Macro and micronutrient density in staple grains and amaranth grown on conventionally versus sustainably managed silt loam soil

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2019: $9,000.00
Projected End Date: 02/28/2021
Grant Recipient: Sumner's Farm, LLC
Region: North Central
State: Missouri
Project Coordinator:
Dr. Walton Sumner, II
Sumner's Farm, LLC


  • Agronomic: corn, peas (field, cowpeas), rye, sunflower, wheat, Amaranth
  • Vegetables: beans, cucurbits, okra, sweet corn, sweet potatoes


  • Crop Production: food product quality/safety, nutrient management
  • Education and Training: Medical education

    Proposal summary:

    Many processes in conventional farming could cause trace element deficiencies in row crops, while crop selection and rising CO2 levels sustain or increase carbohydrate and calorie content. If food has a low ratio of trace elements to calories, consumers may overeat calories to acquire sufficient trace elements. The resulting nutritional imbalance will affect health, but some effects may be quickly reversible.

    We are experimenting with sustainable, “balanced” fields, amended with major chemicals as guided by soil analyses, and with organic matter and trace elements from a low cost compost of tree leaves, spent coffee grounds, and charcoal made from waste debris and chaff. Compared to control fields managed with only lime and nitrogen, our crops grow faster and yield qualitatively different produce in balanced fields. In 2018 we prepared samples of multiple high yield, nutrient-dense crops for trace element analysis, including winter wheat, amaranth, okra, sweet potatoes, and pumpkins. For most crops, we are obtaining one trace element analysis in each growing condition. To prepare for human studies of nutrient dense crops on health, we seek SARE funding to conduct additional analyses of trace elements, selected organic compounds, macronutrients, and calories from staple crops in balanced and control growing conditions.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1. Calculate ratios of trace elements and selected essential nutrients to calories in crops grown with conventional fertilizers versus balanced amendments of organic matter, major, and trace elements. The hypothesis is that these ratios will be lower in conventional compared to balanced field crops.

    2. Pilot test a year-long schedule for providing diabetic human subjects with a diet based on seas, trees, and rich row crops versus conventional diabetic diet advice and row crops. This will determine resource requirements for human studies using nutrient dense foods to prevent infections in diabetic employees, replicating a similar 2003 study of multivitamins.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.