Rock Dust Key to Club Root Cure, May Unlock 20 million + Acres For Remineralization

  • Photo of crop roots affected by club root, with the club formation clearly visible.

This is an update to our previous article: Remineralize the Earth | Plant Nutrition Technologies, Inc: Commercializing Remineralization while Protecting Waterways.

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Remineralization truly is the gift that keeps on giving. We’ve known for decades that rock dust-based fertilizers are key to regenerative agriculture: in addition to eliminating the ills of artificial fertilizers, they foster healthy soils, grow nutrient-dense foods, and sequester carbon. But new research has discovered another application for rock dust that could protect farmlands and save the canola industry billions of dollars. Plant Nutrition Technologies, Inc. (PNTI) claims that their products can essentially eliminate club root, a disease that has long been the bane of Canadian canola crops. Should their lab trials prove scalable, this could standardize rock dust adoption for over 20 million acres of land. 

Two people standing in a field of tall plants.

Researchers observing increased yields in remineralized commercial hemp, which served as the impetus for trials on canola crops infected with Club Root.
Source: https://www.plantnutritiontech.com/project/industrial-hemp-alberta-canada/

The club root disease has been one of the most immediate threats to Canadian farmlands over the past two decades. It was first discovered in Canada in 2003, when soil samples found spores in 12 plots of Alberta soil. Since then, the disease has spread to thousands of fields and millions of acres of valuable canola lands, and even across the U.S. border into North Dakota. Club root destroys crops by surrounding root systems and reducing nutrient uptake of the infected plant. It results in a swelling on the roots that forms a thick, rough appendage in the appearance of a club (hence the name) which frequently results in the death of the plant. Due to the lack of any techniques to completely eradicate club root, Canada’s once dominant canola industry is at risk of collapse. But that’s where PNTI comes in. 

For healthy soils, an active microbial community is often enough to quell the potency of fungal invasions like that of club root. But with the overconsumption of artificial fertilizers and glyphosate pesticides like RoundUp, soil microbes are increasingly being wiped from the ground, leaving plants defenseless. Last week I spoke with Dennis Amoroso, President of Plant Nutrition Technologies, who was more than adamant that his products can reverse this plague. According to Amoroso, an experiment conducted by applied research organization Innotech Alberta showed that application of PNTI’s all-natural fertilizer decreased club root spores by 78% for infected hemp plants. Their fertilizer combination inhibited fungal growth and reduced overall gall size as well. Subsequently, they duplicated these findings for canola. Spores can prove harmless when concentrations do not exceed certain thresholds, and the results from these early tests indicate a reduction strong enough to restore canola practically in its entirety. 

Comparison of roots with club root versus healthy roots, showing the bulging roots

As you can see by this comparison of an infected vs. healthy plant, Club Root can drastically alter the structure of plant roots, often leading to premature death.
Source: canolacouncil.org (Click to enlarge)

This research is the first step of many toward implementing standardized remineralization for Canadian canola, but it is nonetheless a monumental victory for sustainable agriculture and climate change mitigation. Canadian adoption of the remineralizing fertilizer could store tons of carbon per acre, making Canada a juicy opportunity for greenhouse gas sequestration and carbon credit acquisition given their 20 million acres of canola fields. This development may also lower emissions by preventing future deforestation. Agriculture is the number one cause of deforestation in Canada, and with club root decreasing canola yields farmers are frequently forced to cut down forests to plant additional fields in an effort to minimize losses, which in turn emits carbon dioxide via decomposition or burning of biomass. To keep the ball rolling, Amoroso and PNTI have arranged a larger field trial that will explore the scalability of club root suppression on a commercial plot. This will prove the efficacy of rock dust-based fertilizers to suppress club root outside of the laboratory setting. Simultaneously, PNTI is in the midst of securing long-term procurement of rock dust from mines and quarries in Canada to ensure consistent supply, as well as the construction of a dedicated production facility. 

Amoroso predicts that the results from this second trial should be available by October, and all of the early signs point to success. The Canadian Ministry of Agriculture is well aware of their progress, and anticipates strong support for PNTI products once they can reassure stakeholders of the benefits involved via comprehensive, successful field trials. When that time comes, Plant Nutrition Technologies Inc. will offer the only proven technique for reducing the impacts of club root to sustainable levels, setting them up for long-term partnership with the Canadian canola industry and solidifying yet another crucial role for rock dust to play in the fight for a green future.

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William Binette is a recent graduate from the University of Colorado Boulder helping the RTE team in grant acquisition and content writing for our website.  Holding a bachelors degree in environmental studies with a focus on environmental governance, Will looks to combine his education and written communication skills to bring remineralization techniques into the spotlight of climate change policy.  In his spare time, Will enjoys hiking, skiing, camping, and other activities that allow him to spend time in wilderness. In addition to his contributions to RTE, Will works on freelance writing projects and repairs outdoor recreation equipment. He hopes that gaining a better understanding of financially viable climate solutions like remineralization will help him craft impactful and long-lasting solutions in the future for maintaining environmental well-being and economic stability.  

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