On Thu, 16 Mar 2000 15:49:16 -0800, Loren Muldowney wrote:
>> >I seem to be the only person here who cares to defend the
>> >"synthetic/natural" division as useful.
>Bluestem Associates wrote:
>> One example of why it is *not* useful ... ammonium sulphate, ordinary
>> superphosphate (0-20-0), and hydrated lime have each been shown to
>> increase soil microbial activity, and thereby (presumably) soil health.
>Okay, excellent, a concrete example. Unfortunately, I cannot presume
>that increased "soil health" is necessarily correlated to increased soil
>microbial activity, especially if such activity is being measured only
>by respiration rate or something simple and independent of substrate.
I measured them myself (3 reps in each of 3 soil types) using cotton
strip assay to measure the rate of digestion of non-fresh organic
material. There are also published data, but I can't lay my hands on
them right now. The point is, that these materials increased the
functional organic matter digestion rate (compared to controls, and
compared to some materials which actually suppressed digestion) in a
range of soils.
>> Organic bureaucrats even try to differentiate between *mined* potassium
>> sulphate (allowed) and 'other' types of potassium sulphate
>Okay, I take it that you think this is bad. What are the non-mined
>sources of potassium sulphate?
Evaporation-concentration operation from Great Salt Lake. Rest of the
salts are dumped back in the lake. You have to evaporate a lot of salt
water to get pure potassium sulphate.
>For a different reason, no? They are not allowing "synthetic" KCl, are
KCl from a hole in the ground is *much* cheaper than synthesising it.
At current consumption rates the easily available supply would last
between 4000 and 7000 years, depending on whose numbers you use.
>Well, I can think of other driving forces, however, I would argue
>instead that the goal must be to move away from mined sources as well,
>not that that was even part of the conversation about the organic
>standards. But that's my "sustainable" persona talking.
I believe that if you do not replace what is shipped off the farm (or
lost to leaching, erosion, etc.) you can't be sustainable. On the
Canadian Prairies they have exported (in the form of wheat) something
like 60% of the phosphorus in the top two metres of soil over the last
80 years. Routine use of sweet clover has permitted them to pump
phosphorus up to wheat's root zone, and now it's gone. Since phosphorus
does not move downward in the soil, they have lost their natural buffer
and have become dependent on routine additions. Far better, IMO, to
make the additions while you still have your subsoil buffer.
>in terms of its complete analysis, the impurities in any mined natural
>substance not only might be different but are likely to be different
>from those which result from any industrial process which make "the
>same" nominal substance.
One of the nice things about mono-ammonium phosphate compared to
di-ammonium is that it is so "impure." Chock full of micros, too,
>And my work with trace elements makes this a
>big part of my frame of reference. I have to worry about the "dirt" in
>lab grade chemicals-the stuff which isn't on the certificate of
>analysis. Sometimes the impurities matter more than the stuff on the
I hear you. In an earlier stage of life I was doing wet analysis of
trace elements, sometimes to 0.1 ppm accuracy. At that level, I was
fighting with the dust in the air.
>> Talk about a non-verifiable distinction in the field!
>Now here you have my complete sympathy and understanding. However, I
>cannot agree to care only about those things easily verified. But tell
>me, what is wrong with a two-pronged approach to the materials problem:
>One, don't records already have to be kept on what was purchased, for
>the purposes of documenting business expenses? That is one source of
>information. Nothing "not allowed" should appear in those records if
>those expenses are to be written off as business expenses. To "cheat"
>on the materials the person would either have to forego the tax
>advantage or to cheat also on the taxes, with a much more serious
This still leaves it in the realm of self-declaration, which doesn't
cut it if you are to have a truly independent third-party inspection
The US Schedule F (farm income & expenses) is not detailed enough to be
useful as an inspection tool, lime and fertilisers being lumped
together. The Canadian form is similar. Moreover, if you think a farmer
is going to let me (or any other inspector) look at their taxes, you
live in a different world than I do.
>One thing of which I was previously, (blissfully) unaware is the
>apparent contempt in which "the industry" holds its customers.
I don't think that is a fair comment, especially as regards small and
medium scale fruit and vegetable growers. It is (distressingly) too
often true of too many cash crop grain & bean farmers, though it
strikes me less as a case of contempt than that some of them just don't
care. Many of the growers I work with care a great deal about not only
their land, but about the people who will eat the stuff they grow.
David Vetter in Nebraska, Ed Reznicek here in Kansas, and Nancy
Vogelsberg (also Kansas) are shining examples of what organic
agriculture could (and should) be.
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