoons wash out the little that remains, Bio-Fertilizers are particularly important to help replace these highly mobile nutrients. A soil test will help you determine what minerals might be in short supply and help you create a recipe that works best for your soil conditions.

Regardless of the specific recipe used, the basic elements remain the same. First, you’ll need an airtight container with an airlock. These can be assembled out of basic materials that are readily available just about anywhere. In the video at top, we used a 200lt. container with a locking airtight lid. We then added an airlock using a 1/2" rubber grommet, a terminal coupling, hose, and water bottle. Drilling a whole in the lid of the drum we insert the grommet and terminal coupling. We then attach a hose to the terminal coupling using a hose clamp and insuring that all attachments are airtight (very important!). The hose is then inserted into a half-full reused soda or water bottle attached to the drum lid with a wire. Make sure the hose is fully submerged in the water inside the bottle, as otherwise the airtight seal is lost. The airlock allows air to escape the 200lt. drum so that pressure does not build up but also maintains the integrity of the oxygen free environment.

In the video, we use the following simple ingredient list:

  • Microbe Food
  • 10lt. water
  • 2lt. milk or whey
  • 2lt. molasses
  • 100lt. of water
  • 40 – 50lt. fresh calf or cow manure
  • 3kg Soluble silica and phosphorus (powdered)
  • 2kg Volcanic rock dust or basalt
  • 1/2kg yeast

The ingredients for the microbe food are combined in a large bowl separately. These ingredients promote the growth of the yeast as well as the bacteria in the manure.

Next, 40 – 50 liters of calf or cow manure are added to the 200lt. drum. It is best to add the manure before adding the water… otherwise, you might get manure water back-splashing on you as you try to add the manure.

If you have access to fresh rumen, this is preferred. It is the bacteria in the rumen that are doing the heavy lifting here so if we can get them directly from the rumen our chances of success are greatly enhanced.

After the manure or rumen are added, we add our water, mineral elements and microbial food. Finally, we add the yeast, mix the concoction thoroughly and seal it up. The yeast is used to quickly consume all the available oxygen inside the drum so that the bacteria in the rumen can do their work.

Over the next two months, this brew will ferment and the bacteria will be given a chance to completely consume all the mineral elements. The ferment should be left in a cool dark space for the two month fermentation process — somewhere it won’t be disturbed. Check occasionally to ensure the hose is still submerged in the water and all the fittings are airtight.

After two months, remove the lid from the container. The brew should smell like a ferment. If it smells putrid (like death or rotting flesh) it should be disposed of in the safest way possible… do not spray this on your crops (the putrefying bacteria are often pathogenic so be sure to dispose of a bad brew appropriately)!

Once you are confident that the smell is of a fermentation and not a putrification, the mixture should be thoroughly aerated (vortexing and bubbling should both work fine) and sprayed out with an aerobic compost tea. The process of aeration kills most of the anaerobic bacteria and gives favor to the aerobes in the compost tea. In this way, the anaerobes are disfavored and not given the opportunity to cause any damage to the soil’s ecosystem while the mineral elements are maintained inside the dead and dying bodies of these anaerobes. When sprayed out with a healthy aerobic compost tea, the minerals move into an even more plant available form inside the bodies of aerobes.

The results are dramatic and much more than you can get from just compost tea alone. Effectively remineralizing soils is a critical process that is missing out of most rehabilitative practices today. Generations of exploitative and extractive behaviors have left our soils depleted and can hamper our attempts to produce a yield. The minerals that have been washed away and extracted through shortsighted agricultural practices have to be replaced somehow. By continuing to observe the patterns of nature, eliminating our prejudices and applying our design minds we can find solutions to any problems that confront us.

Happy fertilizing!

Special thanks to HolisticRegeneration.co.uk and Eco-Pioneers.org.

49 Responses to “Re-Mineralizing Soils with Bio-Fertilizer”

  1. Warwick Metcalfe

    Awsome guys, this is very valuable information – big thank you for sharing

    Reply
  2. Tim Auld

    Typically you add a seaweed concentrate and fish hydrolysate to aerated compost tea which contain a broad range of minerals already in a form aerobic biology can take up. Is there something the rock dusts add that these don’t?

    What’s the ‘Microbe Food’ in the ingredient list?

    Do you find sludge at the bottom of the drum at the end of the brewing period?

    Reply
  3. David Mattinson

    Great article and great to see the continued use of biofertilisers.

    What I learnt at the RegenAg workshops with Eugenio Gras was that although the biofert has a high count of many different micr-organisms, it was Bacillus subtilis that we are after. This is a facultative microbe able to thrive in aerobic and anaerobic conditions. It is also able to withstand gut conditions. It is recommended to use the manure of a lactating cow as the counts will be higher, and fresh is best.

    The B. subtilis is a known probiotic, anti-pathogen and antibiotic which makes it ideal in remediating farmland exposed to chemical agriculture. It is also known to solubilise phosphorus, which is why this technique is known as the organic superphosphate. Yeast helps provide the Bacillus with the nitrogen it needs for reproduction, and is also another element in chelating the minerals in the biofertiliser.

    Would be great to have some research on the use of biofertilisers. Eugenio mention an increase in fruit weight, which has also been found on some experiments in India with pachagavya, which is a similar biofert. They also reckon its good to eat…

    Reply
  4. Deano

    There is no evidence presented that this complicated process is any more efficient than simply adding the minerals that you are short of to an active compost heap, where they can be incorporated directly into the bodies of microbes much more simply. The same applies to adding them to a biologically active soil.If there is some research to back this up, please forward links so that I can check for myself.
    There is certainly a place for compost tea, and for remineralisation, I use both, but this process won’t make it onto my list of tools to use.

    Reply
  5. Theron Beaudreau

    Thanks @David for bringing some science. I’ll admit @Deano that I don’t have a science background and use observation as my main tool to determine whether tools I implement are effective or not. So far, I’ve tested this in the wet/dry tropics of Central Thailand and found it to be an effective tool for increasing plant health and yields (both of which point to increased soil health). The intent of this article and video was to demonstrate how to make bio-fertilizer. I honestly don’t spend much time in a laboratory.

    This is not a panacea by any means. As far as I know, other than observation based study of tangible results in the field, I know of no one who has written a “scientific” analysis of bio-fertilizer. Eugenio Gras (as mentioned by David) has probably the most experience working with bio-fertilizer. Google his name for more info. There is a lot of information available… I’ll tell you from my own experience that you never definitively know if something works until you try it. If you choose not to… you won’t hear any moans from me. To each their own… keep doing what works for you and I’ll keep doing what works for me. Keep in mind that much of our science still has no explanations for what is happening in the soil and finding real science these days (by that, I mean science that is NOT backed by monsanto, Syngenta, etc…) is a bit of a challenge. Scientist need to make money to pay off their years of schooling and, I don’t know about you but… I can’t afford to pay a scientist for this kind of research (sure would be nice though)!

    I hope you the best in your path of discovery. If it suits you.. use it. If not.. no worries, mate!

    P.S. @Tim – the “Microbe Food” was a little bit of a typo. The three ingredients under Microbe Food should be indented so that it shows that Microbe Food is really just a combo of those three things (water, molasses and whey)

    Cheers!

    Reply
  6. paul taylor

    With just a bit of practice, bio-fert is no complicated process, and an important element of a regenerative soils management system. You just need to understand it a bit more to appreciate the many benefits, that’s why we have the 5-day class at PRI.

    When we add micro-organisms as compost tea (which is really a soil probiotic) and spray it out with bio-fert, we are giving the microorganisms a ‘snack-pac’ of energy to help them colonise more easily and do all the tasks they need to do to support our productive systems.

    The bio-fert does many things besides just growing subtillus, it feeds other micro-organisms, it feeds the plants, and to helps build the stage for aerobic microbial soil reconstruction, essential to achieving sustainable production.

    If we just wanted subtillus we could just buy it from a lab.

    The consistent application of bio-fert with compost tea is required for recovering degraded soil because it delivers multiple benefits.

    Not many systems of agriculture build fertility as we improve production, the use of quality compost, compost tea (as soil pro-biotic), along with bio-fert and responsible management does. This means that we can use organic agriculture to recover degraded land and we can do it quickly.

    Many thanks to Eugenio Gras for promoting bio-fert in Australia. For more information see the work of Trust Nature, the Bio-Vital system, Dr. Christine Jones, Dr. Elaine Ingham, the history of EM, ‘Nature Farming’ and, of course, Bio-dyamics.

    regards: Paul Taylor

    Reply
  7. Deano

    Cheers Theron
    Cycles of Soils contains some interesting information on using a carbon/energy source like molasses to increase the uptake of sulphates into the soil biomass, and there is plenty of information to suggest that applying minerals to compost heaps is a more efficent and economical way to use them.
    If you or anybody else finds anything to indicate that an anaerobic process is more efficient please post a link so that I can check it out.
    Thanks for posting the original article
    DEano

    Reply
  8. paul taylor

    Please note that there is an error in the reporting, the bio-fertiliser does not require aeration, this group of organisms that are not harmful to productive soils but beneficial, after all these come from a cows gut (see the movie: One Man, One Cow, One Planet).

    We are experimenting with bio-fertiliser as a microbe food in our compost tea with good result and here they get aerated, but it is not because there are any ‘bad guys’ in the bio-fert that need aeration.

    Good reporting, good to be able to respond to the error, again, all appreciation for the work of Eugenio Gras.

    Paul Taylor

    Reply
  9. Lorraine

    Great report Theron. It feels like deja vu! Great timing too because CPRI (Caribbean Permaculture Research Institute project) is nearing its launch and we have every intention of producing Bio-Vital on site and teaching about the formula to Barbadian farmers.

    However, I have a comment on discarding the putrid formula.I remember Paul T, telling us that if this occurs don’t despair! The formula can be re-balanced by adding certain ingredients and then left again to ferment and mature, but I don’t remember for sure if those ingredients are molasses and yeast? Perhaps Paul can address this for us.

    Cheers! Lorraine

    Reply
  10. Roberto Canarte B

    Hello,

    Nice article,

    In latin america we have been using anaerobic biofertilizers for more than 16 years in extensive agriculture, we have studies in bananas, cocoa, rice, roses comercial crops, our experience in organic bananas have been for more than 20 years and we always used biofertilizers of cow manures, personally with my group, we manage to handle 4 thousand tanks of 600 litters with biofertilizers to apply it in a project of 500 hectares of organic bananas for 15 years.

    Our universities in Ecuador have studies about biofertilizers, Autochtonous microorgnisms and organic agriculture methods.

    This technology have been developed for more than 16 years ago in organic agriculture and have been adjusted since the 90`s.

    The same technology derivates for water treatment and industrial applicattions always in the green path.

    The use of yeast can increase the production of ethilene in the plant, thats not good for the leaves of the plant watch out.

    Regards,

    RCB.

    Reply
  11. Lorraine

    Thank you Robert, for sharing this information. Do you think you can help the CPRI team by putting me in touch with the people who have done the studies your speak about or the people who are in procession of the studies even if the findings are reported in Spanish? Existing evidence would help CPRI convince Barbadian farmers more profoundly and would give the project more credibility. The Bio-Vital system works in conjunction with Eugeno Gras’s bio-fertilizer technology and with Trust Nature’s pro-biotic compost tea formula. CPRI has allocated a fair portion of our design for banana crop and small and large scale gardens, so your help would certainly aid us with our vision for the Caribbean region. Thank you, and I hope you get this message. You may contact me at lorraineciarallo@hotmail.com as well. Best regards, Lorraine

    Reply
  12. paul taylor

    Hi Lorraine:

    thanks for the comment and good to see you are up and running with your project. if bio fert smells putrid DO NOT try to revive it, dispose of the product and try again. From my experience the most common failure is that the air lock fails and the inoculum is corrupted or that people experiment with additional ingredients such as adding fish or meat meal. Do not add anything to the formula that you would not feed a healthy cow and follow the formulas as best as possible.

    I have SOMETIMES added a bad batch to a compost pile but this also needs a bit of management as it usually takes 24 hours get rid of the bad smells and you need a lot of carbon material in the compost (straw) to make sure it has adequate aerobic structure in the compost to out compete the bad smelling anaerobes.

    Bio-fertiliser is an anaerobic fermentation, and should never be putrid (make you want to vomit).

    Reviving ‘failed’ bio-fert works if it has, for whatever reasons never been able to ferment properly, an amendment of additional inoculum (20L of additional fresh manure from a lactating cow) is added or if you have access to a fresh rumen (the contents of the cows first stomach) is added.

    Be careful to not open the sealed drum before the 2-3 month fermentation period and make sure that the air lock is full of water. regards:paul taylor

    Reply
  13. Kym

    Interesting article and thank you Mr. Canarte for your valuable comments. The group that has done more work than anyone in developing these techniques is MasHumus, of which our good friend Eugenio Gras is a member. We (RegenAG®) have been working with Eugenio and his colleugues here in Australia to deliver courses, run workshops and provide consultancies in Biofertiliser production, Microbial reproduction and Chromatography since 2010. We now have an extensive network of farmers across the country using such methods on broad-scale acreage with great success. We regularly run field days here in FNQ, produce biofertiliser for sale, teach farmers how to make it and other preparations and provide ongoing support to them. In September I will be taking a group of 17 farmers to Latin America to visit numerous farms utilising biofertilisers in their production, incl. Mr. Canarte’s. We will visit farms in Mexico, Costa Rica and Equador over 16 days. With the support of Terrain NRM, whom we have partnered with for some 5 years in the delivery of these and other courses, we will be professional filming the tour and producing a series of short videos which will be available at a later date. It is essential that the correct information is made available to people in embarking on these practices, lest factual information is incorrectly expressed, errors are made, people don’t have the full picture and then the methods themselves, which as Mr. Canarte said have been extremely successful for many years on a large scale, are themselves blamed. If you’re interested in knowing more email me at info@regenag.com

    Reply
  14. Greg Bell

    Yet again, an irrational rubbishing of science in the comments by a member of the permaculture community (unfortunately, the author).

    This is exactly what is preventing permaculture from gaining much traction with those in the public who are educated (engineers, lawyers, doctors, scientists, teachers, biologists, etc.). We need those people, and as such, we need to start thinking and speaking rationally. I’m not saying we don’t have any, but I am saying that many steer clear of permaculture because of perceptions of woo-woo, astrological/new-age ties, and un-scientific thinking.

    Deano says: “There is no evidence presented that this complicated process is any more efficient than simply adding the minerals that you are short of to an active compost heap”

    That’s a fact, not an opinion. No evidence was presented. That’s a fact, not a feeling or point-of-view. It’s good to ask “where’s the evidence that this is worth the time and not just another ‘moon ascending in Saggitarius’ technique?”, otherwise we might be wasting our time and resources.

    But the author says:

    “I’ll admit @Deano that I don’t have a science background and use observation as my main tool to determine whether tools I implement are effective or not.”

    That *is* science, Theron, with the simple addition of a “control” where you have an exact same area that you don’t treat with your brew, and you compare the results between the two at the end.

    Throw in some objective measurements, like plant height, brix reading, yield, etc. and you are doing science and providing hard evidence of effectiveness. No corporate funding required.

    “I honestly don’t spend much time in a laboratory.”

    This statement seems to try and demean those that do spend time in a laboratory while us real men are out here doing real work. We all know that it’s those evil scientists that brought us GMOs and pesticides, therefore science is bad. It’s also a false comparison – one doesn’t have to spend time in a laboratory in order to apply basic science toward determining whether something works or not.

    “This is not a panacea by any means.”

    The original point was only “there is no evidence presented”. What you’ve done is try to broaden the argument or misstate Deano’s point to try to discredit it.

    “I’ll tell you from my own experience that you never definitively know if something works until you try it. If you choose not to… you won’t hear any moans from me. To each their own… keep doing what works for you and I’ll keep doing what works for me.”

    This is called relativism and tries to equate Deano’s questioning with him attempting to limit others’ freedom (fascism).

    Science is our attempt to find what works reliably, why it works, and how to make it work better. If we all just do what we like without testing, without measuring, all the while rejecting attempts to test and measure, our body of knowledge does not increase.

    “Keep in mind that much of our science still has no explanations for what is happening in the soil”

    This is also a false argument. Just because science doesn’t have explanations for everything doesn’t mean it’s not a useful framework for truth-finding.

    “and finding real science these days (by that, I mean science that is NOT backed by monsanto, Syngenta, etc…) is a bit of a challenge. Scientist need to make money to pay off their years of schooling”

    This is also a false argument – it implies that because some scientists have been corrupted, we should not use scientific techniques and critical thinking.

    “I hope you the best in your path of discovery. If it suits you.. use it. If not.. no worries, mate!”

    Again, hippie-era relativism and feel-goodism which tries to equate critical thinking and questioning with a personal attack. It’s as if you’re saying “Hey, we’re all allowed to do what we want, man”.

    Nobody said you weren’t. They asked for evidence that the technique was effective. You may not have it. That’s OK. You may have only anecdotal evidence. That’s OK too. Present what you have, and maybe, think about gathering hard evidence, compared to a control, next time.

    Many thanks for taking the time to share your technique, understanding, and experiments.

    Reply
  15. paul taylor

    We need to work together more rather than be reactive let’s be proactive. I do have a lifetime of knowledge being a 3rd generation organic horticulturist and organic farmer. Bio-fert is a blessing for the greater good, yes we all make mistakes but so far as i am concerned thats just life. Science or no, Bio-fert works and works for a fraction of the cost of store bought stuff… so let’s use it and report as we are to share the knowledge. Bio-fert is one element of a system, at Trust Nature we call it the Bio-Vital system, we have combined 5 elements to make one system. The elements are: 1. specialist compost as a medium for growing beneficial plant and soil microorganisms this is the Bio-Vital ‘inoculum compost’ 2. Soil pro-biotic (specialist compost tea) based in the good work of Dr. Elaine Ingham, where we extract organisms out of compost and grow them in vats to spray on to degraded land, in this process we grow hundreds of thousands or organisms into thousands of millions as an army of workers to support our productive crops and repair our degraded soils. 3. Bio-Fertiliser as bought to us by Eugenio and other materials as organic amendments such as EM, bokashi, compost extracts, worm juice, etc. 4. the use of cover crops, pasture crops etc as supported by Dr. Christine Jones and the work on the liquid carbon path and of course 5. good management with good networking and non competitive information sharing. We need everyone we can get to do the work at hand, be it the good work of PRI, or Milkwood or RegenAg, the work of Bill or David and of everyone. The day may come when we all work together without boundaries or judgements and that is when we really make the difference we dream of. best regards and many thanks to all Paul Taylor

    Reply
  16. Tim Auld

    Anti-scientific thinking appears to be common. I took part in an online seminar hosted by Land Care recently. They interviewed a farmer who had begun to use Biodynamic preparations in the last few years. He claimed they had made a dramatic improvement on his farm.

    I wondered how he could be so sure, so I asked a question through the hosts. The questions was ‘did you run a controlled, side by side comparison?’ The hosts rephrased it into something strange about intention.

    I got the answer I wanted from the vague and useless answer, but it goes to show what the host and farmer thought of basic science. Apparently all you have to do is wish for a positive result and the universe will answer! I’ve heard similar tripe from a permaculturist friend.

    The farmer had started using compost along with the BD preps. I’m inclined to believe that that had made the difference, but it could also have been good weather or a result of other practices that were starting to show results. Who knows? The point is his convictions were almost worthless, and now there may be others using the hokum of Biodynamics. The only plus is that it might encourage them to use (more) compost.

    We need to be prepared to put our teachings to the test and discard practices that do not show sufficient benefit relative to their costs. This is basic permaculture: observe and interact, accept feedback, and obtain a yield.

    Reply
  17. Roberto Canarte

    Hello Again,

    Jairo Restrepo put the idea in my dad of using biofertilizers to make organic bananas, Eugenio was our teacher in Colombia he showed us permaculture, we got amazed about the designs, please send my regards to Eugenio.

    The project that i am talking about have ended, not because of the technology, it ended because of the commercialization of the fruit.

    The conventional fruit got high prices, and sometimes more than the organic bananas so the investors decided to make the conversion to conventional bananas, because the effort to make organic bananas is really big, but we made it with our dad for 15 years then the project went down because of the commercialization.

    That farm received more than 1 thousand visits per year from universities all over the world.

    The comment of the Phd and professionals from all over the world is that its the first time they see a project like that in the world.

    If you come to Ecuador we can show you other organic banana farms but they dont have 500 hectares and 4 thousand biofertilizers tanks, that was a great experience that we lived and put us in the green path of organic world.

    The research model that we manage in that time was to test it first in the field, once we got results from the testings we call the universities and take it to the lab to see what happen and how it works.

    That research model turn it out to be successfull, once we made it in bananas, foundations like MCCH with help with ESPOL university took the research and applied it in a project of 200 hectares of organic cocoa, that project have ended too, and its so successfull that the farmers kept making biofertilizers since 2 years ago, the biofertilizers have controled the cocoa fungus deseases and the studies are in the university.

    This year we are going to make it in rice, any suggestions are welcome.

    I can only talk about my experience in the field, and what we have done with our deseased father, it is real, we made it from several years.

    Best regards,

    Roberto.

    Reply
  18. Angelo Eliades

    Hi guys, lay off the intellectual high-horse science rant, you CAN observe differences in a food production system after adopting a different approach, without doing parallel controlled tests. It’s called basic observation, the foundation of science itself as a knowledge gathering tool. Unless the changes are so small that and the margin is so fine, you don’t need laboratory grade tests and statistical analysis to see improvements in a system! While academics might disagree with me, anyone who has qualifications in science, and has done any real gardening for any respectable period of time knows this to be true. If you’re not completely blind, you can observe changes in a system, both subtle and significant. The rest is intellectual pontificating, sorry.

    The selective application of ‘scientific rigour’ just sounds like a rationalisation for mere opinion. I’m from a science background, and I ask you what controlled studies are there for the majority of conventional agricultural practices, that are not disingenuous fraudulent “industry research” shams? In the context of this article, do you ask what evidence exists for the contrary conventional approach? Are there studies that show that soil ecology counts for naught and pump-priming soil with chemical fertilizers is a more cost effective, sustainable and superior system? Strangely, most studies from university agriculture extensions show that conventional practices are destructive and not viable, and there is an increasing interest in soil ecology and leveraging that for higher productivity. look up what’s coming out of most University Ag extensions around the world…

    The reality is that the soil ecology is critical for plant growth and health, and anyone who has been keeping up with the real science would know that. The old expression of “feed the soil, not the plants” was derived from a lot of practical experience and contains great wisdom. Amongst people who grow plants, being open-minded enough to learn from each other, and sharing practical experience counts for more than publishing journals. If something doesn’t work, word gets out and people do something different.

    If you are truly scientific in your perspective guys, you wouldn’t be mouthing off opinions about biodynamic gardening either. A true scientist, without evidence for or against, has the intellectual integrity to say “I don’t know” and that is the only valid scientific position one can hold.

    If you don’t like Steiner’s explanation of biodynamics, tough luck, your logic is flawed, it doesn’t invalidate the technique and the observed results. Perhaps the founder doesn’t explain it with the language of your own world view, what makes you think your language of describing the world is superior to his, or any other culture around the world with a similar way of describing things – does ethnocentric arrogance mean anything?

    From people I have spoken to, with scientific backgrounds, who have seen biodynamics work, we simply accept that we don’t fully understand it, I personally suspect it has something to do with creating a rich soil ecology, but that is only my speculation, and I’ve got the intellectual honest to admit that. If you know the difference between philosophy and science, you should stop speculating and go observe biodynamiv systems for yourself, even test it without a preconceived bias of the outcome.

    Some forms of testing can’t be done in an instant in a laboratory. Some testing requires the passage of time, and the observation of the results over an extended timeframe. It’s called historical evidence. Many cultures without first world technology put their ideas to the test every day when they gather food for their next meals, if their ideas didn’t work, they would starve to death. Many of these systems of natural farming have been around for thousands of years, and the people are still around, so their systems work and are sustainable, that IS proof.

    Modern agribusiness is in its infancy, there is no evidence that it actually can be sustained on any reasonable timescale, nor that it is an optimum system, so why are we placing our faith in an unproven and untested system over what is proven and tested? Sounds like faith based scientism, where we’re treating science as a religion, a bit unscientific, wouldn’t you say???

    Reply
  19. Greg Bell

    Angelo, you raise one straw-man argument after another. You say we said something we didn’t, then you commence rubbishing it. This is poor argumentation, and I’m not going to even address your points.

    What I’m arguing is for basic testing and evidence gathering as a way of showing (sometimes) expensive and time-consuming practices actually work. The movement loses respect from smart people who matter when we don’t.

    In the minds of the public, permaculture continues to be associated with astrology, hippies, yoga, and new age-ism. To our loss.

    You say biodynamics works. Scientific thinking says: “Great! Why? Is it the timing based on the moon, or is it the preparations, or both together? Let’s try one at a time and see which one it is.” Only by following that can we improve the process – throwing out the parts of the process that don’t contribute to its effectiveness, and improving on those that do.

    By the way, if the people who invented semiconductors, digital electronics, or ethernet hadn’t used science-based rational thinking, you wouldn’t be reading this.

    Reply
  20. Angelo Eliades

    Greg,

    Our ancestors did what was practical to just get the job done, if they sat around over-analysing everything and trying to understand everything to the nth degree in a reductionist sense before taking action, mankind would have perished long ago…

    I’m not propping up straw men, I’m giving examples of the modern western perspective, which you are immediately taking as a given, which, frankly is somewhat presumptuous.

    What in the world makes you think that people in the past didn’t have sound explanations for their worldview that they weren’t content with?

    What makes you think that everyone needs to explain everything down to the level of meaningless abstraction that is characteristic of western reductionism?

    What makes you think that biodynamic practitioners care to have a western reductionist explanation of how their system works when they see it working and reap the benefits?

    Do you see you are imposing your personal values on other peoples work and assume that your position is somehow the default universal state?

    Do you understand the origins of your mode of thinking, ‘reason’ or ‘logos’ as defined and created by the ancient Greek philosophers, as distinct from the older system of ‘mythos’, the language of the writers, poets, musicians and artists – which is an equally valid mode of thinking?

    Do we discount the knowledge of all native cultures, and invalidate their understanding about everything, because they convey knowledge through song, myth, tale and parable. Do we go and ‘correct’ all the artists and musicians because they don’t fit our rigid logical model of how things should be in our minds?

    This has nothing to do with new-age hippies in Permaculture, science has its place in the right balance and in the right place. I study science, I don’t worship it, and I don’t support a totalitarian fundamentalist perspective of science.

    The true spirit of science is the spirit of human enquiry, the open-minded approach to understand, not rigid dogma. The acquisition of knowledge and understanding is an experiential process, we do and we learn, we test, we experiment, we make changes, we observe. We analyse what we learn, we share it, other people try it, they validate our understanding. We live and we learn. Let’s get real here, it’s not about sterile laboratory studies, double-blind tests, inferential statistics and confidence intervals every time we put a seedling in the ground, this is real life experience and learning. If you can’t see that, well, what can I say?

    The author answered the question, honestly explained they are not scientists, and simply explained what they experienced and the results they saw. It is disrespectful to trash them for not being uber-scientific about their approach.

    Ever heard of things in life being fun, doing something with a sense of adventure, something you do with community, a shared experience – where a scientific journal is not the end product?

    If you have a problem with the lack of scientific data supporting the process described in the article, for reasons of satisfying your own personal doubts, do what every other scientist does, test it for yourself.

    Cost is no excuse! If you do understand science, you will understand that in tests we scale things down, and you can set up a small version that will cost you nothing, then you can run your tests as stringently as you like. Then you can satisfy all the proof hungry doubters like yourself, and help move more people forward, or save a lot of people time and money if indeed you prove it false.

    That would be in the spirit of Permaculture, in the spirit of science, and with a focus on the greater good – or you can simply take the easy road and criticise others which takes little effort and contributes little other than imposing ones values on others…

    Human empathy, putting oneself in someone else’s shoes, now that’s a quaint concept, ain’t it. Best to ask oneself, “what have I spent time and effort doing, that I have posted up to share with the Permaculture community?”, before knocking those who have.

    The complaint of wanting scientific stringency when the author freely shared this is like getting a piece of prize winning chocolate cake for free and complaining it’s no good because there’s no cream… there’s a human quality called gratitude, and it kind of fits in with the first Permaculture ethical principle, “care for the people” if I recall.

    It’s important that we maintain our scientific integrity in Permaculture, I totally agree, but not at the loss of our humanity and appreciation for each other’s efforts.

    Without community, we’re no longer practising Permaculture, it’s simply agriculture.

    Cheers

    Reply
  21. Angelo Eliades

    Also, one more point, this article details a ‘technique’, the techniques are not Permaculture itself, techniques are tools that you can use within the Permaculture framework. Geoff Lawton drummed this into our heads as students. You are free to choose whatever valid tools you wish to use to achieve a Permaculture design goal.

    The Permaculture design goal here is to feed and enrich the soil, boosting the soil ecology. The scientific integrity of Permaculture is not at stake here, as no science disputes the importance of this Permaculture goal, and all of ecology and soil science supports the idea of a healthy soil ecology being vital to the health and vigour of plant life.

    Permaculture designers can choose from a broad range of techniques to enrich the soil, the author chose this technique, if this method is not people’s preference, choose another, we are discussing horticultural/agricultural tools here, keep that in mind, and understand them in that context!

    Please understand these comments were not meant to be a personal criticism of anyone, only a clarification on certain aspects of both science and permaculture that appeared, from reading certain comments and criticisms, to be misunderstood.

    Reply
  22. Theron Beaudreau

    Well at least we know that everyone here is very passionate… ?

    I guess it would help to clarify a few things for anyone who might share Greg’s perspective on the need for more scientific data. I would agree that more scientific testing would only help the cause. I wish that I could provide that but, I’m sorry to say, I’m just not in a position to at this time.

    Our initial intention for working with Bio-Fertilizer was to do scientific testing using a control. At the time, due to issues with the funding of our project site and other complications, it was completely impractical to do it where we were (in a rural agricultural village of central Thailand where creating a proper environment for scientific research was more difficult than one might expect – it was a culturally sensitive issue of land management that I’m not going to get into details about in a public forum – sorry).

    With very little funding and questions about the longevity of our project we continued anyway. We got together all the materials and ingredients for the Bio-Fertilizer for under 1000 Thai Baht (about $30 US) most of which went to purchase materials that could be reused many times into the future. In fact, the only thing we really paid for that could not be reused was the yeast (about 50 Baht – or $1.50) and the rock dust (about 250 Baht – less than $10 dollars). Everything else was a byproduct of some other process on the farm.

    Twice burnt bone came from one of our pigs we had slaughtered for meat and the silica came from our very own rice husks (half of our farm, about 50 rai (about 20 acres) was rice production). These made up the ingredients for the soluble phosphorus and silica. The whey was left over from cheese making and would have been a waste product otherwise. And the cow manure was given to us by our neighbor who we buy our milk from (as we did not have cows on the property at this time).

    Oh, I guess we paid for the molasses too but I couldn’t tell you how much we spent on that as we purchased that in bulk only once in a great while.

    The process was a little time consuming. But we figured, once we got more refined we could cut the time down significantly. In fact, I recently helped a friend in Central Texas make some who had already got his process pretty well refined and, including driving to and from the butcher and extracting rumen ourselves, we made 1000lts in under 8 hours between 3 people.

    While in Thailand, we had hoped that we would have the chance to test Bio-Fertilizer against Compost Tea, a Bio-Fert / Compost Tea combo, and a control of Chemical Ag (standard for that region) as well as no fertilization on 4 to 6 rai of corn. We wanted to run the project and record observations over the course of 5 – 10 years to truly put the various practices to the test. (In Thailand, farmers have to abandon farmland after only 8 – 10 years cultivation using standard chemicaland continually slash-and-burn rain forest for new farmland. It was estimated by http://rainforests.mongabay.com/0801.htm that 330,000 acres – about a 4th of Thailand’s forest – was burned in 2012 alone. The only way to slow or stop this process is to provide them a means to keep their existing land in production.) Unfortunately we could not get this work funded by either our host or the broader community at the time. I will admit again… I do not have a science background… but I was also not the only one working on this project. I do understand how important it can be to have scientific observations to convince the farmers and others in the world who are “educated”.

    To be honest, from my observation of the average Thai farmer, they are not concerned with scientific data, no matter how rigorous or convincing. They are concerned with dollar signs first and foremost… second to that, they are concerned with ease of work. If they can get by with doing less, in general, they likely will. You don’t have to take my word for it… A good friend of mine worked for a prestigious Thai agricultural university for many years giving lectures and demonstrating how organic methods were scientifically proven to improve yield time and time again… after many years, she abandon this work out of frustration.

    I agree that we need to get professionals on board… but, personally, I’m much more concerned with the farmers on the ground. They are the ones who are going to make the difference at the end of the day. I said that I don’t spend much time in a laboratory because it was an honest truth. I’d much rather spend my time in the open ended systems of nature. If that makes me a hippie in your eyes, so be it. I’m not going to waste any time or shed any tears over someone else’s need to shoehorn me into some little nicely labeled box they have in their mind. I’ve got plenty of other things to spend my time and energy on.

    Thanks for the constructive parts of the critique. I take those seriously and am always trying to find ways to be more effective with my time and energy.

    If anyone is interested in funding a project to do proper scientific testing on Bio-Fertilizer I’d love to hear from you. And if you have any other questions, please don’t hesitate to ask… I’m happy to oblige
    as best I can.

    P.S. This method does not require burying cow horns on any particular celestial event and any parallels drawn between Bio-Fertilizer and Bio-dynamics is likely a misunderstanding. I do not have any issues with bio-dynamics as I do not have any direct personal experience with it but I also do not believe this to have much of any relation to bio-dynamics beyond the prejudices of the casual observer.

    Reply
  23. Chris McLeod

    Interesting stuff. This is on my mind because I run a deep litter mulch system with my chooks. I’m in a cool climate environment where it frosts are very light. The deep litter is composted woody material into which the chooks do their business. The deep litter is about 300mm deep and I turn it over daily to get air into it. You’d be surprised how quickly 14 chooks can compact an area! In the past month I’ve had over 280mm of rain (11 inches) and although it did not smell, I replaced half a cubic metre of the material within the past few days and distributed it in amongst the food forest based purely on gut feel that it was the correct thing to do. The only time that it has smelled bad in a record breaking wet year, a single chook became sick and died, so I’ve avoided the anerobic conditions like the plague. I don’t know about the anerobic bacteria though. Regards. Chris

    Reply
  24. Chris McLeod

    You idiots! What a great video (I just watched it)! Very enjoyable. You know, if you have ever done home brew, you’d be familiar with some of the techniques. You could simplify the air lock using a bung and plastic airlock from a home brew shop (they cost next to nothing), but I really respected the ultra cheapie method of doing this too. Well done guys, good work. Chris

    Reply
  25. Daryl

    How scalable is this? I ask because I’m thinking of it’s applications in terms of 10,000 acres or more in several dozen locations across Alberta. What hurdles when thinking in terms of using feedlot manure, dairy, poultry, and pig sources. Can soil bacterias from virgin prairie be cultivated and propagated in this way? grab a shovel full or two chuck it in the brew let it ferment and propagate and away you go?

    Reply
    • paul taylor

      this system is very scalable, and can be applied to thousands of acres, local microbes are very important and are ‘raised’ in the compost. The system depends on Trust Natures, Bio-Vital(tm) compost where we use compost as the medium for growing beneficial soil microorganisms that regenerate degraded soils and reduce dependence of high cost inputs. We define ‘Sustainable Agriculture’ as ‘the ability to build soil health as we improve production’

      Reply
  26. Bio fertilizer

    We need to work together more rather than be reactive let’s be proactive. I do have a lifetime of knowledge being a 3rd generation organic horticulturist and organic farmer. Bio-fert is a blessing for the greater good, yes we all make mistakes but so far as i am concerned thats just life. Science or no, Bio-fert works and works for a fraction of the cost of store bought stuff…

    Reply
  27. Greg

    You’re spouting slogans.

    Working together? Yes, let’s hold hands and sing – it worked so well in the 1960’s to change the world.

    OR, let’s find out what works and use what works. You say “science or no, bio-fert works”. OK, how do you know it works? Did you try two plots, one with, and one without. THEN THAT’S SCIENCE. C’mon everybody, science isn’t a bad word, and it’s not a word for the 1%. It’s a system to figure out WHAT works and WHY.

    Reply
  28. paul taylor

    Let’s start with defining what ‘sustainable’ agriculture, horticulture, or just backyard gardens means. ‘Sustainable Agriculture’ is ‘our ability to build fertility as we improve production , reduce expensive inputs, profit from our labours, and have quality time off’.

    There are not many systems that achieve this. Trust Natures Bio-Vital system does, which is why I have made it my life’s work to promote a system that can use agriculture as the path forward for restoring degraded land.

    What we are doing with ‘scientific’ high production ag is stripping out our long term fertility, this means that we are eating our grandchildren’s food and leaving behind a barren landscape.

    We are always complicating systems, the the ‘science’ of plant nutrition, soil health, and improving fertility is indeed complex and has proven woefully lacking, we are losing more productive land every year.

    The real trick is to keep systems simple and easy to apply, yes, do test plots, test plots can teach you a lot about application rates, trigger points, and about particular species that might be more suitable to your soils and climates.

    When you get a soil test always get a ‘total nutrient test’ not just ‘available nutrients’ so you know what the microbes can deliver. Lets not let ‘science’ claim authority over Natural Systems. It was not all that long ago that science told us that cigarettes are safe, and the world is flat, it is ‘science’ that has developed chemicals that kill our soils and convince us to spend fortunes buying expensive inputs.

    And yes, I am all for holding hands and singing to save the world, It is by cooperation with Nature that we move forward in evolution and a bit of singing and dancing has always been an essential part of the ancient traditions of cooperative societies.

    Stay well, keep gardening, trust & cooperation all help.. if you really want proof, all you need to do is apply the knowledge…simple. Regards; Paul Taylor

    Reply
  29. Greg

    Sorry, but I’ve got to fight this idiocy because this is exactly what is holding permaculture back.

    As we all sit typing at our computers to people all over the world, what do you think made all that possible? That’s right, rational thinking, the basis of science and engineering.

    Did you drive a car today? Eat cheap and plentiful food? Turn on a tap and get some clean water? Talk on the phone? Have your life improved or made possible by a medication? Use a plastic container to mix your microbe brew? Let’s recognise WHY humans have been able to pull off these feats. Science, baby, and specifically scientific thinking.

    Pointing out incorrect scientific views of the past is a ridiculous argument and does nothing to challenge the validity of science. Call it “throwing the baby out with the bathwater”. For your four examples, anyone can point to 1000s of ways science has increased our understanding of the natural world in a way that a hundred years of praying to forest spirits never would have. And it has allowed us to make many many advancements that, yes, even permaculturalists enjoy daily. Science corrects course as it goes rather than staying married to an ideology or dogma, so mistakes of the past are just that.

    This badmouthing or discarding science is just foolish. There’s no diplomatic way to say it. And doing that DISCREDITS permaculture and relegates it to the domain of faith and belief.

    Please, everybody, EMBRACE SCIENCE. Test things. Question everything, measure results, record, compare. Run trials, use controls, reduce variables, eliminate chance. This saves time and money and improves your chances of success in anything you do.

    Reply
    • Adam

      Greg,

      I think you will find a lot of those thing’s you said we take for granted were actually discovered via mistake, and in every single cases the “mechanism of action” existed in nature well before it was conceived in the mind of a human. Let’s stick to the facts, yeah?

      Here is a question for you, If we understand so much more about the natural world today, then why are our lifestyles so much less sustainable than someone who once lived “praying to forest spirit’s”?

      There is a point when you realise that “information” is only worth so much. Example: You can tell someone about the risks of cancer until your blue in the face, but it’s never going to be as powerful as someone physically experiencing cancer.

      Don’t get me wrong i love information, but we need to be realistic about it’s limitations.

      Science certainly has it’s place like every other tool available to the human mind. But don’t think for one second that it is the be and end all of human creation, it’s just a fallible as any other system of thought.

      Balance is essential in any endeavor.

      Reply
      • Greg

        Ridiculous comment. You’re trying to equate science and information. False.

        Also, science is not a “system of thought” that can be overturned or proven wrong like a religion or idea. It’s a method of discovering truth.

        Re-read my text. Over and over again I refer to testing things brought to our attention here on PRI or elsewhere to simply see if they work. Don’t just spend all sorts of time preparing a ‘brew’, pouring it on your plants and then declare that it works without also pouring the same amount of plain water on some other plants and COMPARING RESULTS.

        Observations and discoveries are often accidental, sure, but the full understanding, development and application of those discoveries is all about the rigorous thinking that science brings us. Without it, we’d all still be marvelling at how hair sticks to combs, rather than instantly talking to anybody in the world on little magic cuboids (iPhones).

        News flash: Permaculture is 100% science-based.

        Reply
  30. Kym

    Hi All
    For those interested, we have a trailer of a series of videos we have produced from our recent trip to Latin Americ with 17 farmers, to visit farms using biofertiliser and other methods of MasHumus. We have 12 films, which will be released soon but in the mean time see the sneak peak at http://www.regenag.com
    In terms of science. Farmers in Costa Rica have available to them a full microbial analysis of the soil, compost or biofert before application through a lab that is part funded by Don Romano Ulrich and the Corbana Banana Corp. This is DNA level testing for about $40 a test and as their head microbiologist said..”how much more scientific do you need it?” If you’re interested in viewing one of the test results, send me an email at info@regenag.com. cheers

    Reply
    • paul taylor

      Thanks Kym my strength is not in keeping data, my strength is in education and setting up working systems…now Kym is very good at documentation, he has taken the trouble to document working systems and offer the knowledge with the science wonderful….don’t miss the series… , we can use agriculture to restore degraded land, we can garden for health and wellbeing and we can grow food for free….no more excuses… regards: Paul Taylor trustnature

      Reply
  31. DeepGreenGreenie

    Interesting that neither soil organic matter nor tilth are mentioned anywhere in the article or the comments.

    Reply
    • paul taylor

      Hello DeepGreenie… The good news is we have the answers and can repair highly degraded soils in a couple of years….

      the day of the wooden plough is pretty well over because we have lost our organic matter and our soil structure, in order to ‘fast forward’ soil structure we can use machinery like the keyline plough to open up soil, but it will close up again for multiple reasons, one real answer is to use compost as a medium for growing aerobic micro-organisms that work 24/7 to restructure soils, this is the type of compost shown in this article.

      I have some very good examples I don’t spend much time on computers but feel free to drop me an email and send me some photos.

      OM: 3 BIG problems, we can’t build organic matter at the rate we need to if we 1. use herbicides or 2. chemical fertilisers 3. over till our soils

      Organic matter is only seems very difficult to build up in the form we most need it .. as humus, simply we have forgotten how, humus is very easy to lose because chemical agriculture is designed to strip out our long term fertility for short term profit.

      If you want to build OM as humus, use compost, cover crops, soil pro-biotic, bio-fertiliser, ALWAYS keep your soils covered, never bare, reduce tillage, use mulch, grow understory crops (corn, beans and squash or clover under corn, alfalfa and clover in the orchard, get some bees, this system recovers degraded soils and builds long term fertility very quickly we just seem to have forgotten these old traditions and given our management rights over to chemical agriculture for short term profit, long term debt and and an environmental disaster. enough for today… thanks: Paul

      Reply
      • DeepGreenGreenie

        Lots of good points, Paul. I think though that it’s important to understand though that the start point is to build organic matter and soil structure. Absent that, biofertilizers won’t work very well, if at all.

        It’s even arguable that you don’t need biofertilizers if you mulch heavily, don’t till, keep the soil always covered, rotate fertility crops with consumption crops, add rock dust. In fact, the first three items are Nature while the last two are needed because our consumption is extractive. I’m not opposed to biofertilizers or soil tests but maybe we’re making the process more complicated that it really is.

        Reply
        • Greg

          Another good example. How do you know rock dust is worth the time, money and energy? Sure it’s plausible that it’s needed due to the extraction of minerals, but:

          a) Maybe the plants and fungi in a healthy soil continue to provide minerals by breaking down rock.

          b) Maybe rock dust doesn’t make it into the root zone for some reason, doesn’t become bio-available for some reason, etc.

          And let me head off some replies right off the bat – just because your soil is healthy, crops grow well, or have high nutrient value doesn’t mean the rock dust is contributing to those positive outcomes.

          Reply
          • DeepGreenGreenie

            Greg,

            Over the 25 years that I’ve used rock dust, I’ve done periodic side by side comparisons. I can see a difference in size as well as disease and pest resistance.

            Reply
        • paul taylor

          Hello DeepGreenie and Greg:

          The beauty of using biofert as an essential element of the system is that the biofert is made from specialist group fermentative anaerobes that compete with the anaerobes that keep your soils compacted, PLUS bio-fert feeds both plants and beneficial micro-oroganisms that do the real work of restructuring soil and maintaining the aerobic structure.

          Trust Natures Bio-Vital System is a fast forward system of soil recovery that even my grandfather used, but never had it backed by data and science like we do now, it was just proven traditional practices. I have spent some years now reviving and developing ‘lost’ traditional sustainable practices into a system that can be taught and supported by a bit of science, we are in a time of extreme need to recover our soil ecology but knowledge is pretty useless unless we apply it.

          There is nothing ‘hard’ about making bio-fert, but like good compost, the process is very specific and takes a bit of practice. For little cost and energy, it improves production, advances soil fertility and reduces labour… all great stuff and I think its very rewarding to do a bit of alchemy for healing the soil.

          NOTE: I have also used rock dust with very good success, it requires microorganisms to deliver the minerals to the plants effectively and the dust is best when it is as fine as flour. Basalt rock dust is my favourite, it has a very fine crystalline structure because it has cooled so fast, once powdered very fine, microbes can deliver it to the plants if you have living soils. TOI USE ROCK DUST EFFECTIVELY (basalt or rock phosphate etc) ADD small amounts TO THE COMPOST AND BIOFERT otherwise it can be too costly and less effective. tx paul

          Reply
  32. Jim

    Hi Paul. Can you tell me what kind of coverage the liquid should be placed out at? Seeking an average without a soil test, over all average. Really enjoyed the article and video. Thanks for what you do. Peace from Texas. Jim

    Reply
    • paul taylor

      Hello Jim: I like to use bio-fertiliser with actively aerated compost tea which is a powerful soil probiotic, I make a solution of 200L (50 gal) of compost tea, 50L (12 gal) of bio-fertiliser plus trace minerals like 4L of liquid kelp (1gal) and mix it with 1000L (250 gal) of water in a spray tank and apply to up to 5HA (about 10 acres) of land. Hope this helps.. tx paul

      Reply
      • Jim

        Thanks Paul for the reply. If I may, what ratio would you consider in bacteria “feed” mentioned per acre on it’s own? I am working with bio-active soil site that has great biological activity, and as an experiment I want to try a feed alone and see what results it would create, composting humic matter, opening soils to better air/water. I use the molasses in other capacities and also whey type products, usually spoiled fresh non pasteurized milk, great spore material, also with all original content of butter fat.
        Thanks again, Jim

        Reply
  33. Steve McLeish

    HI I understand you obtain the silica from incinerating bones where do i obtain the phosphorus or better still the silica as well.

    Reply
  34. Steve McLeish

    Hi deep green grub need a bit of help here just starting out. been farming conventionally’for forty years ‘tried some organic fertiliser on 20 acres’ i am happy with the result .I would like to make the bio fertiliser shown here’ to try to buy a ready made organic fertiliser costs about 2000.00 for 200 litres on a commercial basis to do more of my farm it is not viable.this is a beef farm have no trouble getting fresh manure but would like more information on how to make or buy silica &phosphorus powder.Thanks Steve.

    Reply
  35. DeepGreenGreenie

    Ahhh. It’s a scale thing. You can’t make silica & phosphorus. They are naturally occurring minerals. I don’t know where you live so can’t be of any help in suggesting where you might acquire them cheaply. Be careful though with soil amendments. Without a soil test, you can really upset the mineral composition of your soil.

    Reply

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