Forests of Champions
We can dream the future,
we can talk about the future,
we can visualize the future,
but if we really want a future,
we must act.
Christmas Eve, 1996, I interviewed David Milarch, founder of the Michigan Champion Tree Project. Tall, bearded, with stout limbs and a thick trunk, he looks like a latter day Paul Bunyan. Or a full size chestnut tree in flesh and blood. But his lumberjack physique is dwarfed by his immense ideas – and his ardent exposition of them. However, the Paul Bunyan figure interrogating me is no lumberjack yelling, “Timber!” His vision is to grow, not cut trees – to renew, not remove, forests. And the big man is talking about the biggest of the big trees: the Champions.
“How long do people live after a lung cancer diagnosis?” his gentle voice challenged. “Not long. A few months.” “Up to 26 weeks,” he supplied, then asked, “What are Earth’s lungs?” “Trees,” I replied. “A free-standing tree’s limbs and leaves even look like a lung’s bronchial tubes and air sacs.” “What removes greenhouse gases, counteracts global warming, restores oxygen, improves air and water quality, makes topsoil, reverses industrial impacts, and makes land habitable?” “Trees,” was my easy answer. “What one act can improve Earth for future generations? “Seems simplistic,” I countered. “That’s why it’s so important,” he nodded, “and overlooked.” “So Earth has lung cancer?” I posed. “Effectively,” he said, shaking his head. “Gaia’s lungs – which allow the biosphere to breathe and turn sunshine into sugar – are withering away. Fast.” “Seems so,” I agreed. “I noticed this back in the ’70’s. Our good green friends aren’t doing even as well today.” “Yep,” he affirmed, nodding sagely. “Yet our partnership with trees and forests stretches back to Earth’s early evolution.”
“For 25 years I’ve gone to Oregon and Washington every summer, and there’s no more forests. They’re gone. Looks like an atomic war took place. Mountains are mostly devoid of any old growth, or even second cut timber. They replant with monoculture – mostly Doug fir – and didn’t check the genetics they replanted with. It’s opened up a whole host of ills that make less-than-quality timber.” “Deforestation is a major cause of the disastrous floods that currently and chronically afflict that region,” I asserted. “Wherever I travel, I see the same epidemics, deaths, threats and dangers in forests. And it really bothers me – enough to do something about it.” His soft, tenor voice faded into sad shadows. It’s true. Chestnut and elm are nearly gone; hemlocks are turning orange. Deciduous trees show fall color in early August. Trees are more infested by pests, less resistant to disease or tolerant of climate change, unlikely to live long. Globally, Amazon and African rainforests are being clear-cut. Earth’s land covered by forests shrinks, while deserts grow. Today, trees face conditions more extreme and hostile than ever in history. Climate has changed drastically in this century: winters are colder, summers hotter, storms more intense. Rapid global industrialization is disturbing more local habitats to create more pollution, stress and extremes. For testimony to our diseased ecosystems and vanishing forests, David suggests Forest Farming by J. Douglas and Robert Hart. In the next century, humans will need forests more than ever. Trees provide lumber for building, pulp for paper, remove CO2, supply oxygen, shade soil, cool water, circulate moisture, break winds, create topsoil, and so much more. Trees not only are affected by climate, they create and regulate atmosphere, climate and weather – local and global. The Milarch’s are serious tree-people, rooted in Michigan’s northwest peninsula. Their Manistee County farm has been in the family five generations.
THE OLD GREEN WAY
“The farm we own and grow trees on is about 330 acres. But I have family members with contiguous parcels of land two miles long and half a mile wide amid rolling hills of half forest, half farmland.” “My family is four generations of horticulturists. Not crop farmers. They’ve been nursery people. Farther back, they had to be subsistence farmers also to grow food, but even then their main cash crop was horticulture: shrubs, flowers, trees. It’s a long line.” Everything they have – food, clothes, house, farm – traces from their work with trees. David’s father, Edward, started a shade-tree business 40 years ago. Now David and sons, age 15 and 17, run it. “I went to five different colleges on and off seven years or so,” David explained. “I don’t have a degree. I learned horticulture by working 35 years.” “Michigan was nearly the last state settled.” David reflected. “Pioneers bypassed here to go west. Michigan was heavily forested with giant white pine. Farmers thought it impossible to cut such trees and pull stumps – too tough to farm.” “Well, 100 years ago a lumber baron destroyed them all – every single virgin white pine. I’m talking pine on average four to six feet across. Most went to build Detroit and Chicago. Chicago burned down, so it was all for naught.” “Yes,” I affirmed. “I’ve seen pictures of America’s virgin forests – when every tree was a giant. They were forests of champions. The woods were a cathedral of high, arching branches – a real temple.” “We didn’t learn from our grandfathers’ mistakes,” said the tree man. “I mean, we still over-harvest what forest is left on third and fourth cut. We’ve over-ridden common sense or plan for the future.” “Well, we are a consumer society. And that’s what we’re doing: consuming the Earth,” I observed wryly.
RESPONSE ABILITY — EARTH HEALING
“Well I believe we’ve found a path away from eco-catastrophe to Earth regeneration,” David replied. “There are things we can do alleviate the problems,” he began hopefully. “Do I think we will? No, not until we’re backed into a corner – like we are with Pacific salmon, which don’t run in Northwest rivers anymore. Or New England cod – the world’s greatest fishery – down to less than 1% what it was 100 years ago.” But David Milarch is no doom-and-gloom fatalist. His diagnosis of global sylvan sickness is no death sentence, only an opening phrase in a song of hope. This Earth healer has a vision and a plan. Turning amiable, he uttered, “We can dream the future, we can talk about the future, we can visualize the future, but if we really want a future, we must act.” “There are people in touch with the Earth who see the signs – and it’s obvious we’re in big trouble in the forests. The best thing I see is a few with the intelligence and integrity to get a message to the next generation [that] there’s been dire mistakes made, and how we might act for a turn-around. It’s up to us to educate the next generation – that’s our best hope.” “So I say it’s in the hands of youth. We must harness their energy and clarity through schools, 4-H, Boy and Girl Scouts, to a habit of putting back what you take year by year. The average 10-year-old can outplant most 40-year-olds ten to one, and not even feel it physically.” “But more important is re-education to fresh hope. There’s lots of awareness of our dire ecological predicaments, but few effective ideas to improve on our fate. Youth need a positive vision with a practical plan for action. It’s their future, and they have to do the work to realize it.” My own vision agreed, “We can’t bring back the old green way, but the next generation must bring back the forests.”
THE NEW GREEN WAY
“As Earth stewards, our prime directive is to create forest preserves,” David insisted, “to put more land under trees. The planet needs more forests; we need more trees. Planting trees is a simple, inexpensive way to assure Earth’s health and future generations. Anyone can do it; everyone should do it.” An excellent model for Earth healers is The Man Who Planted Trees by Jean Giono, the tale of a man who planted one hundred acorns every day – thousands in his lifetime. His simple daily ritual transformed a dry, barren land into moist, fertile forest with creeks and wildlife. American folk legend Johnny Appleseed portrays another tree-planting hero who made land habitable and productive. “How long before reforestation affects global climate?” I asked. “I don’t have numbers on CO2 conversion, but I’d say there can be noticeable improvement in five to seven years,” David offered. Then he injected, “Why reforest with ordinary plants, when you can get gold medalists? National Champions are the largest, oldest trees of their variety in America. Like Olympic athletes, they’re the best of the best.”
NEW HOPE FROM OLD SURVIVORS
“How did the Michigan Champion Tree Project get started?” I questioned. “I read a real moving article last December in American Forests magazine about “The Big Trees”, which are our National and State Champion trees. A National Champion is the largest of its species, measured by a point system: one point per foot of height, per inch of trunk circumference, and one quarter of the average crown spread in feet.” “How old are National Champions?” “I’d say three-hundred to five-hundred years. Many were here before Columbus,” David answered. The thrust of the article was – we’re losing them. It’s a real tragedy. We have every grass, every bug, every species of plant or animal on Endangered Species or Protected lists. How could the greatest minds in universities, government and corporations overlook the largest plants – trees – and not protect them? “Because they can’t see the trees for the forest. They never see one tree – the Champion trees – versus a whole forest. Because of money. There was never any preference, priority, or worth set on these National Champion treasures.” “How did the National Champion list get started?” I queried. “American Forests – a non-profit in Washington, DC – has lists of National and State Champion trees. In that same magazine article were state-by-state lists of the National and State Champion trees. This isn’t sponsored by any state or national government.” “Do any states maintain their own State Champion Tree lists?” I asked. “Most states have one person who finds the Big Trees and compiles the National/ State Champions list. Or they have contests state-by-state. All that information goes to American Forests. A simple phone call to them will tell who is the contact in any state. “Michigan State Champions simply have the most circumference of their species in the state, measured 4.5 feet above ground. With 67 National Champions, Michigan ranks fourth in America after California, Texas and Florida. With 170 National Champions, Florida is number one.” These elder giants have endured numerous decades of wind, lightning, logging, disease, pests, pollution, highway departments, and developers. A unique combination of genes, location and luck assured their persistence. David believes these survivors contain genetic blueprints needed to reforest America. “They’re Champions because they took the worst industrial society hurled at them and are still thriving,” said the tree farmer. “Their DNA has something to enable them to live longer, grow stronger and resist pests, pollution and disease.”
Tragically, every year four Champions succumb to disease, development or old age. Losing a tree is tragedy; losing it’s DNA is disaster. So the first challenge is to protect these genetic resources from unwitting and witless development. “So, it troubled me we’re losing our National and State Champions,” David said, “because there’s no laws to protect them, no knowledge of their value. So I said, ‘Something has to be done.’ “Well, one January night I woke at two a.m. and went to my leather recliner in my library and started writing. Four hours later I had a three page outline of a Michigan Champion Tree Project. Two nights later a second outline came on marketing and reforestation using youth, 4-H, Scouts, and nursery industry. “I saw that, ultimately, when we reforest America, or the world, why not with genetically superior stock – the National Champions? So I called around Michigan State University to ask, and nobody ever thought about it. Not one. “If you breed racehorses, or cattle, you don’t use run-of-the-mill plain- Janes or Larry-lunch-pails to come up with superior stock. With racehorses, they breed with proven winners. With cattle they use sperm of champion bulls. “Same goes in the plant world. It’s just down-to-earth farmer logic. What’s the champion genetic stock in North America when it comes to trees? I’d say it’s the oldest, biggest, most disease-free trees with genes to withstand industrial stresses afflicting American forests.”
THE RIGHT STUFF
“Right now about 50 different tree varieties are sold by every nursery all across America. That’s all major Oregon nurseries sell as ‘liners.’ O.K., those fifty or sixty trees are, in my opinion, genetically inferior. They’re French poodles – someone’s idea of a good tree based on its looks at a young age. “For example, all sugar maples commercially available in [the] North American nursery industry aren’t winter-hardy because they carry genes from south Illinois. Here in north Michigan we get thirty-five to forty below – coldest in America. So north of Detroit, those maples won’t make it through about every third winter. There’s other problems with those trees. “About eight years ago my son and I started budding two native sugar maples from north Michigan. We took them to Oregon and are now proud fathers of Michigan’s first trademark, soon-to-be-patented, shade trees. So all the colleges, universities, nurseries, Ph.D.’s – all the brains – never put the equation together to reproduce north Michigan cold hardy trees for [the] nursery industry. “We were pioneers in Michigan to do that, and they’ll be available nationwide next spring. That was the groundwork – knowing we can do this with National Champions throughout the state also.” “Why Oregon?” I inquired. “Because 90% of all shade trees for [the] nursery industry – the lion’s share – are budded and grafted in Oregon. It’s a major industry there. “The valley they do this in is nestled amid old volcanoes, so the high concentration of volcanic ash combined with mild climate quadruples growth. If I graft sugar maple buds in Michigan, I expect one, maybe two foot of new growth the first year. In Oregon, it’s common to get eight feet.” “So it has young soil,” I observed, “remineralized by volcanic dust and lava.”
From those two winter nights of inspiration came the Michigan Champion Tree Project, which streaked into reality in one amazing, blazing year. In January, David called Dr. Schutzki at Michigan State University’s Horticulture Department. They had worked together on cloning and trademarking the Chippewa sugar maples. After hearing about the Project, Dr. Schutzi said, “This is a home run,” and asked to be on Project Board. Dr. Schutzi called State Senator, George McManus, from the hometown area. Hearing of the Project, McManus said in a stern, straight voice, “It’s a winner. I want a meeting in a week in my office,” and became Chair of the Honorary Board. A phone call to Michigan’s largest newspaper, Detroit News, got an immediate reporter and photographer. The article yielded an avalanche of over three-hundred calls a day with offers to help. Said David, “I didn’t know how many people loved these big trees.” The first meeting at the state capitol in Lansing in March was attended by tree people, nurserymen, professors, state officials, and citizens from all over the state. A Board was appointed and expert environmental attorney, Jim Olsen, volunteered to handle legal matters. By July, incorporation papers were filed. Quickly the Project was adopted by the Traverse City Rotary Club. Both mentally and financially the Club remains supportive of the Champion effort. The Club offered grant money, and to speak for the Project to all other chapters. Reflected David, “It spread like wildfire on all levels. Everything we have needed has been provided. Everyone is enthusiastic and wants to help.”
THE PROJECT HAS FOUR OBJECTIVES:
1) Identify, protect, and preserve all Champion Trees in Michigan;
2) Maximize Michigan’s reforestation potentials and projects;
3) Engage people of all ages and lifestyles in the protection and reforestation of Champion Trees; and
4) Establish long-term sites for Archival Living Laboratories.
“These trees are unique living libraries dating back centuries,” said Milarch. “This legacy can further understandings of tree growth, and mustn’t be lost. I’d like to see each state create Archival Living Libraries of their Champions. “These trees will never be studied in the wild because it’s too hard, too long, and too far to find them. So we’ll take their clones to university campuses so all the DNA wizards have to do is step outside their door to go to work. They won’t have to travel 200 miles, then canoe eight miles up a river to find a National Champion. It will be right in their yard. That’s how I see them being studied. “If Archival Living Libraries are first of all on university campuses, then we’re more likely to get research done. We must get these trees genetically steady and unravel their DNA to find out how they can last so long, get so big, have such disease resistance. “I see them also studied and used for medicinal purposes. Wouldn’t it be great if one of these trees has a cure for MS? And another a cure for AIDS?” I queried: “How much land does a Living Library need?” “For the 120 Michigan State and National Champions, you need less than 10 acres. But Archival Living Libraries shouldn’t be in one block, but spread through the campus where they’ll do best. So trees that like shade will be shaded, trees that like wet feet can be in marsh, trees that like dry soil on sandy hills.” Newly formed in 1996, the Project has moved rapidly into reality. Dr. Woody Earle, who maintains the Michigan Champion list, has joined the Project, and three Ph.D.’s sit on the Board. Northwest Michigan College and Ferris State University will plant Living Libraries. Former Governor Bill Milliken and State Representative Bill Bobler joined the Honorary Board. And the Project has already attracted political allies. “There’s no laws to protect these trees that I’ve been able to find – neither federal or state,” David revealed. “However, last Thursday, with Michigan State Representative Bill Bulbear, environmental attorney Jim Olsen, and Michigan State University Director Andy Norman, I helped draft the first legislation to protect Champions.” The Champion Trees Protection Act recognizes the unique and rare value of State and National Champions, and the need to preserve them for education, science, ecology, and as ornamentals. The law will prevent harm or destruction of Champions and candidates, and their environs. It will be entered in January to the Michigan Legislature. “To our knowledge, it’s pioneering legislation on the cutting edge. No one’s done this before,” said the lover of trees.
In August David took buds from five of Michigan’s National Champ-ions and sent them to Oregon to grow as clones. This spring they will provide the first Champion saplings to plant the first Living Libraries. “In August 1997 we’ll take buds from at least fifteen other State and National Champions, so we have twenty, minimum. It depends on financing. It costs at least $2,000 per tree to do this. If we get a grant for $250,000, we could do 50 species or more next year. There’s sity-seven National Champions just in Michigan, but every state must do the same with Champions.” “How many buds can be harvested off one tree?” I asked. “Well, 1,000 easily – maybe 5,000. Even 10,000 from some trees. What we harvest for grafting is only new growth from April to August. Each new branch on these huge trees averages two feet and 15 buds, so every new branch is at least 15 new trees. “With tissue culture, one branch can yield 100,000 trees, and Oregon does tissue culture. It’s an unlimited genetic stockpile once the trees are preserved. “If a tree grows eight feet its first year to a ‘buggy whip’, in two years more you have a two inch diameter trunk with a head eight feet high and six wide, with hundreds of branches with thousands of buds and millions of tissues. So the reproductive potential is enormous.” “Why not take advantage of natural reproduction with seeds?” I wondered. “Seeds are cross pollinated with another tree. The only way to get true, unadulterated genetics of a tree is by budding, grafting, or tissue culture.”
“How will Champion Tree clones be distributed? Planting trees is labor intensive. I planted trees one spring in an Arizona National Forest. Hard, slow work, and it’s a big country.” “National Arbor Day Foundation is knocking at the door. Jim Fazio, chief writer for their magazine, which goes to 800,000, is doing an article right now at the request of the Foundation President. What if these seedlings are available through the Arbor Day Foundation? “Or imagine a city or town lined with Champions. One street with Champion sugar maples, another with a Champion oak, another with Champion ash. What a draw for a city to be first in America with streets lined by Champion clones.” “But it seems necessary to involve industry and deal with commercialization in large scale reforestation,” I observed. “You’re talking about nursery industry, also pulp/paper and landscape industry.” “Most large stores – Kmart, Walmart – have a nursery or garden center. Besides big chains there’s garden centers all over. Imagine walking in looking for a tree for your house – an ash, or maple, whatever. You can buy one of the 50 varieties every nursery and chain store uses.”
“Or, imagine the same tree, now with a big color tag with a picture of the National Champion and children standing around it holding hands looking at this giant, saying: ‘This oak is a genetic clone of our National Champion. $1 of the purchase of this tree will go to reforest American forests.'” “Now, if they’re the same price, which will you buy? How many Kmarts, Walmarts, garden centers, nurseries would use Champion trees versus trees of unknown pedigree?” David laughed. “Oaks, maples, walnuts, ashes – all the 50 trees currently available for nurseries – we’ll take them to Oregon to be cloned. See the enormous financial and physical potential? That’s lots of ‘seed money’ for reforestation. “How many corporations will like to be a proud sponsor, and to have their name associated with protecting a State or National Champion? “We’re also approaching auto companies. People in Detroit who belong to Michigan Nursery and Landscape Association love the Project. They’re saying to auto executives, ‘Will you put your name on a National Champion?’ What corporation won’t want their name associated with preserving one of our National Champions?”
“Does your law reserve for the public patents on these trees’ genes?” I asked. “Champion Trees’ gene patents will be held by Michigan Champion Tree Project. When these trees become available, there’s an average seventy-cent royalty for seventeen years on each tree species – a plant patent. All profits will go to educate Michigan youth of the value of trees, and environmental projects [on which] the board votes. “We were just awarded a $7,000 grant last week by Rotary here in town, and other grant applications are going in. “I was invited by the governor for a presentation six weeks ago. They had representatives from the governor’s office, DNR, politicians, Head of Forestry for Michigan State University. Learned people said, ‘Do you realize in twenty years we’re looking at over $300 million just in patent royalties – not profits – on the trees? How do we know you won’t cash in on this?’ I said, ‘Because every time we take buds off one of these trees, the tree’s owners – the landowners – sign a contract giving all reproduction rights to the Michigan Champion Tree Project, a non-profit corporation – for education, reforestation and environmental issues.'”
All through 1996 the Project grew and spread, attracting enthusiastic friends, strong support and powerful allies. Just when it seemed things couldn’t go any better, David’s son Jared stumbled on an exciting discovery they believe is a huge aide to restore depleted soils and give a natural boost to stressed forests. Three years ago Jared transplanted some sugar maple saplings out of woods on the family farm to cultivate and sell them to raise funds for college. But growing trees is slow, and, at 17, Jared wanted to speed the process. Jared read in Secrets of the Soil, by Peter Tompkins and Chris Bird, about a little known fertilizer called Azomite. In spring, 1996, Jared spread a pint around his trees. Results were astounding. `New growth on trees fed with Azomite was three times the normal growth. On average, untreated trees showed twelve new inches of growth in one season; trees given Azomite grew an average three feet. They’re healthier, too. While normal leaf-tatter was present on untreated trees, Azomite-fed trees leaves were unusually robust and unaffected by insects.
ANIMAL, VEGETABLE, MINERAL
The Milarchs believe Azomite’s effect is simple: in order to grow well, trees need certain minerals. Plants use minerals to capture sunlight and spin solar rays into sugar rings, releasing oxygen. All animals depend on plants for this diet of carbohydrates and oxygen. Mineral is eaten by plant, which feeds animal. Originally, all the minerals were naturally abundant in soil – a treasury of nutrients left by the glaciers and volcanoes. But 10,000 years of leaching – especially the last one-hundred(+) years of intense human logging and farming – have depleted many critical compounds. Most of Earth’s soil simply erodes away. Chemical fertilizers, lime, pesticides, herbicides, acid rain, and air pollution all create growing soil sterility and nutrient deficiency, especially in respect to trace elements. Chemical-dependent farming causes a host of other serious side-effects, such as groundwater pollution. But the Milarchs believe Azomite can turn back the tide of weakening soils, degrading ecosytems, and turbulent atmosphere. By restoring minor and trace elements to soil, the full potentials of organic life are nurtured. Rock dust supplies the missing minerals. “What do you think is special about Azomite?” I wondered aloud. “It’s from an old sea floor bed. That gives it a different energy and properties. I don’t know, and I’m not sure anyone on Earth knows.” “What effects have you seen, or do you anticipate?” I led him on. “For me, the most exciting isn’t growth rate. From a financial point, that itself merits excitement. But I think Azomite fires the DNA – the genetic code – of any plant it goes in. To stimulate, or fire, the DNA – the wisdom of the plants’ immune system to endure the stresses it went through earlier – that excites me.” “How does dust cause these effects?” “I think rock dust is a composite of tens of millions of years of Earth energies. You’re releasing tens of millions of years into the environment of the root systems of plants and trees.”
ADDINE MANURE WITH ROCK DUST
Jared and David experimented with native sugar maples in a nursery setting with a test plot of 18 rows with 50 trees per row. The trees are grown on a spacing of 8 ft by 12 ft between the rows. 1) 4 Rows were applied with Azomite only; 2) 4 Rows were applied with Azomite and cow manure; 3) 4 Rows were applied with Azomite and horse manure; and 4) 6 Rows had commercial fertilizer only.
The results were as follows:
The 6 rows with commercial fertilizer averaged 12-15 inches of new growth. The row with Azomite only showed 24-30 inches of new growth. The rows with Azomite and the horse manure showed 30 inches new growth and the rows with cow manure showed 40 inches (+). Also, the row with cow manure and Azomite had the darkest green and by far the healthiest and most disease-resistant trees of the entire plot.
“So Azomite isn’t the whole answer,” David jumped ahead. “Or any mineral dust. You need manure – cow manure preferably – for the bacteria. Because if you study Rudolf Steiner’s work and biodynamics, ethereal energies picked up in cows’ intestines are unique in all this world.” “Well, manure is the animal aspect of the three-way trinity of fertility,” I offered. “I can’t begin to imagine what manure combined with rock dust does in soil, not only to raise bacteria counts. You literally combine heaven and earth with manure. “I believe the ideal combination is with cow manure because of the stellular energies picked up in the cow’s intestine by the food being digested.” I suggested, “In scientific rhetoric, a cow is a walking bacterial host. It’s rumen and digestive organs culture bacteria to give unique biological action. Just say ‘manure stimulates bacterial growth.'” “Right, but there’s no bacteria in rock dust,” David pointed out. “Rock dust enhances bacterial growth. Rock dust is a catalyst to make bacteria reproduce millions of times a day. It’s bacteria in root systems that turn minerals into protoplasm.”
UP THE FOOD CHAIN — BEGIN WITH THE BEES
“I’ve seen rock dust trigger an explosion of flowering and seed formation,” I reported, “a tremendous increase in reproductive vigor.” “Carry your thought one more step. What happens to bees that eat pollen of plants that are remineralized? Is this an answer for the catastrophic honeybee decline we’re experiencing?” “Yes!” I exclaimed. “And bees are pollinators out in field and forest weaving DNA for all flowering plants!” “If you remineralize a whole fruit orchard in heavy concentrations, and set out beehives, might this affect their natural immunity to parasite mites? Could it be a missing ingredient for bees’ immune systems they get from pollen?” “I wrote in Why Beezz Buzz how each flower has unique blends of trace minerals and essential oils, thus giving honey distinct flavors!” I was delighted. He laughed, “OK, who’s at the top of the food chain? Once we introduce it into the food chain, it will be introduced into our children. That also excites me.” “That’s very far-sighted,” I said, gratefully. “The quicker we get minerals from rock dust back in our food chain, we’ll get amazing responses – not just from plants – but insects, including bees, that feed on the plants. “So bees and all the other insects and animals that are in trouble will also get it in their food chain. I guesstimate we’d see a big reduction in cancers and other problems plaguing insects and animals.” “Rock dust is used as a mineral supplement in animal feeds,” I noted. “So the quicker we get rock dust applied the better for all of us.” David thinks the honey bee decline is one of the most serious threats to agriculture throughout the world because of the drastic death rate of honeybees, the reduction of half or more of the population due to mites and disease. David would strongly suggest that beekeepers throughout the world introduce Azomite or other high quality rock dust applications in heavy concentrations to fruit orchards or clover crops for the honeybees to ingest from the pollen and nectar of the plants for possible reversal of diseases including bee mites. The bees would then pollinate adjacent plants and trees, perhaps fortifying the DNA of the neighboring plants and trees.