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In a major forward stride for sustainable agriculture, the country of Brazil has enacted legislation that includes soil remineralization as part of its agricultural policy. Remineralization is the practice of adding rock dust to soils to restore vital nutrients crucial to the growing of crops, forests and any other plant-based ecosystem. Many of these soil nutrients are lost due to conventional agricultural practices, such as overuse of the land and application of synthetic chemicals.

“This is a highly significant event,” Joanna Campe, founder and executive director of Remineralize the Earth (RTE), told Organic Connections. RTE is a US nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing the concept and application of soil remineralization into the mainstream. “It clearly establishes Brazil as the emerging leader for remineralization in the public policy arena pertaining to agriculture. The legislation officially designates remineralization as a fertilizer.”

Research demonstrates that remineralization naturally restores soils to a healthy state—not only making the use of agricultural chemicals unnecessary but also resulting in plants with higher yields, increased pest resistance and higher nutrient content. Forest remineralization has produced trees far more resistant to normal health risks. Moreover, remineralized soil sequesters carbon from the atmosphere, which can reverse climate change.

Strong Motivation

Why is Brazil leading the charge to adopt remineralization practices? “In Brazil, 70 percent of fertilizers are imported,” Campe explained. “They have a history of importing a large amount of phosphates  and potassium, because tropical soils are strongly weathered and because the deposits of these minerals are restricted, a large one in the Amazon and otherwise smaller ones. At the same time, Brazil has a strong mandate to be as energy independent as possible. Hence they have discovered that their native rock dust is a national treasure.”

SuziSuzi Huff Theodoro, PhD asking a speaker a question at the 2nd Brazilian Congresso de Rochagem that took place in May, 2013.

 

International Impact

The official adoption of remineralization by a major country brings credibility and attention to this alternative farming practice. “Credibility has always been an issue for remineralization,” Campe said. “In most places, including the US, it has started out as a grassroots movement, which is very unusual for something that is actually a scientific thesis. But seeing a whole country adopt it gives it a new measure of credibility.”

Getting Around Industrial Agriculture

The effort to institute an initiative such as remineralization could have been met with resistance in Brazil, where companies like Monsanto have a stake in chemical fertilizer use. A unique approach in the new legislation avoided pushback from Big Ag. “Naturally it’s hard to make a shift in any country where you have industrial agriculture,” Campe pointed out. “Monsanto has a strong presence there, so Brazil is introducing remineralization to small farmers first; industrial agriculture is not as interested in those.”

Fig15Jean Pierre Tchouankoue, Ph.D., from the University of Yaounde (right) with Quilombo farmer in Bahia, BrazilPhoto by Dasha Gaian

 

Concentrating this initiative on small farmers also provides a social justice component: small farmers are enabled to grow stronger, more sustainable crops, thereby enriching their livelihoods.

Origins in Education

A major impetus for the remineralization movement in Brazil had its origin at a leading university. “It began at the University of Brasília with a very forward-thinking professor, Othon Leonardos,” Campe related. “He had two students who took up remineralization in a big way. One of these was Suzi Huff Theodoro, PhD, who is now a geologist and researcher at the University of Brasília. She can be given much of the credit for helping to bring the new legislation about; as a geologist with Petrobras, the national oil company, she has strong ties with Congress.”

Fig18Joanna Campe standing next to a remineralized bougainvillea near Brasilia with dramatic growth within only 6 weeks of application.

 

The other student was Eder de Souza Martins, PhD, who became a lead researcher at EMBRAPA, which is the Brazilian version of the USDA. For several years prior to the enactment of the recent legislation, EMBRAPA engaged in intensive research into remineralization.

Brazil has put significant resources into remineralization research. “They’ve spent millions of dollars,” Campe reported. “Besides EMBRAPA and the University of Brasília, many other universities all over the country have become involved too. Government ministries have also done research; for example, the Brazilian Geological Survey is mapping its resources from the air, which is really exciting.

“This is a major difference between what has happened in Brazil and in the United States. In the United States you have grassroots initiatives and community gardens, farms, CSAs, urban gardens and landscapes; and it’s making its way up to the university and research levels from there.”

Research Is Key

Paralleling Brazil, Remineralize the Earth has been concentrating resources in research to bring increased credibility to remineralization.

“Remineralize the Earth has felt it’s very important to take on research initiatives,” said Campe. “For example, one research initiative that we currently have is at New Harmony Farm in Eastern Massachusetts, where we are looking at the optimum ratios of combining rock dust with biochar [a type of charcoal used as a soil amendment]. So far this combination has yielded about two and a half times the growth with radishes and beets.

“We have been able to show in Panama eight times the growth for trees with local rock dust. This is an indicator of how important and what a key strategy remineralization could be for carbon sequestration and stabilizing the climate.

“Additionally we are conducting analysis for nutrient density, which is the nutrient content of crops. Therefore another initiative that’s been very important for Remineralize the Earth has been the Real Food Campaign, out of which grew the nonprofit organization Bionutrient Food Association (BFA). The BFA is now training farmers how to grow nutrient-dense food with remineralization and biological soil-management practices.”

Fulfilling Its Mission

“Remineralize the Earth has been advocating remineralization for decades,” Campe concluded. “Brazil’s legislation brings the organization closer to fulfilling its mission to restore soils, grow nutrient-dense food and greatly reduce our carbon footprint. By doing all this, we can improve the overall quality of life and reduce healthcare costs.”

Reprinted with permission from the Organic Connections Magazine online edition:
http://organicconnectmag.com/remineralization-brazil-enacts-groundbreaking-legislation-sustainable-agriculture/

 


Sunday, 08 December 2013 01:30

Join Us and Have a Local and Global Impact!

Written by Joanna Campe

On 12.12.13, show your support for Remineralize the Earth during VALLEY GIVES, the second annual 24-hour celebration of generosity. On this one day campaign, every donation and donor we receive will further help us claim our share of more than $200,000 in cash awards. Last year, Valley Gives raised over $1 million for over 250 organizations from more than 6,000 individuals. We are excited to be participating this year with our local commitment to the Pioneer Valley to remineralize gardens and farms and grow nutrient dense food for all!


At the II Brazilian “Rochagem” Conference, which took place in Poco de Caldas, Minas Gerais, in May 2013, Professor Peter van Straaten gave a series of talks on the use of rock dust to increase soil health for agriculture. As a pioneer in the practice of using rocks for soil remineralization, van Straaten shared his extensive knowledge with a broad spectrum of scientists and researchers who attended the conference. An expert in agrogeology, which Van Straaten defines as “geology in service of agriculture,” he has built an international network of projects that study remineralization and sustainable agriculture in Africa. His work has helped lift many small farmers out of poverty in Africa and his research has recently expanded to Indonesia, Cuba and Brazil.


From May 12-17, 2013 the Second Brazilian “Rochagem” Conference convened an impressive assembly of scientists, researchers and technicians from Brazil and around the world. Joanna Campe, Executive Director of Remineralize the Earth, was invited to speak at the conference and was given the honor of presenting second on the opening day of the event. Joanna's presentation entitled “The Potential of Remineralization as a Global Movement” covered the historical context and current developments relating to ecological and social challenges that are being faced regionally and globally. Joanna helped open the conference to the long list of detailed case studies and presentations of the latest research on agricultural uses of different types of rock dust.


2013 USBI North American Biochar Symposium, October 13-16, UMass Amherst

 

Dr. Tom Goreau will be giving a presentation on the results of the New Harmony Farm CSA Research Project in Newbury, MA which is looking to find the optimum ratios for rock dust and biochar in agriculture. While this research on the most efficacious ratios of compost, rock dust and biochar would be extremely valuable on its own, this study seeks to take the results one step further by analyzing not only plant and soil nutrients and biological activity, but also the effects of this innovative land management technique on soil carbon storage and greenhouse gas emissions. Joanna Campe, Executive Director of RTE will also attend the conference with Dr. Goreau, researcher and RTE board director.


Environmental chemist Ugo Amadioha, a native Nigerian, born and raised in the Etekwuru-Egbema Kingdom in Imo State, Nigeria, recently expressed interest to Joanna Campe of Remineralize the Earth about creating a project that will adopt remineralization as a means to bioremediate degraded farmlands in the Niger Delta. He is currently Senior Chemist with Chemtech Consulting Group in New Jersey, USA and is seeking partnerships and funding for such a project.


Edinei Almeida is an agroecologist and PhD student currently working to bring awareness and understanding of agroecology to small family farms in rural Brazil. As part of the Brazilian NGO, AS-PTA (Assessoria e Serviços a Projetos em Agricultura Alternativa), whose mission is to promote ecological methods of agriculture that question conventional industrial practices, Edinei works with 500 family farms in Southern Brazil to show the benefits of adding rock dust to soil. Suzi Huff Theodoro, PhD, one of the main organizers of the 2nd Brazilian “Rochagem” Conference, described Edinei as one of the foremost agroecologists in Brazil and Joanna Campe of Remineralize the Earth was inspired to sit down with Edinei at the conference in May 2013 to discuss the growing movement of remineralization in rural Brazil.


Joanna Campe, executive director of Remineralize the Earth, has been invited to give a presentation at the II Brazilian Stonemeal Congress (II BSC). Her presentation will be on an overview of the global remineralization movement and its potential.


Biochar and Rock Dust for Nutrient Dense Food, soil fertility restoration, and Carbon Sequestration
Groundbreaking research project with rock dust and biochar at New Harmony Farm in West Newbury, MA
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
Margaret Mead, Anthropologist
Working on solutions to some of the world’s threatening environmental challenges and creating the world we want to live in is a thrilling opportunity. At Remineralize the Earth we are doing just that – working on research that has the potential to alleviate many of the environmental and agricultural problems humanity faces today, such as climate change, air pollution, unsustainable agriculture, and poor water quality. RTE is partnering with New Harmony Farm, a Community Suppoted Agriculture (CSA) organic farm in West Newbury, MA to conduct research on the use of ground rock dust, compost and a type of charcoal known as ‘biochar’ to improve the quality and amount of topsoil.
Innovative land management techniques could have a significant impact on ameliorating climate change if they act to remove CO2 from the atmosphere and store carbon in the soil. Designed by Dr. Thomas Goreau, a Board Director of RTE, the scientific study currently underway at New Harmony Farm aims to quantify nutrients in soil and plant matter, monitor growth rates of crop plants, soil carbon storage, and quantitatively measure greenhouse gas emissions from soil. The findings of this research will point the way to increasing crop yields and their nutritional value.
Ground rock powder weathers slowly, adding minerals to the soil over time.  This slow release allows the plants to take up the minerals through their roots more efficiently, resulting in a healthier and stronger plant. Compost is commonly used as another way of adding nutrients to the soil through degradation of organic materials and breaks down more quickly than rock dust.  Finally, biochar is known to have positive effects on soils with low fertility. It acts like a sponge, slowing down the rate at which nutrients are leached through the soil.  Biochar was used traditionally for thousands of years in the Amazon region of Brazil to improve the quality of the soil. These tropical soils are notoriously poor in fertility, and there is evidence that ancient Amazonian peoples discovered the technique of using biochar to improve soil quality. This evidence is still visible today in what is known as “terra preta” or “black earth” when compared to soils untreated with biochar in the same area.
Previous research has demonstrated that adding ground rock dust, compost and biochar added individually, enriches soil with minerals, reduces soil erosion, and increases the size and nutrient value of plants.  Although it is widely understood that these natural soil fertilizers should act even better in combination, there are few studies to determine the optimal combinations. The right combination of these three components will create a powerful synergy for enriching topsoil and increasing the health of plants. The research that is taking place at New Harmony Farm will reveal the most effective ratios under New England conditions
While this research on the most efficacious ratios of compost, rock dust and biochar would be extremely valuable on its own, this study seeks to take the results one step further by analyzing not only plant and soil nutrients and biological activity, but also the effects of this innovative land management technique on soil carbon storage and greenhouse gas emissions.  Carbon is an element that exists in many forms in the world – as a gas in the form of carbon dioxide or as a building block of plant or animal organic material, or in other solid forms, such as charcoal.  Carbon dioxide, the major greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, can be transformed into non-gaseous forms through proper land management.  The scientists working on this project hypothesize that the use of biochar and rock dust should have the effect of reducing greenhouse gas emissions as compared to conventional methods using chemical fertilizers, which have the effect of increasing these emissions. This method of land management should produce a three-fold benefit: more fertile topsoil that is resistant to erosion, stronger and more nutritious plants, and reduction of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
Australia has taken the lead with a system of carbon credits already in place for agriculture to store carbon or reduce greenhouse gas emissions on the land. This helps the environment by encouraging sustainable farming and providing a source of funding for landscape restoration projects. We at RTE hope that the US and other countries will follow, providing an incentive for the kind of research and implementation we are doing and advocating.
Dr. Tom Goreau and Joanna Campe, executive director of RTE, met recently with researchers at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and some of the organizing members of the upcoming North American Biochar Symposium, to be held October 13-16, 2013. Dr. Goreau has submitted an abstract for presentation at the symposium on the first two crop results using a wide range of rock dust and biochar combinations at New Harmony Farm.
As a result of the UMass meeting, the project will soon be expanded to include 500 square feet of greenhouse trials, partnering with Adam Dole of the New England Small Farms Institute (NESFI), a land-based, non-profit organization, founded to encourage more sustainable regional agriculture and promote small farm development.
Help Sustain this Groundbreaking Research Project
The New Harmony Farm study is cutting-edge in its scope and has important implications for global climate, agriculture and the environment. This project has gone forward in the first year without funding.  It has progressed only due to in-kind donations of materials and time by unpaid volunteers. While RTE is actively pursuing larger funding to cover a three year period, in the interim donations are needed to cover the costs of soil and plant testing (an amount of roughly $3,000) associated with this work.   Please consider a tax-deductible donation in any amount to this unique and important project.  Contributing to sustain this research project will help to move the world toward a healthier, more sustainable future.
*Donate Now*
References
Biochar Information. http://biochar.info/biochar.terra-preta.cfml
Campe, Joanna; Dan Kittredge, Lee Klinger. “The Potential of Remineralization with Rock Mineral Fines to Transform Agriculture, Forests, Sustainable Biofuels Production, Sequester Carbon, and Stabilize the Climate.”  Northampton, MA. 2012.
http://remineralize.org/administrator/components/com_jresearch/files/publications/Rio%20Summit-RTE-2012.pdf
Gibbons, Whit. “What are our top ten environmental problems?” Athens, GA. 2006. http://srel.uga.edu/ecoviews/ecoview060326.htm
Lehmann, Johannes; Jose Pereira da Silva Jr, Christoph Steiner, Thomas Nehls, Wolfgang Zech and Bruno Glazer. “Nutrient Availability and Leaching in an Archaeological Anthrosol and Ferrosol of the Central Amazon Basin: Fertilizer, Manure and Charcoal Amendments.” Plant and Soil, 249: 343-347. 2003.
Margaret Mead Quotes. http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/m/margaret_mead.html
Dr. Thomas Goreau
Tom Goreau is President of the Global Coral Reef Alliance, a non-profit organization for coral reef protection and sustainable management, and Coordinator of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development Partnership in New Technologies for Small Island Developing States. He has published around 200 papers on global climate change, the global carbon cycle, stabilization of atmospheric CO2, tropical deforestation and reforestation, microbiology, soil science, atmospheric chemistry, community-based coastal zone management, mathematical modeling of climate records and other fields. He was educated at MIT (B.Sc in Planetary Physics), Caltech (M.Sc in Planetary Astronomy), Yale, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and Harvard (Ph.D. in Biogeochemistry). View his full bio.

Groundbreaking research project with rock dust and biochar at New Harmony Farm in West Newbury, MA. [VIDEO]


Monday, 11 March 2013 13:52

Alleviating Hunger and Poverty in Cameroon

Written by Dasha Gaian

Remineralize the Earth is partnering with Research and Education Centre for Development (CREPD) to develop an agroforestry project to benefit small farmers in Cameroon - utilizing rock dust and intercropping nitrogen-fixing jatropha with fruit and nut trees to restore soils, increase yields, and provide food, fuel and income for local communities.


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