A question I've been dying to ask

Discussion in 'Planting, growing, nurturing Plants' started by SueUSA, Mar 6, 2011.

  1. Finchj

    Finchj Junior Member

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    It costs 200+ AUD for every sample? Wow. That is ridiculous. We sent in 6 samples for zero. Then again, we already paid for the testing service with our taxes so it really wasn't free.

    Sue: I don't think capitalism or patriotic gamesmanship has much to do with this discussion. I also think it is important to consider the system that each member is dealing with. Are they producing all the food their family needs from their farm? Are they doing permaculture because they enjoy it and want to supplement their diet? These, and other questions, are important ones to consider. I'm sure if these members were providing food for a much larger community that they would have the funds and be more than willing to have their soils tested for the sake of their business. If this is a hobby, or personal life choice, then justifying hundreds of dollars for soil samples when their systems appear healthy could be harder.

    While I agree with you that if the parent material (subsoil) doesn't have sufficient nutrients then crops grown above said soil will have deficiencies; I also agree with purplepear's assessment that there is a lot more going on that a soil test may or may not be able to ascertain. Case in point- we understand that phosphorus will be a limiting factor in our garden this year. But we didn't test the sub soil and folks that have been farming our area for decades don't believe the numbers that came back from the lab. Therefore we are relying upon the symbiotic relationships that form between bacteria, fungi, and plants to mine the subsoil for us. While we are able to enjoy the luxury of yearly soil samples, we know for a fact that a soil test is only as good as the sample you send in. Parent material may differ radically from the first few feet, it may hold nutrients that have been leaching from the surface (we have ultisol, clay soil), and we know that mycorrhizal associations between plants can "unlock" these nutrients.

    Because we have the priveledge of low cost soil samples (taxes that I enjoy paying, TYVM) we will be able to monitor the effects of added organic matter from mycorrhizae-colonized plants. Maybe then we will have some limited hard evidence to add to this discussion.

    With all that said, I do err on your side Sue. I am very new to permaculture and am being convinced that it is possible to have self maintaining systems. At the same time, I do wish to find more hard evidence to back up claims made by permaculturalists. Let us all try to be more civil in our discussions.

    [edited to fix typos]
     
  2. Grahame

    Grahame Senior Member

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    Hi Sue,

    I can see how you have connected some dots that don't necessarily go together...

    The nutritional content of food is not always tied to the presence or low levels of soil nutrients. The way in which the plant takes up the nutrients is far more important. When artificial fertilizers and high levels of water are used plants tend to grow more quickly and thus have lower nutritional value. I think I have posted some information on this process before, but I'm happy to explain it again if you like. That really has nothing to do with the levels of nutrients existing in the soil. In fact the soil almost become irrelevant in that sort of conventional chemical system - in a way the soil is treated as an inert substance much like a hydroponic system! Further to that, the use of a limited number of specifically chosen varieties, based on characteristics that make the plants more manageable, more attractive, and what ever else makes the process easier and more efficient to mechanise and mechandise has led to varieties that are intrinsically less nutritionally complete.

    I am also wondering how you define deficiency, because deficiency is not the same thing as total absence. If you can create an eco-system of sorts, which has a good nutrient cycling system then you are well on the way to solving a lot of 'infertility' problems. Rain Forests grow on some of the poorest soils in the world.

    I think it might be useful if you backed up your statements of FALSE with some kind of reasoning, otherwise we can't really carry on useful dialogue.

    Someone suggesting a soil additive/remediation without first recommending that you build up your humus and organic matter levels in my opinion is an environmental vandal.

    I guess there might be some value in getting your soil tested for residual chemicals or heavy metals if you are concerned about them and suspect some contamination from past use. But even then...

    Anyway, I'm happy to hear why you think soil testing for nutrient levels is a good idea, and what value they have in the absence of organic matter.

    Cheers
    Grahame
     
  3. dannyboy

    dannyboy Junior Member

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    SWEP do standard soil balance tests for AU$110 with plenty of info, pie charts and recommendations for those who are interested.
     
  4. pebble

    pebble Junior Member

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    I guess the need for having certain nutrients in the soil is because humans need certain nutrients to be healthy, so if we don't get them from our food (plants and animals) then we can't be as healthy.

    But do we know what we need, and thus what we need in the soil? What is the optimal quantity and ratio of nutrients in the soil? How would we know?

    And how do we know what we need to eat?

    We know this things in general terms - don't get enough iron and you get anemic. But afaik there is no definitive knowledge on what we need to be healthy. Ideas on that change all the time.


    Grahame, that's very interesting about the soil vs uptake. When people say that our modern plant food is lacking in nutrients have we just assumed that means that the soil is now deficient (when in fact it's not)?
     
  5. sun burn

    sun burn Junior Member

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    Are you sure about that? I wouldn't have thought that less nutritional value necessarily follows. When it comes to fruit and vegies, do they reach maturity sooner than they would if not given artificial fertiliser or do they just give more yield than other wise. I know that nitrogen makes the leafy part of plants grow faster and bigger but its phosphorous needed for fruit and i wonder if they grow any faster.
     
  6. Pakanohida

    Pakanohida Junior Member

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    Your mind seems made up despite a lot of irl places & sources that say & show otherwise. Sepp Holzer's farm comes to mind, as does the Bullock Brothers in the US. Good luck.
     
  7. purplepear

    purplepear Junior Member

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    These are not guesses we are talking about - but using nature and observation to make our determinations instead of a culture of being led by the industry heavyweights.
    Is this the same America that brings us cheap corn for feed lots and in our food at subsidized rates? Capitalism is great at subsidies where the real cost of something (pollution) is hidden behind government subsidies.
    The argument is getting a little tiresome but I need to say again that I for one am not against soil tests - if they work for you then do it but there is no real need and to pin the need is to preclude people who do not have access to them and permaculture needs to be inclusive to the extreme and not selective.
     
  8. Pakanohida

    Pakanohida Junior Member

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    :clap::handshake::clap:

    The times are changing in the food growing world, and it starts with wonderful examples of how we should be helping one another like right there in that last sentence.

    :)
     
  9. pebble

    pebble Junior Member

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    I also wonder how polluting test labs and related industry are. Does it fit with permaculture ethics to buy knowledge that pollutes someone else's land and food sources?
     
  10. pebble

    pebble Junior Member

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    PP, I've really appreciated your input in this thread. I'm glad Sue started it too, it's though provoking.
     
  11. Grahame

    Grahame Senior Member

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    I like your work too PP. I admit I get a bit excited sometimes and can come off a little abrasive. I'm not against soil tests either, per se, but like anything I think they need to be used holistically.

    Soils are complex systems - more complex than reductionist science sometimes leads us to believe.
     
  12. Peter Robb

    Peter Robb New Member

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    I have a feeling that most of us tend to think that if they have sufficient "life" in the soil, the soil will balance itself out. This goes to the work of:
    "French researcher Louis Kervran spent decades investigating this biological transmutation. He showed that living organisms - plants, animals, humans - routinely transform light elements into other light elements. For example, potassium plus hydrogen convert to calcium, nitrogen plus magnesium convert to potassium, and phosphorus and hydrogen convert to sulfur. Professor Pierre Baranger, chief of the Laboratory for Organic Chemistry at the Ecole Polytechnique (Paris, France), also investigated biological transmutation, repeating many of the seed growth experiments performed by chemist Albrecht von Herzeele (conducted and published from 1876 to 1883). By comparing ashes of seeds sprouted in distilled water with ashes of nongerminated seeds, von Herzeele found elements in sprouts that were not present in the seeds alone." (https://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_7396/is_330/ai_n56632289/)

    The bottom line was that so long as you had the right organisms, mainly bacteria then the transmutation process could happen, but if they were not present then little to none would happen.

    Being a curious person however, I would like to know what is actually happening.

    I'd get the test done, then step back and watch for the power of nature to transmute some elements. Could be fun.

    Peter
     
  13. purplepear

    purplepear Junior Member

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    biological transmutation
    https://educate-yourself.org/zsl/zslclouiskervran23jul02.shtml
    "and the beat goes on"
     
  14. adrians

    adrians Junior Member

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    what a load of rubbish. Common people, permaculture isn't about this mystic crap. Elements are only made and destroyed in a few places (the sun, and supernova, are two examples)

    Just like i can have an interest in both bushwalking and gardening, people can have multiple interests, but this my friends is SURELY not permaculture.
     
  15. purplepear

    purplepear Junior Member

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    It is interesting though and on topic -
     
  16. purplepear

    purplepear Junior Member

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    I am not sure it is your call - a science based on natural systems owes it to nature to look at all possibilities. What do you have to be afraid of?
     
  17. Pakanohida

    Pakanohida Junior Member

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    I wonder how many scientists (& others) are still afraid of Findhorn and what it accomplished where nothing was supposed to grow.
     
  18. sweetpea

    sweetpea Junior Member

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    200, 300, 2000 years ago farmers didn't have soil tests from a lab, and they did just fine. I think that's because they knew that the plants (includes trees) tell you everything you want to know. They tell you pH, minerals, nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus, soil bacteria, water levels, and the list goes on. All we need to do is recognize the signs.

    Purplepear, you are the nicest person!! I just admire your cool :)

    Where is the citation that adding compost to soil for the best plant growth is a fallacy?

    But, Sue, I guess I'm wondering, why does not using a soil test have you so upset?
     
  19. SueUSA

    SueUSA Junior Member

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    Speaking of connecting the dots...

    "I am also wondering how you define deficiency, because deficiency is not the same thing as total absence."

    How about this as a definition: A condition of requiring something that is absent, inadequate or unavailable under existing circumstances. And a deficiency CAN be the same as total absence. Rain forests do, indeed, grow in exceptionally poor soil, but that's about ALL that will grow there. If you try to grow a vegetable garden there, you're SOL.

    And I never suggested that adding humus and OM shouldn't be done, I said that you appear to be expecting OM to solve all the problems you have with your soil by simple wishful thinking, or magic.

    "I also wonder how polluting test labs and related industry are. Does it fit with permaculture ethics to buy knowledge that pollutes someone else's land and food sources?"

    Oh, don't find out, Pebble, JUST GO AHEAD AND ASSUME! Does it fit with the permaculture RELIGION to promote presumptions and gossip as facts, and stick your nose in the air without even bothering to do any research, because you KNOW all the research is false?

    "But, Sue, I guess I'm wondering, why does not using a soil test have you so upset?"

    I'm not upset at the lack of soil tests, as $260 would deter most people. What I AM upset about is the total EFFING lack of anything resembling common sense on much of this board. You've turned this forum into a quasi-religion based on ... what? Not facts, not sense, just the illusion of what you wish for to be truth actually is.

    "But do we know what we need, and thus what we need in the soil? What is the optimal quantity and ratio of nutrients in the soil? How would we know?"

    EXCUSE ME??? It has been known for many years that the same percentages of nutrients needed by human beings are the same percentages that are required by healthy plants AND the same percentages that are needed by a healthy living soil. When the percentages are off in one of those places, it will be off in the other places. You need to get off those silly romances and start reading something a little more substantial.

    For those who haven't bothered to learn anything about soil, here is what has long been needed in bodies, plants and soils:

    First are the Primary Nutrients. If you have to make corrections, you have to start here, and then work your way down the list:
    Nitrogen (N) -- very volatile, can be washed out, dissipated as gas from tilling, destroyed by heat. Too much Nitrogen can increase pest problems. If the biological activity isn't right, the N won't be, either. In heavy rain, N will carry off sodium or calcium with it. If your OM levels are very high, you'll probably have a copper deficiency.
    Phosphorus (P) -- Susceptible to erosion (wind, water). If it isn't in the top 18 cm of soil where the microbes can work on it and keep it available for the plants, it doesn't really matter how much you have down deep. If your soil pH is much over 6.5, it is less likely to be available to the microbes/plants. If your phosphorus is too high, it ties up Zinc (Zn) and other nutrients.
    Potassium (K) -- Manures can increase potassium; if your soil is already high in potassium, heavy additions of manures can raise it to toxic levels. If your sodium levels are high, your plants can't tell the difference between the two and will take up the sodium and die.

    Secondary Nutrients:
    Calcium (Ca) percentages depend on what kind of soil you have: If you have a heavy clay soil, Calcium should be about 70% and Magnesium about 10% (total= 80); a sandy soil needs about 60% Calcium and 20% Magnesium (total= 80). It puts all the other nutrients into the plant, so if your soil is low, you've got trouble. If you add too much Calcium, it ties up other nutrients so they are unavailable to the plants, and can cause iron chlorosis. If you just do a simple pH test and it reads 6.5/7, it could still need lime. When you add too much Nitrogen, you force the Calcium down and Magnesium levels up.
    Magnesium -- Magnesium works with Calcium, and is usually adjusted by soil type (clay or sand). A high pH reading on clay soil may mean you have too much Magnesium.
    Sulfur (S) -- Humus holds sulfur in the soil, and even if you are using manure, the Sulfur level should be at least 20-25 ppm, and 40 ppm could be better, esp if you have high rainfall that leaches it away. Too much will deplete other nutrients or even cause toxicity.
    Silica (Si) -- Modern, highly-refined foods has caused a huge loss of natural silica in the diet, which parallels increases in degenerative diseases.
    Sodium (Na) -- has a relatively narrow line between too much and not enough. Excesses can be caused by high levels in irrigation water, or by soil compaction (hardpan), and will block the uptake of Manganese by the plants. Excess sodium can be flushed out fairly easily IF you can raise low Calcium levels, but if Calcium is good, it's going to take money to fix the problem. Farmers with high Sodium/Potassium levels end up with dead livestock.

    Micronutrients are catalysts for processes within the plants. Most of them are dependent on specific pH ranges to be available to the plants, and they are only available to the plants if there is enough available in the soil. AND they are only of benefit if the cations affecting the pH are within the proper range, AND the Nitrogen, Phosphorus and sulfur are adequate. If you think that because only very small amounts are needed you don't need them, you are deluding yourself.
    Boron (B) is unstable and leaches out easily, esp in sandy soil. It regulates flowering and fruiting, cell division, salt absorption, hormone movement, pollen germination, carbohydrate metabolism, water use and nitrogen assimilation in plants.
    Hydrogen (H) increases the availability of phosphate, potassium and other nutrients that tend to tie up.
    Chlorine (Cl) -- most soils have enough, some have too much; problems are often associated with compacted soils.
    Molybdenum (Mo) leaches out easily. It regulates micro-organisms, fixes nitrogen in legumes, and works with nitrogen throughout the plant, and improves yield. Too much causes copper to be unavailable to livestock. Got scouring?
    Copper (Cu) deficiencies tend to be severe in soils with high organic matter AND very low OM soils, and sandy soils. Copper is essential to chlorophyll formation, seed production, sugar content, contributes to color and flavor, and helps increase storage and shipping qualities. It is vital to root metabolism, helps form many organic compounds and proteins, amino acids, is a catalyst of enzyme systems, and converts iron into red blood cells.
    Iron (Fe) carries oxygen to produce chlorophyll, is important for hemoglobin formation in mammals, for oxygen transfer, cell respiration and blood cell development.
    Manganese (Mn) can be deficient on alkaline soils, waterlogged clay soils, and sandy soils. It is an essential biocatalyst in normal growth and bone development, proper functioning of reproductive glands, and aids in promotion of beneficial intestinal flora.
    Zinc (Zn) is vital to soil micro-organisms, promotes normal animal growth and tissue respiration, and is considered a dietary essential. Excess levels can cause copper deficiencies. Too much Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium or Calcium will tie up Zinc and make it unavailable to the plants.

    And then there are over 60 Trace Minerals.

    But all you folks who are inclined to just think NPK will do it are just as ignorant as all those American and Australian chemical farmers you look down on because they're so narrow-minded.

    Sue, who has pretty much had her fill of people who can't do any research.
     
  20. pebble

    pebble Junior Member

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    Sue, based on past posts of yours I have alot of respect for you, so this isn't a meanness when I say: pull your bloody head in. I in fact do do alot of research (as do some others here). I don't have time to research everything in the world I need to know though and that doesn't make me ignorant.

    If I had made an assumption I would have made a statement. But I didn't make any assumption, I just wondered out loud one of the things that's occurred to me during this debate, I asked a question. At some point I probably will look to see how polluting lab tests are and whether they fit with the permaculture ethics as I apply them. Right now I have other, more urgent things that need to be researched in my life.

    There's nothing religious about that or anything I said so I really have no idea what your sentence is about.

    You raised the topic here. Did you really not want to hear other's opinions, or did you want everyone to agree with you immediately? By your own admission you said at the start that people seem to have an inadequate appreciation of the importance of soil testing, so were you really just looking for a fight?


    I happen to know quite alot about health science, so I can tell you that RDAs and other similar systems of measuring what humans need are neither infallible nor black and white.

    You really are being a bitch (and obviously don't know shit about me, what I read, or what I know). I can't be bothered with this. I thought there was alot of potential in this thread for learning, but the internet is plenty big enough for me to learn without being abused. No doubt you will post something nasty now along the lines of how I must be stupid because I don't accept what you say. Whatever. I'm calling bullshit.
     

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