Why Rock Dust Is the Future of Gardening
These days we hear a lot about the importance of organic farming methods to replenish the soil with nutrients that can be lost over time. Adding compost to a garden, for example, can replenish some of these nutrients. Now “remineralization” of the soil is gaining attention as a necessary step to reintroduce vital minerals and trace elements into our growing medium.
Over the years, minerals and trace elements are farmed out of the soil, resulting in less productive crops and less nutritional food. Consider: That carrot you munch on has 10 to 25 percent fewer vitamins and minerals than a carrot did 25 years ago. We talked with Joanna Campe, president of Remineralize the Earth, to get the dirt on rock dust and how remineralization is the future of gardening and agriculture.
Natural Vitality Living: The importance of adding compost to gardens and crops is everywhere in the news these days. What is “remineralization”?
Joanna Campe: We understand the need to return organic matter to soils through adding compost. Similarly, we need to recycle the minerals and trace elements back into our soils. We can “remineralize” by adding minerals to the soil via natural means, to enhance the biological activity of the soil and bring it to life through the addition of finely ground rock dust, and sea minerals.
NVL: Why is it important to add these minerals into the soil?
JC: Extensive overcultivation of our agricultural soils, especially through industrial agriculture, has led to a highly mineral-deficient diet. The truth is our soils are so deficient that, on average, you would need to eat five apples today to equal the nutrition of one apple in 1965.
We need minerals to bring the soil to life and be taken up by the plants in order to have healthy plants, healthy people and a healthy planet. We urgently need to grow nutrient-dense food to replace the overprocessed foods on our grocery shelves. That is the cutting edge of a new agriculture, which is imitating Earth’s own natural processes for creating and regenerating soils.
NVL: What are some beneftis of remineralization beyond healthier food?
JC: Remineralization can increase yields as much as 2-4 times for crops and 4-10 times for trees. A recent study in Panama showed almost 10 times increased growth for trees planted with a local basalt rock dust. It prevents erosion, and this alone makes it worth applying to conserve the world’s soils. We will need much less irrigation and water use because remineralized soils hold more moisture content.
During an insect infestation, rock dust can be sprayed on plants and deter insects without upsetting the healthy balance of insects in your garden. In the long term, silica and other minerals strengthen the tissue of plants and trees so they will not be susceptible to insects, nature’s recyclers of unhealthy and weak plants. When chemical fertilizers are utilized, the plants are missing a broad array of minerals and trace elements, which have been taken out through overcultivation and are not being returned to the soil. Soils become unbalanced and the plants unhealthy, and this is what brings about large insect infestations. Insects are nature’s army for recycling plants that are weak and deficient. In nature everything has its purpose.
NVL: Is remineralization important beyond our gardens and crops?
JC: Remineralizing forests makes trees more drought resistant, and can prevent forest fires as well. Remineralization generally strengthens plants and trees, making them less susceptible to diseases, insects and climate change. Unhealthy plants and trees give off carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, while healthy plants store carbon. Imagine healthy forest stands in Southern California, Australia and the Mediterranean storing carbon instead of giving off carbon dioxide through forest fires on a yearly basis.
NVL: Does everyone need to remineralize their gardens?
JC: Just about everyone can benefit from remineralizing their gardens. Even organically grown food has been shown to be lacking in ideal levels of nutrients, particularly minerals and trace elements necessary to the formation of vitamins and amino acids.
Ornamental plants benefit from remineralization, and I am aware of people through the years winning prizes for roses and other flowers due to adding rock dust.
NVL: How can the average person remineralize?
JC: Rock dust can be added directly to the soil, sprayed on plants, and added to compost. When added to compost it speeds up the creation of compost, reduces odors, and already goes to work before you add it to the soil. Vermicomposting benefits because earthworms and microorganisms love rock dust!
Some growers have used applications of seawater, and the recommendation is to dilute it 17-1. There are commercial products available, normally sprayed on plants, and it can also be combined with compost teas.
There are millions of tons of appropriate rock dust that can be found regionally at gravel pits, where finely ground rock dust is a byproduct, and it can cost $1-$8 a ton. For guidelines on looking for a local source of rock dust, please go to our rock dust primer on the website: http://remineralize.org/a-rock-dust-primer.
There are also commercial products available, sometimes found at garden centers, or you can order some online. A list of companies that offer products for remineralization can be found at http://remineralize.org/mineral-products/mineral-products.