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Has anyone worked with soilminerals.com?

Posted by elisa_Z5 none (My Page) on
Tue, Dec 4, 12 at 18:28

Has anyone here sent a soil test to soilminerals.com and gotten their recommendations?

What were your results?

Anyone read/used their book The Ideal Soil? Would you recommend it?

Anyone bought their mineral supplements? Results?

In a way, it seems to make sense, but my radar is also up, hoping it's not just another way to spend money (which would also be okay, since spending money on the garden is fun.)


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Has anyone worked with soilminerals.com?

elisa,

I have reviewed a lot of their site. I have never ordered anything from them, but have used one of the products they sell...Azomite.

My opinion is that there is a lot of knowledge there. I am not inclined to order much though. Perhaps the soil book could be informative. The Azomite was cheaper elsewhere. The soil testing links are likely good high tech places. The Agricola link is interesting to me as it cuts through some jungles.


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Thanks, Wayne.
I did notice that in the Q and A they are very specific about not just throwing minerals on your soil without knowing what the balances are first, but then they sell that 69 dollar a bag stuff that's a mix of lots of great stuff -- but if you put it on, you are doing what they say not to do. Hmmmm.

I just got my soil test back, and from the results I should have fantastic yields--except for the fact that the minerals are not "in balance" according to their site. I do have fantastic yields some years, and not other years. Still looking for the magic bullet, I guess.

Elisa


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  • Posted by jolj 7b/8a-S.C.,USA (My Page) on
    Wed, Dec 5, 12 at 19:06

Elisa, I could be wrong here, but every gardener I know, have good & bad years.
Most of the organic/ natural gardeners have good & better years. But most have a bad crop or poor yield year now & then. I agree you/we should work for the goal of a prefect
garden.


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What they post is oriented toward the products they sell and not so much what should be of more concern to organic growers, the organic matter in your soil. Your soil microorganisms need organic matter to convert the minersls in your soil into something the plants you are trying to grow can use.
Since most all of the necessesary minerals plants need are micro nutrients and since most all are readily available in compost and other sources of organic matter, if a gardener were to add adequate amounts of organic matter they most likely would not need to purchsse mineral supplements.


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For sure one must be very careful about introducing minerals in salt form. That is why over-using wood ash is a problem, for example. When not in salt form I think it is hard to over-do it so long as one keeps OM levels where they should be (5-10%). Even so there isn't going to be much harm to it unless it is so much material as to dramatically alter the mineral make-up of the soil.

I used a lot of stone dusts last season, and where the OM was low there was really no measurable result.


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I look at it this way...If there are products leaving the garden to never return, then to be optimum, you need to bring in material from sources outside your domain. These can include composts, manure, mineral amendments, and much more.


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Thanks for the info and suggestions, everyone.

I've been trying a different, *interesting* addition each year (humectates, then bio-dynamics, now maybe minerals)
Maybe next I should try watering?
:)


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The term salt when used by a chemist usually refers to a solution. However, anything with Chloride in its name is a salt.

elise, have a good, reliable soil test done so you know what your soils pH is as well as the ratio between Calcium and Magnesium and what your soils levels of available Potassium and Potash are. Then knowing what the level of organic matter is, about drainage, tilth, smell, and life of your soil is can also help.

Here is a link that might be useful: definition of


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But we aren't chemists, were gardeners. There is an accepted meaning to the term "salt fertilizer", and covers a lot more than chlorides. Why obfuscate?

Some salts are much less problematic than others. Calcium sulfate for instance can be used pretty liberally. So there are low-index vs high-index salts. The chlorides are high-index for sure and to be avoided accordingly.


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The misuse of common terms is what obfuscates, not the clarification.


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The fact that you don't know that nutrients are frequently in salt form doesn't mean that other people can't grasp it.


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A salt is a metal and a non-metal that share an ionic bond. As Kimm's link points out, typically one of the products left over when an acid reacts with a base. (The other product is water).
Sodium - chloride
Potassium - sulfate
Calcium - nitrate
etc.
The term is not synonymous with solution. A salt can be in a solution but solution does not equal salt or vice versa.
Most things with chloride are not salts. Chloride is a common element involved in scads and scads of things.

I would also also say that getting someone who sells these sorts of products to look at your test results and give recommendations is likely to yield a rather biased interpretation.


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Thanks for a little clarity, Garg.

And would you agree that when a salt is in a solution, and that solution is in the soil at too high a strength, that can be bad for microbes?


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Sure, that's a reasonable statement.


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Well put garg. You probably meant chlorINE on that last part though:

"Most things with chlorINE are not salts. ChlorINE is a common element involved in scads and scads of things."

Chloride being the ionic form of chlorine, by definition anything with chloride in it is a salt. Anything with covalently bonded chlorine is not, but would not be referred to as a chloride.

Not to split hairs. :-]


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Yeah, chlorine. I actually do that a lot with that one so don't be surprised if you see it again some day. :P


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Depending on how old the chemist is, you may hear them doing it too...what is now dichloromethane used to be methylene chloride, NOT a salt...oh what a tangled web we weave.


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Y'all lost me a while back, though it's still interesting.

Pat, what motivated you to use stone dusts? Where there was higher om levels, you got noticeable results?


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Old spelling also for chloride was chlorid...oxide was oxid....and more

Here is a link that might be useful: Cyril G. Hopkins circa 1910


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Ah yes, the great E Famine of 1910.


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I was motivated to use stone dusts by reading about re-mineralizing. I have noted some results in some situations using azomite.


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Glad to hear that, Pat -- I was leaning toward just getting some azomite.

Tox --did you know that the E Famine of 1910 was known to snyesthetes as The Great Yellow Famine? (because, obviously, E's are yellow)


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Notably my corn crop survived (and went on to produce an excellent harvest) a severe drought this summer that in my considered opinion wasn't possible (not in the soil I was using). This is hardly scientific of course, but in my mind the explanation was the interaction between the azomite and the fertilizer.


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I realize it has been a while since this topic was posted but I just ran across it online. I am a shipper for Michael Astera, the author of "The Ideal Soil." My comment is that if you haven't read his book, you should. It will give you an insight of the history of agriculture and our way back. There is no doubt to any of you that we are really in an unbalanced state and as you read the book you will find out that compost is not the only answer nor is soil microbes. All essential and yet the most important is left out. Minerals. The book is written in such a way that the average gardener can take a sample of their soil, send it in to be analyzed and amend organically to bring about a balanced soil that will bring about a balanced soil structure and produce food rich in nutrients. It far surpasses the guessing game we all have done for years. I have gardened organically for 30 years and being introduced to The Ideal Soil has made a drastic impact on not just the volume of production but nutrient content, flavor and disease and pest resistance as well. The results are astounding.


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Interesting. I looked at their website for the actual tests. I assumed they would be analyzing soil samples for a host of trace minerals. They actually send you to third party labs for the analysis, which should include:

"pH, organic matter, base saturation, "Total Exchange Capacity”, Mehlich III extractable Sulfur, Phosphorous, Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium, Sodium, Boron, Iron, Manganese, Copper, Zinc, and Aluminum."

This appears to be a pretty standard soil test. They will then analyze the results and make recommendations for an additional $45.

I am not an expert in these matters, being a mere gardener and composter. My chemist side is very curious about exactly how it's done. :-) If I remember correctly, my local Ag Extension lab reports at least this many minerals, each accompanied by a 'normal' range so you can see how your sample rates. Do I assume correctly that soilminerals.com is doing something more complicated than that?


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As I suspected, the book is another casting of the advice of Albrecht. Charles Walters has done a great job of explicating Albrecht (and Walters studied under him, which this guy probably did not), and in any case there is no reason not to read Albrecht directly.

Why do we need to buy a book by a guy talking about Albrecht's findings yet again? Albrecht's work speaks for itself. What he was really saying is not something most gardeners want t hear, which is that for the best soil and growing conditions you'll likely have to move your location to alluvial or loess soil in a moderate climate with about 30-35 inches of precipitation, not much more or less. Sandy soil and 50 inches of precip like I have will not cut it, no matter what is added to the ground.


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The worship of William Albrecht is getting a bit old. Horticulture research has come a long way since the 1920s-1960s. When it comes to mineral/plant interaction this is especially important since many roles were not understood fully until the 1960s-1980s. He is a very important person in horticulture, especially for his support of soil organic matter and trace elements (which some of his work on trace elements is off mark thanks to the technology of the time, but visionary). We've moved into new realms of understanding soil/plant interaction beyond his studies and findings.

This post was edited by nc-crn on Thu, Oct 31, 13 at 19:24


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I would resist the idea that mineral/plant interaction is understood fully now. If it were, I doubt that chelators would be used wholesale as weedkiller.


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Yeah, it's not fully understood...it is night/day compared to what we know now since the 20s-60s, though. There were huge leaps in the 1980s+ when we could get into plants and track movement of extremely small molecules/elements across cell layers. Even the roles of N/P/K are better understood now.

Combine that with what we know about insect/disease and it's impacts caused by over/under/proper plant nutrition and it's even more of a knowledge base.


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Still hoping to find out more about exactly what soilminerals.com does with the soil testing data. Do they have some kind of multivariate analysis algorithm, or is it as simple as looking at your individual mineral values and pH, and then telling you your soil needs a bit more iron?


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I suppose that it is a lot about synergy. You can have a large reservoir of say potassium in your soil, but only a small portion becomes available each year...and that is a good thing. I like to provide the platform for all these minerals, bacteria, fungals, with a good synergy possibility ..good ph, good drainage, good texture, warmth, good organic matter and sunlight. If I do this, in most cases, things will thrive. Yes, there are specialty crops and unusual soil makeup that need special treatment.


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Yes, but Wayne, you have the best soil in the world to start with.


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Pat, It was good to start with and I have enjoyed making it even better since I retired. In an old fence row where the soil could be classed pretty much virgin soil, last year it raised a 22 pound crenshaw cantaloupe. Also the watermelons were huge...and luciuos in taste and texture.

And you know what? The soil on west of me gets even nicer in texture and structure and depth.


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Golly jeepers. I'll have to come see it some day.

BTW, do you anybody with a working all-crop they'd want to sell?


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Tox -- I read the book (which I forced myself to understand while I was reading it, and now I've lost the knowledge. It's a right brain thing.) and what they say is that the book gives you the info to be able to decide for yourself what your soil needs, and saves you the $45. It's mostly ratios -- pretty simple. But the math involved in how to figure out how much P and K you have, which is not simply given in a soil test they say, seemed impossible to understand.

So, I bought some Azomite -- saved the shipping because I stopped by the house of the guy who sells it in MD, and have been adding that.

I had a great year. But then, it was a great weather year -- lots of rain and sun in between.


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As noted by others soilminerals is a recasting of Albrecht's ideas of "balanced soils", and not much more. As nc-crn noted, he was a visionary, and he did a great deal of good work. His views of soils the basis for life on our planet as well as depletion remain true cornerstones in soil science and its integration into agronomy. However, much of the foundation he (as well as Bear) developed around the notion of ideal or balanced soil has, with updated technology and methods, proven to be totally ineffective.

One of the realties that comes with science is that our understanding of our natural world and how it functions, physically and biologically, changes over time. It would be a serious mistake to disparage the works and beliefs along the path that led us to our present understanding and appreciation of how things work. They are the stepping stones that brought us to where we stand now. It equally would be a mistake to cling to them, resisting change and the evolution of understanding, because they were significant in their era. Knowledge, and in turn wisdom, evolve.

This post was edited by TXEB on Sun, Nov 3, 13 at 10:17


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Along that line...Lord Kelvin who discovered the theory/fact of absolute 0, in about 1902 thought that the basic facts about physics had been discovered and that there remained only the fleshing out of details.
By the way, absolute 0 is -459.7 degrees F. At that point no heat remains and all physical activity ceases. Amy temperature above that has some heat.
We know our ABCs I suppose... like NPK, Ca, B, C, S, Mn, Mo, Cu, Z, Mg, Fe, Se, Si, O, and many more. Then comes how to put them together!


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I might be wrong, but my interpretation of Abrecht's primary idea is that yes one can improve a soil - a little or a lot and for how long depending on many factors - but that in fact continents have ideal zones and that of course cannot be changed on any timescale that matters to a single human lifetime.


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A little example that may illustrate this concept:

I just brix-tested two onions, both a typical yellow-spanish type hard storage bulb. One from our local CSA field, the best soil in this region, a roughly 50% clay loam, grown herbicide and pesticide free and with dehydrated chicken manure for fertilizer; the other from a bag of organic onions I bought from the store, from eastern WA state. The latter brixed twice as high, and a little hazier to boot.

That is a big difference in nutrition, and I attribute it to the superior soil mineralization due to different geological formation and a region of lesser historical rainfall.


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I get what you're saying, but it seems that there would be a host of additional variables besides just soil. Rainfall (not historic but this season), overall weather during the growing season, the exact variety planted, time since harvest, storage conditions, to name just a few. It does not seem possible to factor out all of those at once.


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and then ... there's hydroponics


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And I understand your point as well, Tox. I agree, scientifically, those other factors must be considered. Yet, here we have two nearly identical products, an ordinary storage onion, and one has twice the eating value as the other. It is highly likely that there are similar nutritional gaps through every other crop, and that adds up to every bite in our mouths, which over a childhood, for example, or a lifetime, adds up really big.


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Sorry, but 2X the brix reading DOES NOT translate to twice the nutrition, no way. Send those two onions through an analysis for nutritional content including carbohydrates, proteins, fats and mineral nutrients, and I would wager that you would find less than 10% difference in them.


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My guess is somewhere between the two levels. A synergy that promotes brix has unknown xyz factors too.


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How is that, TX? I don't quite grasp it. Wouldn't the nutrients that are not reflected by brix be insignificant?


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This isn't the place to get into a long discussion about nutrient measurements and the value or use of refractive index, as well as its pitfalls. So, I'm going to try to avoid a really long winded answer and keep it down to just long-winded :-]

Degree Brix (°Bx) is nothing more than a very simplified measure of refractive index of a solution. The scale was developed as a reference to sucrose -- 1° Bx is equal to 1 gram of sucrose dissolved in 100 gams of water.

Anything that changes the refractive index of a solution will change the Brix reading. Most organic materials, if they are soluble in water, will impact the reading. It is a non-specific measure. It reflects the refractive index, not what contributed to that refractive index.

When used with fresh produce the dominant contributor to differences in refractive index are most often the differences in dissolved sugar content in the liquid extracted from the plant. But things like amino acids can also contribute. Lipids are generally a problem for refractive index measures in aqueous solutions. Mineral nutrients, at the levels they usually exist, don't contribute so much. Further, it doesn't reflect what isn't dissolved in the plant's natural juices, but is retained in the plants solid cellular structure. So it doesn't reflect undisolved carbohydrates, etc. A caveat in using it to compare onions from two different growing conditions is the degree of maturity of those two onions.

A significant contributor to the development of sugars in fruit juices is the extent of maturity or ripeness. A higher sugar content doesn't necessarily equate to higher nutritional value, just more sugar in the juice. It is commonly used this way to follow the development of a crop towards optimal maturity for harvest for the growers intended use.

When it comes to discussing nutrition broadly everyone needs to be specific in what they mean by nutrition. Is it calories? Or protein ? Or vitamin/mineral nutrition? How about fats and the form of those fats? All contribute to nutrition, and more of any one doesn't mean more nutritious.


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TXEB, When I look for more nutrition, I look for more of the unheralded nutrients like amino acids, flavanoids, choline, gamma tocopherol, and a host of other such ones.

I do believe that a healthier plant will produce more nutrients. I have observed the difference in enjoyment from a home grown watermelon with13.5 brix and an ordinary 11.5 brix one. They tend to be more dense in many ways I believe.


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I too believe a healthy plant generally makes healthier produce. It goes w/o saying, therefore, that I agree that produce can in fact differ. I am not convinced that Brix is a reliable way to measure that. Flavinoids and all those other goodies - right on, wayne.

Question: do suspended solids affect the RI? If so, I would refer back to the two onions, in which the higher Brix reading was accompanied by 'hazier' juice. An apples to apples comparison might require filtration through a standard size filter. Like a 1 micron disposable syringe filter for example.


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Thanks for the short explication. So do you feel that an ash test will tell something definitive when comparing two similar examples?


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Not really. What is it you really want to know?


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Well, to continue off of my earlier example, I want to know if you take two similar-looking storage onions of the same weight, and eat them, are you getting equal value or is one more nutritional than the other?

As you say, I guess we first have to define "nutrition" which is perhaps overly complex. Maybe if a few of us agreed to undergo a test where we ate only onions for the next year, each person onions grown in a different region?


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That's they key question - what do you mean by nutrition? The onion, like eggplant, may not be a great one to tackle. It's not a great source of nutrients broadly. But they're high in fiber, if that's what you want to add to a diet, and they're packed with flavor.

This post was edited by TXEB on Wed, Nov 6, 13 at 7:39


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Are they? You wouldn't think it.

The onions are merely an example. What I want to know is this: could two diets be seemingly the same, in all foodstuffs, and yet one be more nourishing than the other simply because of where the crops (or animal feeds) were grown?

Again, I guess we'll founder on the meaning of nutrition. Let's just say for the moment that we mean levels of vitamins.


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Okay, now that you have something to focus on analytically, it's a matter of picking your vitamins, grow the crops identically in very way except for soil, harvest at various stages, and do the analysis. The major challenge for you, or any individual who wants to try that, is doing the analysis. It won't come cheaply.

The first place to start, however, is a thorough review of the appropriate research literature to find out what is already known. The best place to do that would be the library of your State's land grant university (UM @ Amherst). Fair warning - this in itself can be a significant effort.

If you are really dedicated to the quest, I would suggest trying to find an interested agronomist or agricultural soil scientist along with a nutritionist at that same university, if at all possible. A really good place to begin the effort would be a discussion with your county extension agent.


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Yes, no doubt within all the land-grants there is a huge amount of info at least tangentially related to this question.

Also, the USDA has been randomly testing produce for mineral content for decades, and that data is available online, I believe, I have looked at summaries of it which show a steady downward trend. More interesting would be results of the tests in the same year from different regions.


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pat - I recalled that we had this basic discussion earlier this year. It took me a few tries at searching, but I found it here . To your question, I believe the points concluded in our previous discussion remain valid, and there is no need to repeat them here.

In that thread I linked a reference to an article by Davis from UT (retired). That link is still good. Since we started the discussion about soil and mineral content of soils, a key point that I'm not sure was realized at that time was the role of cultivar on the nutritional value of a particular fruit or vegetable. From the Davis review article it is clear that the specific cultivar plays a significant role in the nutritional value of the vegetable or fruit being examined. My own suspicion is that for soils that have adequate levels of plant nutrients available (sufficiency levels), that cultivar selection plays a greater role in the human nutritional value of the resulting fruit or vegetable than does adding more of any of the plant nutrients to the soil. In fact, we know full well that some plant nutrients in soils can be pushed to excessive levels (e.g., P or B), resulting in physiological impairment to plant development, and I would suspect, in turn, an attendant loss in the nutritional value of the resulting produce.

Food for thought (pun intended).


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I sure wish there was a simple, fast and very cheap test that would tell you which piece of produce was better. Dissolved solids content of the juice does not seem to be sufficiently detailed, and conventional lab analysis is neither, simple, fast or cheap.


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This article drops some clues about nutrient content.

Here is a link that might be useful: Nutrition Levels Compared


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His focus on selenium is weird. It's not much of a soil content issue anywhere except NH, VT, Northern FL, and some arid areas of CA, AZ, NM, OK, and TX.

Also, the assumption that most/all conventional farming doesn't use supplemental manures and only uses NPK is a bit off the mark. Not every one uses manure applications, but very few just focus on NPK solely these days even if it's a majority of what's amended...plus deep rooted cover crops do a great job of claiming/reclaiming deeply leeched nutrients to bring them to the surface, recycled through litter left on the fields after harvest. Sure, many large croppers don't address their micronutrient issues until an issue arises (aside from Ca/Mg/S), but they don't ignore it.

Variety/cultivar selection (and their inherent genetics) will get you most of the way toward nutrient content regardless of the soil they're grown in. Studies have been done hydroponically withholding and supplying specific nutrients and the seed/plant's natural genetics take the end result most of the way there as long as the plant is provided with enough of what it needs to thrive.

A balanced diet is a lot more important than getting 10-20% more of a specific antioxidant compared to another variety/cultivar, anyway. Very few people in industrialized nations that eat a good diet have to worry about deficiencies of anything. Our most common deficiencies are noted in the presence of enriched foods (milk/bread/salt/etc) which can be obtained outside of those foods if desired.


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Tx, you are right this is largely a rehash discussion.

"Very few people in industrialized nations that eat a good diet have to worry about deficiencies of anything."

Like the occasional nut bar such as myself who tries to grow most of his food and carefully avoids any "enriched" foods.

Obviously mineral deficiencies are real, and used to be a problem in our society (and likely will be again when we have to rely on more local production). I read that pellagra was a huge problem in the southern states post-civil war because many people were impoverished to the point that they could not buy food and so eat almost entirely cornmeal and a little pork. There is even a theory that the higher rate of mental illness in the south is a lingering effect of this.


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As a person ages, often their absorption of nutrients tends to go down quite a bit due to lower stomach acids, less enzymes, poorer cellular health, and less glandular production. So, I believe that even though a 'decent' diet is eaten, health tends to go down hill.

What I do is supplement.


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I realize that farmers now are getting more up to speed on soil nutrients...I live among those farmers for miles in every direction. Still, things are oriented to maximum bushels...not as much to maximum nutrition.

Finally, there is an attempt to plant a cover crop in my area!!!!


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NC, do you mean that those areas have high selenium, or low? I just looked at some tests from a couple of years ago, and my impoverished central florida soil actually has more selenium than my soil here in glacial MA.


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I don't get the focus on Se either. We generally don't look to fruits or veggies for dietary Se, because they generally don't have much if any at all.

Which emphasizes the point - the focus on nutrition should be on the total dietary intake, recognizing that we rely different food products to contribute different components of net nutrition.


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TX, this bulletin from the NIH seems to disagree. It states that plant foods are the most common source. So in the rare case that someone was growing the majority of their diet on Se-deficient soil, then that could be a problem.

But after all, that is what this forum and this thread are about: specific soils.

Here is a link that might be useful: Se requirement


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pnb - from NIH (link follows):

Sources of Selenium

Food

Seafoods and organ meats are the richest food sources of selenium [1]. Other sources include muscle meats, cereals and other grains, and dairy products. The amount of selenium in drinking water is not nutritionally significant in most geographic regions [2,6]. The major food sources of selenium in the American diet are breads, grains, meat, poultry, fish, and eggs [7].

The amount of selenium in a given type of plant-based food depends on the amount of selenium in the soil and several other factors, such as soil pH, amount of organic matter in the soil, and whether the selenium is in a form that is amenable to plant uptake [2,6,8,9]. As a result, selenium concentrations in plant-based foods vary widely by geographic location [1,2]. For example, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Composition Database, Brazil nuts have 544 mcg selenium/ounce, but values from other analyses vary widely [10-12].

The selenium content of soil affects the amounts of selenium in the plants that animals eat, so the quantities of selenium in animal products also vary [2,5]. However, selenium concentration in soil has a smaller effect on selenium levels in animal products than in plant-based foods because animals maintain predictable tissue concentrations of selenium through homeostatic mechanisms. Furthermore, formulated livestock feeds generally contain the same levels of selenium.

Here is a link that might be useful: Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Selenium


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Right, it seems that animal flesh is a more reliable source simply due to concentration. Clearly, though, it can be obtained in needful amounts from plant food.


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"I sure wish there was a simple, fast and very cheap test that would tell you which piece of produce was better."

I sure do to, tox.

According to some people in the remineralizing.org group I have talked to, there is a device at research university level that can assay the value of produce accurately via electromagnetics, but of course is a very expensive machine at this point.


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