Producing High Brix Plants

Back to Gardening for Max Nutrition

As explained by John Marler of Perfect Blend

This information about what is required to produce high brix plants was gleaned from John's communications on the BrixTalk Yahoo group -   http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BrixTalk/.
Used with his permission.

Here is the secret formula that is the undergrid for our [Perfect Blend's] organic program [- and any organic program].

1. Build humic and fulvic acids in your soil (See Microbes and Mineral Transfer). These are the active base components of "humus". The only other stuff in "humus" besides some carbohydrates, oils, etc, is humin - which are organics which have not yet been dissolved and incorporated into either fulvic acid or humic acid. Note - everything organic left on the surface of the ground or incorporated into the soil will eventually end up as a fulvic or humic acid. 

Fulvic acids are transcellular. If the fulvic acid molecular structures are rich in minerals - these minerals will be transported directly into the plant root system by the fulvic acid. If the fulvic acid is not rich in minerals but the soil around it is, the fulvic acid will chelate the minerals into it's structure. Humic acids are not transcellular but are essentially a storage place for potential fulvic acids.

For a most excellent discussion of
SOM, Humus, Humins, Fulvic Acid, Humic Acid, etc. please go to the following web site: Definition of Soil Organic Matter by Jerzy Weber.  We regard Jerzy very highly around here. By spending a day or two reading through each of his discussion items and then giving it a few hours of study, you will receive an undergraduate course in basic soil structures. [See also here]

2. Provide trace minerals. You can call them mineral powders or whatever, but trace minerals are essential to the robust growth of high Brix plants. If you wonder what balance you need for essential plant reactions study the guaranteed analysis on the back of our bags (label) for a good model of balanced trace minerals. Boron, is the only one you have to really watch. It merits a soil test in previously farmed soils.

3. Provide secondary nutrients. These are Sulfur, Magnesium, and Calcium. Once again, study the guaranteed analysis on the back of our bag (label) for a good model of secondary mineral balance.

4. Provide primary nutrients. These are the old familiar N-P-K [nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium - in reasonable amounts - too much will lead to good but unbalanced, unhealthy growth].

5. Do not believe conventional soil tests. All a soil test can tell you is whether or not a mineral is present in the soil. It does not tell you, for instance, if the mineral is bound up to another mineral or an organic that will not allow it to be available to your plant. It does not tell you if the microbes are still working on it. ( Case in Point: A grower spreads lime all over his field since some agronomist reads the tea leaves of a soil report and calls for lime. How soon is that lime available to a plant - answer: maybe never - most likely one and a half to two years during which time generation upon generations of microbes are attempting to eat through the layer of gunk the guy spread on the soil.
[But basic mineral balancing, based on a conventional soil test, is the foundation for healthy soil and thriving soil microbes! See The Ideal Soil - A Handbook for the New Agriculture for details on how to use a soil test to plan appropriate mineral amendments.]

6. Feed your soil small amounts of good stuff and pay attention to the temperature. If you integrate organic [matter], which you should, put in only enough that your soil can accept according to the temperature. A plant integrated back into the soil at 68 F. will disappear a lot quicker than a plant integrated at 40 F. Soil never completely shuts down but slows down at about 58 F.

7. Read and come to love Dr. Elaine Ingham for her work on soil microbiology. We have a small disagreement on the long term commercial effectiveness of compost tea (we think that a sustaining nutritional base is necessary) but her base work, and the work of her husband Russ on nematodes is astounding. If you do not understand soil as a bio-reactor run by microbes then you are working on a bunch of old science. Everything we do at our company to feed plants is first directed at the soil microbes. If you think you are feeding plants, you have it all wrong. Everything that goes into the plant must go through the gut of a microbe first. Feed the bugs and the plants will prosper. Elaine's website is: www.soilfoodweb.com

8. Read Dr. Mike Amaranthus - he knows more about soil fungus than most anybody else that we know. If you are not using mycorrhizal fungi in your growing, then you are a good ten years behind the curve. Not every plant has a relationship with mycorrhizae, but most do. Remember, too much phosphorus will kill mycorrhizae as will too much tillage. Mike's website is: www.mycorrhizae.com. If a plant is blessed with mycorrhizae, then the mycorrhizae enjoy that built up nectar [sugar in the roots of the high brix plant] and respond with more rapid and extensive root supply system to increase the mineral content of the plant. One, I believe, feeds the other.

It might help some of you to know that a lot of the major organic growers now use Elaine's lab service, apply Mike's fungus spores, and use our fertilizers. Most major organic growers have at least a microbiologist on staff.

At Perfect Blend, we do build fertilizers for those without the time, inclination, or resources to deal with hundreds of tons of organic matter. [Other fertilizer sources] The "secrets" that I freely share with everybody are for the betterment of all of us and more important for our children and their generations. 

Food = medicine = supply of vital nutrients only available through a vegetative source = good health. 

Brix is a good test that we like and promote for a field understanding of how good the soil is performing. Using a dark field microscope and a mass spectrometer is, you would have to admit, an improvement. I beg you to consider that other science will only serve to validate the Brix concept. It is not to be feared as something that will ever replace the simple and elegant Brix test.

Man has destroyed 50% of the topsoil in the last 50 years - here and internationally. [See NPK Fertilizers] This destruction is the result of over fertilization - mainly messing up the carbon / nitrogen balance with synthetic N. fertilizers. The direct result is millions of tons of silt (formally topsoils) flowing down our rivers and about 80% of the 50,000,000 tons of annually applied synthetic fertilizers not being used by crops. Our only salvation for our soils is the reintroduction of SOM into the soil and the reinvigoration of the soil reactors driven by microbes and fueled by fulvic and humic acids.

The soil is a delicate balance of nutrients, the chelating agents that can transform those nutrients into plant food (fulvic acids) and microbes - many of which thrive on fulvic acid. Do not confuse fulvic acid made in the soil by microbes with reconstituted fulvic acids made from mineral deposits dug from the earth. Only soil microbes can manufacture living fulvic acids, despite the attempts of the Federal government and several major chemical companies. It is the living fulvic acids made in your backyard, that, along with soil microbes, are the fuel and engine of the soil.

For those of you who are still trying to "balance soils", depend upon EC [exchange capacity] for the full explanation of your soil health, or attempting to use decades old science in an attempt to understand the complexities of the soil I would humbly point you to Google. Everything we talk about has a Google site or several sites. A lot of our primary research is Internet based. If the term "glomalin" is not a part of your everyday soil discussion, we would suggest you go to Google.

We believe that growers must make sure that they have all 15 nutrients a plant requires in the right balance. We know that if provided with all 15 nutrients and a chelated form of organic nutrients, then the formation of complex nutrition fulvic and humic acids is assured within the soil given healthy soil bacteria and adequate moisture.

In our understanding Brix is not anything that can consistently be produced in a plant without the steady complex nutrition of all 15 plant nutrients, well made fulvic and humic acids, adequate moisture, and sunlight. We have seen failure after failure of organic teas and fulvic acid sprays ( made out of dead reconstituted humics mixed with water and perhaps hit with a little sulfuric acid ) simply because they do not have sustainable nutrition sources. Only the soil, and the wonderful complexity of Mother Nature, can produce the long term, slow feed, complex nutrients, required by a plant to grow high Brix values.

Like each of you, we believe that highly mineralized foods are the only true food source for the simple reason that these foods contain not just minerals, but also vitamins, phytochemicals, enzymes, amino acids, vegetable oils, and a host of other nutrients that are essential to the health of all of us.

Best regards, John Marler 
 jmarler@perfect-blend.com

Background of Perfect Blend fertilizer:
http://www.perfect-blend.com/
 

In 1997 - after spending years in processing and composting urban green waste I [John] had an opportunity to join a group that was working on a process to lock in nutrients and stabilize nutrients in manure and green waste. I had the advantage of use of a modern lab and had realized how large a percentage of nutrients were lost in composting. Folks had been working on this concept from the early 1900's. I had the advantage of an engineering background, a background in large scale waste processing, and a fair understanding of organic chemistry.

In 2001 we built the first plant of this type in the world with an ability to process about 10 tons of manure or plant waste an hour. That means we can achieve in 5 or 6 minutes when a composting operation takes weeks. The difference is radical. Composting reduces nutrients. We can actually lock in nutrients at 98% or better. Composts are simply soil additives. We build fertilizers. The difference is that to be called a fertilizer the NPK total score must be 5 or better. Few composts achieve anywhere near that score. We absolutely eliminate all weed seeds, spores, and pathogenic bacteria or virus. Compost rarely can make that statement. We turned the organic feedstock into a stable, slow release nutrient that is pH adjusted for maximum efficiency of transfer into humic and fulvic acids. It takes 6- 8 tons of compost, or more, to equal the nutrients of one ton of our product. Our product has a shelf life of 7 years. Compost should not be held more than a few months.

The process: Manure is reacted to change it from a labile nutrient into a slow release nutrient. The reactive process is, by the way, a chelation process so 100% of the CNEF has been chelated. It is a patented process. The lack of information given out is deliberate on our part. We sell CNEF facilities for millions of dollars. We use OMRI trace minerals to supplement the fertilizers. The Perfect Blend is registered under the USDA NOP program for certified growers. Perfect Blend is registered in about 27 states.

Our product is 100% homogenized - compost is anything but. We granulate our product to use any synthetic agriculture spreader. Compost requires specialized spreaders. We go to great lengths to retain high levels of amino acids, phytochemicals, vitamins, plant enzymes and hormones - most compost people have no clue what we are talking about as they have usually burned all of these items out of their materials.

On the smell of the product. We use two steps on the smell. The first step is a proprietary organic enzyme which deactivates much of the sulfur ring that causes the chicken manure smell. Then we mist some organic orange oil over it. What people smell most is the orange oil. A unique aspect of this fertilizer is that once it is on the ground and watered, there is no rank odor such as is typical with chicken manure or dehydrated chicken manure (which Perfect Blend is not)

Definitions  (back to top)

Soil Mineral Transfer
There are two important mineral transfer mechanisms in the soil. One is in the form of soil acids (humic and fulvic acids) which are formed as a result of the deterioration of organic materials. All organic materials will, if left to decompose on the surface of the soil, eventually become a form of soil acid. These acids act in the soil to dissolve elemental forms of minerals into an ionic form that can be transported back through the soil acid matrix to plants. Another transfer mechanism occurs when mycorrhizal colonies are present. Mycorrhizal hyphae, hollow tubes that give off soil dissolving exudates, extend into mineral rich soils where the exudates dissolve the elemental minerals in the same manner as the soil acids. 

The term soil organic material (SOM) is generally used to represent the organic constituents in the soil, including undecayed plant and animal tissues, their partial decomposition products (humus), and the soil biomass. Thus, this term includes:
  1. identifiable, high-molecular-weight organic materials such as polysaccharides and proteins
  2. The soil 'glue' called glomalin
  3. simpler substances such as sugars, amino acids, and other small molecules,
  4. humic substances
           humins -  black - large complex insoluble molecules
           humic acid - dark brown to grey-black - 
                             larger complex soluble molecules
           fulvic acid - light brown to yellow - 
                             small complex soluble molecules to 
                             which minerals are adsorbed

Why don't these acids wash away in rain?  These acids generally are in the soil at the 6 to 25 centimeters levels and saturated with moisture.  Rainwater at that level is filtering through particles and is not a hard stream.  Fulvics / humics are held in the soil structure itself, both in and on the surface of the individual soil particles. Think of grease that has been poured onto the soil - it is very hard to wash away.  These acids have the consistency of light oil and look a lot like wine.

Black humin is a partially digested high carbon material. Think about a piece of a stick that is still recognizable after it is dug our of the ground. It is material with a great deal higher carbon level than nitrogen. Put that into your garden and after a few years it might decompose. In the meantime, it is attracting microbes who want to reduce it but they need nitrogen to make that happen. If, in the soil surrounding your plants, you have a lot of humin you have set the stage for nitrogen immobilization - a situation where the bugs and the plant are competing for nitrogen. In such a conflict, the bugs will always win - that means your plants lose. I know that humin looks like something that you want in your soil but not if you are trying to grow things. You want humin that has broken down into fulvic and humic acids.

Realize that once you get the fulvic and humic acids built up in your soil, it becomes like a little reactor all to itself. The richer the soil, the quicker a soil will assimilate the waste organics and manure worked into it with a tiller. Once this little process starts you will find that your soil will convert and chelate the worked in waste organics and manure at a rapid rate.

Glomalin gives soil its tilth - a subtle texture that enables experienced farmers and gardeners to judge great soil by feeling the smooth granules as they flow through their fingers.  Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi, found living on plant roots around the world, appear to be the only producers of glomalin, which is made by hyphae (little tiny tubes) produced by the mycorrhizal fungus. 
See http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/AR/archive/sep02/soil0902.htm and also http://www.ars.usda.gov/sp2UserFiles/Place/12650400/glomalin/brochure.pdf 

Microbes are the engines of the soil. Nothing much occurs without them.
Plants do not have a digestive system. Microbes do have a digestive system. Everything that is taken up by a plant must first go through the
digestive system of a microbe.

The role of bacteria and fungi is in the conversion of elemental minerals
into a chelated plant food that can be uptaken by plants. Using organic
material as a food, bacteria manufacture fulvic and humic acids.  These
acids exist in the top layers of the soil.  They are primarily bacteria-formed in much the same manner that wine is made.

Mycorrhizal Fungi provide an intake system of tiny roots to draw in minerals and then provide exudates that dissolve the minerals. Plants actually become a part of the fulvic acid production system together with the bacteria and fungi. Together they manufacture a weak acid that slowly dissolves minerals from the surrounding soil and then transports them directly into the roots of plants.  Fulvic acid is a transcellular material that will pass chelated minerals directly through the outer cell wall of a root into the internal structure of the root. 

N-P-K fertilizers (commerical fertilizers focused on nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium) were originally successful in organic rich soils where these mineral transfer mechanisms were present. But there was an intrinsic problem. The higher nitrogen levels invigorated the soil micro-organisms. The microbes accelerated consumption of soil acids and quickly eliminated the soil acids. Growers, in order to maintain yields increased the nitrogen. The result is a total loss of SOM, a soil that is easily washed away by rainwater leading to quick erosion. Likewise the high phosphate levels in N-P-K kill the mycorrhizal fungus. There was no evil intent on behalf of the fertilizer manufacturers but it would be hard to design a more deceptive program that would grow crops while destroying the underlying soil than the N-P-K model.

 

For Perfect Blend information see http://www.perfect-blend.com/

Other Information

See John's report, The Symphony of Soil, at http://www.perfect-blend.com/ and click on link

Sustainable Soil Management
http://www.attra.org/attra-pub/soilmgmt.html#soil

Nutrition Security Institute, created by John Marler. There are links to some interesting pdf files on worldwide soil depletion, restoring soil microorganisms, and using a refractometer.

International Ag Labs product info - highlighted in Spring 2011 newsletter
How Important is Microbial Activity in Your Soil?:

RL-37 is a jack-of-all-trades product. In a too high or too low pH soil, RL-37 will buffer the situation. Where heavy metal levels are high, RL-37 has quantities of arms reaching to bind, chelate, complex, or dissolve them. With the addition ofRL-37 to toxin containing soils, this product may detoxify, and soils that are dead, compact, and hardened may be enlivened, softened, and made friable. How can one substance do all this? RL-37 has many active sites, colloid surfaces, and niches for bonding, absorption, and desorption. All these properties provide an improved environment for plants and microbial activity.

Seednique is a seed treatment made up of plant proteins, carbohydrates, amino acids, and naturally occurring plant growth promoting substances-all of which enhance crop yield, quality, and vigor. In addition, there are specialized, preselected, adapted indigenous soil microbes, bio-organic catalysts, and microbial growth stimulants to promote healthy seedling development.