Our operation is a market garden of about 1-1.5 acres of vegetable production. We have used cover crops before and grow our crops using organic methods. We used cover crops for about 15 years.
In early August 2012, I tilled field 8 with a tractor and a 60″ 3-point tiller. Field 8 had never had a micronutrient, mineral and trace element supplement applied to it before. It was last cropped in 2005. It was so dry I made a dust storm. Twelve 3-foot wide beds were tilled, each 50 feet long. Fertilizer was applied evenly to all beds per soil test results using a drop spreader for even application. Two drop spreaders were purchased: one for fine grained fertilizer and the other with every other tooth removed for a fine compost application. Then a coin was used to randomly select which half of each bed was to receive the supplement and which was not to receive the supplement. The coin toss was truly random since 12 half beds to receive the supplement were treated at a rate of 10 Lb. per 100 square ft. per bag instructions. The potato beds 1-6 were raised with a bed shaper with irrigation tape plowed 3″ deep into them and white plastic mulch applied. Then seed potatoes were planted into beds 1-6 and lettuce was planted into beds 7-12. An electric fence was constructed to keep the deer from eating the crops.
Lettuce samples were taken: From the 3-row wide beds, 1 leaf was taken from 4 different plants growing in the center row. These plants were not near either end of the bed or the crosswise point halfway down the bed. Sample leaves were rinsed with well water and then rinsed again in distilled water to remove any contaminants that might be on the leaf. Four leafs for each sample were then placed in a folded piece of paper from a brown paper bag and tape was applied to keep samples in place. Samples were then loosely filed in a cardboard box for mailing or taking to the testing laboratory.
- To show an increase in nutrients in produce grown in soil with added micronutrient, mineral and trace elements.
Observational results: My wife and I have personally witnessed that the lettuce grown with a mineral and trace element supplement stays fresh in salt for at least 13 days. Mrs. Carolyn Todd, the past Columbia Farmers Market Director, says these lettuces have so much body that they are like eating “meat.” A number of my Farmers Market customers also tell me that this lettuce has a much longer refrigerator life before spoiling compared to other lettuce. One customer purchased this lettuce from me on December 1st, 2012, the first day of the winter indoor market at Parkade Plaza. She did a lot of traveling in December and it didn’t get used. She came back to me January 5th, 2013, five weeks later, and said she still had the lettuce and it still looked good.
MU’s Lab. nutrient analysis: 6 replicated samples were tested each for 12 elements P, K, Ca, Mg, S, Fe, M, B, Cu, An, Na, Mo.
Potatoes: Averaging the amount of each set of 6 replicated beds shows a higher concentration of the elements in lettuce grown in beds not treated with the mineral and trace element supplement 8 out 12 cases.
What I have learned:
- Soil test run on field 8 showed a PH of 7.0. I found out later that this salt based PH test at MU is really more like 7.5 per comments from MU extension.
- The PH of the micronutrient, mineral and trace element supplement is 8.0 and the application rate is, per bag instructions, 1 LB. per 10 square ft.
- The PH of the irrigation water used from Water Distrct #9 was in the range of 7.31-7.58. A lot of water was applied in 2012 due to the excessive heat.
- Even though the beds this test was grown on had not been cropped since 2005, the fact that it had previously been fortified with organic fertilizers could mean the baseline nutrient level was so high as to mask the expected nutrient level differences when applying the nutrient supplement.
- Field 8 is located about 100++ feet east of Rangeline Road, running north and south, received gravel dust from the road due to the predominate wind out of the west for the last 100-150 years. The black top road covering was only applied a few years ago. The gravel (lime) dust increases the PH.
- The high PH of soil and inputs REALLY shows the detrimental effects in the plants uptake of nutrients.
I plan to take steps to correct the PH problems and also to do a specific storability test between the lettuce grown on supplement-treated beds versus non-treated beds.
A different field will be used that has never grown organic produce or had micronutrient, mineral and trace element supplement applied. In the 1993 Chicago study of nutrients in commercial versus organic produce, it showed significantly more nutrients in the organic produce. I will have to use a plot of land that has not been upgraded even to organic levels of nutrients. There are just too many publications documenting depleted nutrients in soils and the negative health results of food grown in them. For example:
- In 1936 the U.S. Senate issued a report stating the American farm soils had been depleted of nutrients and that this was resulting in human health problems.
- In 1975 a book titled “Soil Fertility & Animal Health” by William A. Albrecht.
- In 1990 the book “Empty Harvest” was published, showing a link between poor soil nutrition and human health. It even claims that the genes we pass on are weakened.
- In 1993 a study done in the Chicago area compared the nutrient content of produce grown commercially and organically. The nutrients in the organic produce far exceeded those found in the commercial produce.
- In 2011 a book titled “Naked Calories” was published referencing the 1936 U.S. Senate report.
- In October 2011 a book titled “The End of Diabetes” by Joel Fuhrman, MD, featured recently on the Dr. OZ show. In it he states that if we eat more nutritious food we won’t be hungry as much and won’t eat as much. The less we eat, the fewer carbs we consume and therefore we will actually reduce the weight and reduce type 2 diabetes.