Nutrition Enhancement of Produce Grown with a Micronutrient Mineral and Trace Element Supplement
In early August 2012, I tilled field 8 with 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. See attached pictures of equipment.
Twelve 3-foot-wide beds were tilled each being 50 feet long. Each bed was marked in half at the 25 foot point. 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 were to receive the supplement and 12 were not to receive the supplement. The 12 half beds to receive the supplement were treated at a rate of 10 lbs per 100 sq. foot regarding bag instructions. The potato beds 1-6 were raised with a bed shaper with irrigation tape plowed 3 inches deep but no plastic mulch. Beds 7-12 were raised with a bed shaper and irrigation tape plowed 3 inches 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. See drawing of field layout.
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 removed any contaminants that might be on the leaf. Four leaves 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 a laboratory.
Potato samples were dug, well water washed and then rinsed with distilled water. Samples of tubers were placed in small white paper bags and each bag was labeled with one sample designation. Sample bags were then filed in a cardboard box for transport to the testing laboratory.
Duplicate samples were also sent to a second laboratory to correlate results and they were correlated.
My wife and I have personally witnessed that the lettuce grown with a mineral and trace element supplement stays fresh in salad 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 Farmer’s Market customers also tell me that this lettuce has a longer refrigerator life before spoiling than other lettuce. One customer purchased this lettuce from me on December 1, 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 on January 5, 2013, five weeks later, and said she still had the lettuce and that it still looked good.
University of Missorui (MU) Lab. Nutrient analysis: 6 replicated samples were tested each for 12 elements: P, K, Ca, Mg, S, Fe, Mn, B, Cu, Zn, Na, Mo.
Potatoes: Averaging the amount of each set of 6 replicated beds shows a higher concentration of the elements in beds not treated with the mineral and trace element supplement in 10 out of 12 cases.
Lettuce: averaging the amount of each set of 6 replicated beds shows a higher concentration of the elements in beds not treated with the mineral and trace element supplement 8 out of 12 cases.
WHAT I HAVE LEARNED
1. Soil test run on field 8 showed a pH of 7.0. I found out recently that this salt-based pH at MU is really more like 7.5 per comments from MU Extension.
2. The pH of the micronutrient, mineral, and trace element supplement is 8.0 and the application rate is, per bag instructions, 1 lb per sq. ft.
3. The pH from the irrigation water used from Water District #9 was in the range of 7.31-7.58. A lot of water was applied in 2012 due to the excessive heat.
4. Even though the beds this test was grown on had not been cropped since 2005, the fact that it had been previously 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.
WORK PLAN FOR 2013
I plan on continuing my research on a more limited schedule even if I have to pay for it myself. I plan to take steps to correct the pH problem and also to do a specific storability test between the lettuce grown on supplement treated beds vs. 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 vs. 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 US Senate issued a report stating the American farm soils had been depleted of nutrients and was resulting in human health problems in this country back then.
*In 1975 a book titled “Soil Fertility and Animal Health” by William A. Albrecht
*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 US Senate report.
*In October 2011 Acres USA published a report titled “Modern Micronutrient Malnutrition”
*In 2013 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 type 2 diabetes.
Because of the 2012 drought and the late start, I only shared my observational results with my Farmers Market customers. Once this project is finalized after the 2013 research I plan to write articles for publication in “Growing for Market” and “Acres USA”