Feb 022013

The modern diseases of cancer, arthritis, chronic infection, diabetes, lupus, fibromyalgia, etc. are essentially symptoms of malnutrition brought about by insufficient nutrition in the food that we eat. Big agriculture treats their fields with chemicals and gene splicing. Medicine treats disease with drugs (chemicals) and surgery. It’s curious that every natural food store also has a large section of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, herbs, enzymes and other potions designed to supplement the organic food that we are purchasing in the produce section, the organic dairy products from the refrigerator case and the free range, hormone free meats from the butcher shop.

Why would we need all this supplementation if the food was good to start with? Why not put the nutrition back in the food? And, why isn’t it there in the first place?

The concept of mineralizing soil isn’t new at all. In the mid-nineteenth century Justus von Liebig invented nitrogen based fertilizer and the concept known as The Law of Minimum which postulated that plant development was limited by the one essential mineral that was in the shortest supply. Von Liebig’s theories generated the fertilizer industry and moved farmers away from using manures and humus to feed their crops.

In 1893 a chemist named Julius Hensel published a book called, “Bread From Stones.” Bread From Stones advocated using stone meal (ground rock or rock dust) in place of chemicals to vitalize the soil. Hensel claimed that plants needed more than Liebig’s nitrogen, phosphorus and potash and stressed the importance of trace minerals which were ignored in the Liebig system. According to some, Hensel’s book was suppressed by the chemical industry and he was forced out of business by unfair competition. Years later his work was rediscovered and the rock dusts have become commonplace in organic fertilizers.

Starting in the late 1930s, William Albrecht was Chair of the Soils Department at the University of Missouri. Albrecht determined that animals would be healthiest if the grass they ate came from soil with a balance of 68% calcium and 12% magnesium. Albrecht believed our soils had become depleted. “Albrecht was outspoken on matters of declining soil fertility, having identified that it was due to a lack of organic material, major elements, and trace minerals, and was thus responsible for poor crops and in turn for pathological conditions in animals fed deficient foods from such soils.”

Victor Tiedjens was a contemporary of Albrecht and was another soil scientist who believed that calcium was the key to rehabilitating worn out soil. He went farther than Albrecht concluding that the calcium saturation should reach 85%. “Tiedjens found that, once the soil was saturated with calcium, he could grow a huge crop of corn or soybeans using about one-tenth the quantity of fertilizers a typical farmer thought was needed to produce a similar result. And that is why the fertilizer industry made sure you never heard of Victor Tiedjens—lime is cheap; fertilizer is not.”(The Intelligent Gardener, p. 91).

Dr. Carey Reams was a biochemist and biophysicist who, “…demonstrated that all disease is caused by mineral deficiencies and when a person remineralized, the symptoms of those diseases disappeared, and the remineralized person would no longer have that disease.  It was so simple that the medical community of the day could not accept the fact that their drug, cut and burn way of treating people was the completely wrong way to treat disease.”

Authors Peter Thompkins and Christopher Bird (authors of the well-known Secret Life of Plants) wrote a less well-known but more fascinating book called Secrets of the Soil. They cover many alternative agricultural and gardening practices and spend a lot of time on mineral rock and the remineralization of soils.

Michael Astera took the work of Albrecht and Reams and wrote The Ideal Soil which explains how to test and analyze for soil minerals and the proper balance of cations and anions. It was Astera’s work that got Steve Solomon interested in the subject resulting in his book The Intelligent Gardener.

A backyard gardener can experiment with nutrient dense food at quite a low cost—$20 for a soil test and perhaps $50 for a supply of minerals to begin balancing the soil. After a few years, perhaps as soon as one year, a gardener should be able to taste the results. Using plant tissue tests, an additional expense if one insists on being completely scientific, the gardener can verify increased minerals in the tissue of plants.

Improving nutrient density of our garden produce should not only improve taste and reduce disease in our plants but increase our own ability to withstand disease.