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WHY REMINERALIZE?


(Click here for Russian version)

carrots-dh
In this unintended "experiment" in our garden, we remineralized soil in one raised bed with finely ground granite residue from a water well drilling site. The remineralized soil produced the carrots on the left. Carrots planted earlier, in soil not yet remineralized, but otherwise more improved, are shown at the right for comparison. Dust obtained from a mixture of rock types would have even more dramatic results, according to Weaver and Hamaker. These results were typical for all crops receiving rock dust in our 1985 garden.
from Dan Hemenway

Benefits of Remineralization

  • Provides slow, natural release of elements and trace minerals.
  • Increases the nutrient intake of plants.
  • Increases yields and gives higher brix reading.
  • Rebalances soil pH.
  • Increases earthworm activity and the growth of microorganisms.
  • Builds humus complex.
  • Prevents soil erosion.
  • Increases the storage capacity of the soil.
  • Increases resistance to insects, disease, frost, and drought.
  • Produces more nutritious crops.
  • Enhances flavor in crops.
  • Decreases dependence on fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides.

oakleavesOne of many anecdotal photos sent over the years to the magazine in the early remineralization movement in the 1980s. These two oak leaves were sent by Jeannie Stevens from Victoria, Australia. The larger leaf was from an oak tree that was remineralized in March 1984. At that time the leaf was the same size as the smaller one on the left. There was a magnificent forest of seedlings under that tree in December 1986. The oak tree nearby with the smaller leaf on the left was not given an application of rock dust and had very few viable acorns and weak seedlings.

Soil Remineralization (SR) creates fertile soils by returning minerals to the soil in much the same way that the Earth does: during an Ice Age, glaciers crush rock onto the Earth's soil mantle, and winds blow the dust in the form of loess all over the globe. Volcanoes erupt, spewing forth minerals from deep within the Earth, and rushing rivers form mineral-rich alluvial deposits.

Within silicate rocks is a broad spectrum of up to one hundred minerals and trace elements necessary for the well-being of all life and the creation of fertile soils. Glacial moraine or mixtures of single rock types can be applied to soils to create a sustainable and superior alternative to the use of ultimately harmful chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides.

SR has been shown in scientific studies to achieve fourfold increases in agricultural and forestry (wood volume) yields and to produce both immediate and long-term benefits from a single application.

Hundreds of thousands of tons of appropriate rock dust for soil and forest regeneration are stockpiled by the gravel and stone industry.

A Brief History

Remineralization has been researched and explored primarily by three distinct groups:

  • First, German nutritional biochemist Julius Hensel pioneered SR in the 1880s with his book Bread from Stones, and a modest agricultural movement came into being. Following his contribution, after the late 1930s many scientists in Germany and Central Europe performed research on SR for agricultural lands and forests.

    More recent researchers include Peter von Fragstein at the University of Kessel, Germany, who has researched remineralization, using many different rock types, as a slow-release fertilizer and as an insect deterrent.

    The technology was not available at the turn of the century to produce finely ground rock dust, so SR, as promoted by Hensel, could not be feasibly achieved on a large scale. SR was revived about thirty years ago in Europe. In the last few decades, many rock dust products for agriculture, forestry, and sewage sludge treatment have been created in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland and have been successfully marketed by the natural stone industry. Many companies, such as Lava-Union (Germany), Sanvita (Austria), and Bernasconi (formerly known as Zimmerli, Switzerland) and The Natural Stone Industry (Die Naturstein Industrie) based in Bonn, Germany, have also done a great deal of research.

  • Second is the more recently developed field of agrogeology. This research has been carried out mainly in Canada, Brazil, Tanzania, the Canary Islands, and West Africa—especially on laterite soils. Because of the intense tropical rainfall, NPK fertilizers are washed out in only a few weeks and cannot be stored by the soils, and they are especially harmful to the groundwater. Rock fertilizers not only give nutrients over longer periods to cultivated plants, but they also improve the ion-exchange-capacity of soils by forming new clay minerals during the weathering of the fertilizer. Researchers include William Fyfe and Ward Chesworth, among others.

    For current information about agrogeology, see Rocks for Crops. The book Rocks for Crops by Peter van Straaten from the University of Guelph can be found online here.

  • Third is the grass-roots movement concerned with the premise of John Hamaker in the book The Survival of Civilization, co-authored with Don Weaver, which asserts that SR is not only the key to restoring soils and forests, but in the larger context, it is urgently needed to reduce levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and stabilize the climate. Especially recommended are rock gravels and glacial moraine from glacial deposits, which provide the most natural mixtures of rocks with the broadest possible spectrum of minerals and trace elements.

    This movement began with Hamaker's writing in the early 1970s and expanded in the 1980s into a global grass-roots community consisting of ecologically concerned individuals and organizations, farmers and gardeners, and scientists and policy makers.

To facilitate networking and the flow of information and to promote SR as advocated by John Hamaker and Don Weaver, Soil Remineralization, A Network Newsletter began in 1986 and became the Remineralize the Earth magazine in 1991. The magazine has networked to people all over the world, collected research, and gathered a wealth of anecdotal results from farmers and gardeners to substantiate the benefits of SR. In October 1995, Remineralize the Earth, Towards a Sustainable Agriculture, Forestry and Climate was incorporated as a non-profit organization.

On May 24, 1994, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) (Beltsville, MD), the U.S. Bureau of Mines (USBM) (Washington, DC), the National Stone Association (NSA) (Washington, DC), and the National Aggregates Association (NAA) (Silver Spring, MD) co-sponsored a forum on "Soil Remineralization and Sustainable Agriculture" at the USDA Agricultural Research Station in Beltsville, MD.

The forum brought together the by-product rock fines generating industry and the proponents of SR to explore environmentally sound uses of rock fines, to assess the state of the science supporting their use, and to identify the gaps in knowledge that needed to be filled.

The USDA began a series of demonstration trials with rock fines (from Georgia, Maryland, and New York) and with other industrial by-products. Dr. Ronald Korcak, research leader of the fruit lab, directed the trials over a three-year period. The USDA is also beginning to research the use of rock dust in compost under the direction of Dr. Larry Sikora. The now defunct U.S. Bureau of Mines designed a prototype for a GIS (Geographic Information Systems) database to target soils in most need of SR and identify their distance from regional sources of rock fines, enabling the USBM to calculate transportation costs and determine the marketability of specific rock fines. The National Aggregate Association has a Task Force on Remineralization that is exploring the possibilities for creating sustainable products for agriculture, forestry, and other uses. Research projects are currently underway at universities, as part of the research and development programs of some of the largest aggregate companies in the United States, Europe, and Australia, and through organizations such as Men of the Trees in Australia.

A paradigm shift away from conventional chemical NPK farming is a vast new frontier, Soil Remineralization—the key to the sustainable agriculture of tomorrow. The agenda for SR is clear: to create abundance in an era of diminishing resources and lead us away from fossil fuels. Remineralization is nature's way to regenerate soils. We can return the Earth to earlier interglacial Eden-like conditions through appropriate technology.