Success in Brazil with Citrus and Ornamentals
In 1992, as a young citrus consultant and agronomist, I observed in an orchard that was doing very poorly in Dourado (SP), Brazil that on a particular parcel the orange trees developed more quickly and had more fruit than the other trees on the property.
In the area where the citrus trees were thriving, the ground was very flat with splintery “rusted” rocks that had a dark, almost black color. On researching further I did mineral analyses and began to do practical experiments in the field. I began to research various rock deposits in the region and studied variations in their mineral constituents.
With an improvement in the rock grinding process at a nearby basalt quarry, I then formulated a product of 55% very fine particles allowing for fast nutritional uptake, with the remaining 45% made up of a coarser dust supplying elements and trace minerals over the long term.
The first results were sufficiently promising. In the neighboring city of Ribeirao Bonito, no matter how much foliar zinc was applied, there always seemed to be a chronic zinc deficiency. Remineralizing the citrus trees with basalt dust was able to take care of this problem.
For me it was extremely exciting to see the economic benefits of using rock dust. While the phosphate from Araxa cost around US $35/ton and other fertilizer alternatives ranged from US $55 – 130/ton, the cost of the agricultural basalt dust was only US $12/ton.
The next step in Brazil is to research and scientifically verify that remineralized foods are nutritionally higher compared with conventional chemical fertilization.
My emphasis in promoting this new product is the degree to which rock dust enhances the nutritional aspect and increases soil fertility. Some of the most fertile soil in the world is of volcanic origin: basalt! Basalt is a primary rock in the region of Ribeirao Preto, SP, a region referred to as “the purple lands” and similar to the hills of the Vesuvio Mount in Italy where grapes are produced.
The amount of minerals and trace elements in the basalt is extremely high. Here in Brazil its use on a commercial scale for agriculture is still little known, however in Europe and the United States its use is considered a practical alternative to chemical fertilizers by many agriculturists. More impressive still is the capacity that the basalt dust possesses in restoring soils that have become poor due to erosion, leaching, over acidity through the use of chemical fertilizers, and through the continuous loss of nutrients from harvesting. The presence of a great diversity of chemical elements in the basalt was shown to greatly increase the soil fertility for calcium, magnesium, sulfur, potassium, boron, iron, and silica.
One of the most beneficial and immediate results of applying basalt dust is the abundant development of the roots of the plants which increases their nutrient absorption capacity making them more productive. For citrus it has restored the nutritional balance in very unfertile soil on the Santa Helena Farm in the city of Ribeirao Bonito, SP. In very unfertile soil, it corrected chronic zinc deficiency in the Pera Coroa and Natal varieties from the application of only two tons per hectare in 1994. The potted citrus tree seedlings received a larger dosage: 1 kilo of basalt dust, 100 grams of superphosphate and they developed more quickly than usual and were stronger and larger than the ones we are accustomed to seeing in the field.
The vegetables received an application of 100 grams of basalt per square meter, and had firmer, more resistant leaves which were resistant to fungus attacks in periods of high humidity. The watermelons were fertilized with 1 kilo of basalt dust, 1 kilo of humus, and developed healthy plants with little need for disease control. Recent studies in Brazil indicate that basalt rock dust is ideal for restoring pasture land and sugarcane plantations. The release of nutrients of basalt dust is gradual and continuous. Best results overall have been shown using a rock dust with dust fineness ranging from the finest particles to larger grains which liberate nutrients in a slower and more gradual way. The greatest benefit of basalt is healthier food production, very rich in nutrients, benefiting both people and animals.
Citrus: 1 kilo in the soil cavity where the seedling is planted or 2 kilos applied out to the treeline or 2 tons/hectare to nutritionally balance the whole orchard.
Pastures: If the soil pH is acid, apply 2 tons/hectare incorporated into the soil at a depth of 20 cm. This will balance the pH and increase moisture retention capacity of the soil.
Sugar cane: When preparing the soil for planting, add 2 tons/hectare to supply silica; a covering can be applied adding an additional ton per hectare.
Vegetables in general: 100 to 150 g/m of seedbed.
Cereals (Maize, Soy, Rice, Wheat, Sunflower, Milheto, Beans): 2 tons/hectare incorporating the rock dust to a depth of 20 cm in the soil before planting.
Pumpkins & Watermelon: 1 kilo per hollow. Excellent results with an addition of 1 kilo of humus for each plant.
Fruit-bearing perennials (Peach, Grape, Passionfruit, Coconut, Fig, Nectarines, Guava, Pineapple, Cashew, Pears, Apples, etc): 2 tons/hectare to restore nutritional balance in the orchards and 2 kilos out to the tree line for fruit trees.
Where to find rock dust: