Soil Remineralization in Context

One of many anecdotal photos sent over the years to the magazine in the early remineralization movement in the 1980s. These two oak leaves were sent by Jeannie Stevens from Victoria Australia. The larger leaf was that of an oak tree that was remineralized in March 1984. At that time the leaf was the same size as the smaller one on the left. There was a magnificent forest of seedlings under that tree in December 1986. The oak tree nearby with the smaller leaf on the left was not given an application of rock dust and had very few viable acorns and weak seedlings.

Soil Remineralization (SR) creates fertile soils by returning the minerals to the soil much the same way the Earth does: during an Ice Age, glaciers crush rock onto the Earth’s soil mantle, winds blow the dust in the form of loess all over the globe. Volcanoes erupt spewing forth minerals from deep within the Earth, and minerals are contained in alluvial deposits.

Within silicate rocks are a broad spectrum of up to 100 minerals and trace elements necessary for the well being of all life and the creation of fertile soils. Glacial moraine or mixtures of single rock types applied to soils create a sustainable and superior alternative to the use of ultimately harmful chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides.

SR has been shown in scientific studies to increase yields as much as two to four times for agriculture and forestry (wood volume), and to have immediate results and long term effects with a single application.

Hundreds of thousands of tons of appropriate rock dust for soil and forest regeneration are stockpiled by the gravel and stone industry.

A Brief History

Remineralization has mainly been researched and explored by three distinct groups:

  • First, German nutritional biochemist, Julius Hensel, pioneered SR in the 1880s with his book Bread from Stones and a modest agricultural movement came into being. Following his contribution, many scientists have done research on SR since the late 1930s in Germany and Central Europe for agriculture and forests.

    More recent researchers include Peter von Fragstein at the University of Kessel, Germany, who has researched remineralization as a slow-release fertilizer with many different rock types and to deter insects.

    The technology was not available at the turn of the century to produce finely ground rock dust, so SR, as promoted by Hensel, could not be produced feasibly on a large scale. SR was revived about thirty years ago in Europe. Many rock dust products for agriculture, forestry and sewage sludge treatment have been created in Germany, Austria and Switzerland in the last few decades and have been successfully marketed by the natural stone industry. Companies such as Lava-Union (Germany), Sanvita (Austria) and Bernasconi (formerly known as Zimmerli, Switzerland), along with many others and the Natural Stone Industry (Die Naturstein Industrie) based in Bonn, Germany have also done a great deal of research.

  • Second, is the more recently developed field of agrogeology. This research has been carried out mainly in Canada, Brazil, Tanzania, the Canary Islands, and West Africa–especially on laterite soils. Because of the intense tropical rainfall, NPK fertilizers are washed out in only a few weeks and cannot be stored by the soils, and are especially harmful to the groundwater. Rock fertilizers not only give nutrients over longer periods to cultivated plants, but also improve the ion-exchange-capacity of soils by forming new clay minerals during the weathering of the fertilizer. Researchers include William Fyfe and Ward Chesworth, among others.

    For current information about agrogeology, see Rocks for Crops. The book Rocks for Crops by Peter van Straaten from the University of Guelph can be found online here.

  • Third, the grass roots movement concerned with the premise of John Hamaker in the book The Survival of Civilization, co-authored with Don Weaver, asserts that SR is not only the key to restoring soils and forests, but in the larger context, absolutely necessary and urgent to reduce levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and stabilize the climate. Especially recommended are rock gravels and glacial moraine from glacial deposits which provide the most natural mixtures of rocks with the broadest possible spectrum of minerals and trace elements.

    This movement began with Hamaker’s writing in the early 1970s and expanded in the 1980s into a global grassroots community consisting of ecologically concerned individuals and organizations, farmers and gardeners, scientists and policy makers.

To facilitate networking and the flow of information and promote SR as advocated by John Hamaker and Don Weaver, Soil Remineralization, A Network Newsletter, began in 1986 and became the Remineralize the Earth magazine in 1991. The magazine has networked to people all over the world, collected research and a wealth of anecdotal results of farmers and gardeners to substantiate the results of SR. In October 1995, Remineralize the Earth, Towards a Sustainable Agriculture, Forestry and Climate, was incorporated as a non-profit organization.

On May 24, 1994, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) (Beltsville, MD), the U.S. Bureau of Mines (USBM) (Washington, DC), the National Stone Association (NSA) (Washington, DC), and the National Aggregates Association (NAA) (Silver Spring, MD) co-sponsored a forum on “Soil Remineralization and Sustainable Agriculture” at the USDA Agricultural Research Station in Beltsville, MD.

The Forum brought together the by-product rock fines generating industry and the proponents of SR to explore environmentally-sound uses of rock fines and to identify the state of the science supporting their use and the gaps in knowledge that need to be filled.

The USDA began a series of demonstration trials with rock fines (from Georgia, Maryland and New York) and other industrial by-products. Dr. Ronald Korcak, research leader of the fruit lab, directed the trials over a three-year period. They are also beginning to research the use of rock dust in compost under the direction of Dr. Larry Sikora. The now defunct U.S. Bureau of Mines designed a prototype for a GIS (Geographic Information Systems) database to target soils in most need of SR and their distance from regional sources of rock fines to calculate transport costs and marketability of specific rock fines. The National Aggregate Association has a Task Force on Remineralization exploring the possibilities for creating sustainable products for agriculture, forestry and other uses. Research projects are currently underway at universities and as part of research and development programs of some of the largest aggregate companies in the US, Europe and Australia and through organizations such as Men of the Trees in Australia.

Just a paradigm shift away from conventional chemical NPK farming is a vast new frontier, SR – key to the sustainable agriculture of tomorrow. The agenda for SR is clear. It will create abundance in an era of diminishing resources and shift us away from fossil fuels. Remineralization is nature’s way to regenerate soils. We can return the Earth to earlier interglacial Eden-like conditions through appropriate technology.

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