Mainline Farming for Century 21

By: 
Dan Skow & Charles Walters

Mainline Farming for Century 21Charles Walters is the founder and head of Acres USA, which is a forum for organic farming.  Acres publishes many books on all aspects of farming, and holds an annual conference in the heartland of the US.  This organization is on the cutting edge of agronomy in this country.  Dan Skow is a veterinarian and a student of the late Carey Reams.  Many of Dr. Skow's lectures can be found on the Acres website as DVDs and audio tapes.  Charles Walters has written numerous articles and books, and his works can be found on that site as well.

Mainline Farming for Century 21 explores in more depth many of the topics taught in the Real Food Campaign nutrient density growing courses, and would be a valuable resource for anyone wanting to go deeper into Reams method.  There is much in this book for those who are interested in balancing the minerals in their soil.  Like many other books of this kind, it is better to own a copy to dip into.

The authors begin at the beginning reminding us that the cells of plants require the products of the air, N2 and CO2 specifically and H2O (water) and the rest of their smorgasbord comes from the soil.  Calcium (Ca), they tell is, is critical and unlike the previous elements and compounds, plants find calcium only in the soil.  This calcium is what makes cell walls strong and enables plants to withstand wind and rain, harvesting and storage.  Grains, wheat, barley, and oats are all supposed to have solid stems.  Cutting these grains should leave a field of stubble that shows white stem interiors, but all too often the stems are hollow.  So often, in fact, that most farmers these days have not seen solid stems.  Similarly, many farmers have not seen a kernel of corn fully filled out, plump and rounded.

Phosphate is a catalyst in photosynthesis.  It takes the carbon dioxide (CO2) from the air and water from the soil, and combines them (and lots of other stuff) within the plant to make carbohydrates, sugars and the whole gamut of nutrients for which plants are so justly lauded.  Phosphate grows foliage, stems and leaves, sometimes so well that it is possible to have a field full of foliage and no flower or fruit.  Potassium will also grow foliage if there is a deficiency of phosphate but there is a problem with that.  If there is an excess of potassium it will replace calcium in leaves, stems and fruits, causing black spots, and since it is not a blight, no amount of chemicals will get rid of it.  These foods go straight to the table, and the excess potassium upsets the potassium/calcium balance, which is not good for humans or livestock, causing health problems.  This knowledge alone should spur people to demand healthier food grown on balanced soils.  The rate of phosphate to potassium in the soil should be 2:1.

If we are to implement the Reams Theory of Biological Ionization, or RTBI, we must know something about dilution as some of the material used in this system is used in extremely small quantities. How do we apply a substance at one tablespoon per acre?

An interesting discussion in this book is about the number of atoms needed in amending an American acre, which is 43,560 square feet or 4,840 square yards.  There are 5 million atoms in a drop of water (a standard drop, naturally, why do you ask?), which means that there is a lot of energy in that drop.  Each pint of water has 10,000 drops, a gallon has 80,000.  So, if the active ingredient you are using on your field is a teaspoon per acre at 15 drops per spoonful that is very little. Five million atoms times 15 drops equals 75 million atoms in a teaspoonful.  In the top six inches of an acre there are two million pounds of soil.  A single drop would put only 2 ½ atoms per pound of soil and a teaspoon full would give 37 ½ atoms per pound of topsoil.  Please note that some herbicides are distributed over acreages at dilutions such as this, and at a pound per acre would be disastrous.  So, if you put a pound of material on an acre, the equation is something like this: 10K drops in a pound of liquid and 5 million atoms per drop equaling 50 billion atoms, which if evenly distributed over an acre give plenty of atoms per pound of soil.  If this is a paramagnetic material, it would have to be evenly distributed to create an energy field with no leaks, as it were.  RBTI has a lot in common with homeopathy which also uses dilutions in millions and billions to one.

The energy fields in and around the earth are quite complex.  The earth spins in a counter clockwise direction. (How do we know this? Because the sun 'moves' from east to west, not west to east).  As the earth spins, it creates a magnetic field which creates an electrical field which bathes every living thing.  Then there is an anionic field 110 miles about the earth which we call the Van Allen Belt.  The sun sends out (lots) of particles which hit the Belt, and are deflected at an angle which then hit the earth.  This cozy arrangement is what provides the power for all life on earth.

The RBTI method of growing things takes into account the magnetic fields of the earth.  Spinning things create magnetic and electrical fields and these fields bath the earth and us constantly. Growing crops in rows oriented east/west outperform crops grown north/south. Roots tend to grow toward the north (in the north, and this can be reversed by putting iron filings, taconite (a low grade iron ore) and a bit of compost on the south side of the plant.  The lines of magnetic force converge toward the pole (hence the compass turns that way) and these magnetic forces provide energy for growing plants.  This interesting tidbit: Iowa 110 Day corn takes 110 days to mature in Iowa, but much longer for the same cultivar to mature at the latitude of Mexico, due, our authors say, to the greater magnetic forces in the north.

Flocculation! No, not a bad word but a property that allows soil particles to cling together.  It is destroyed by long droughts and a lessening of magnetic energy in the soil.  Carbon governs magnetism and increasing carbon in the soil increases magnetism and this keeps soil from literally blowing away.

When we talk about ionization, just what is that?  Carey Reams talked about ions and anions differently from the conventional physical chemistry definitions.  Reams' ions and anions are electrical in nature.  Anions come from the sun, spin counter clockwise, and have energy values ranging from 1 to 499 Millhouse units.  Anions are smaller than an atom and smaller than an electron according to our authors.  Cations have energy signatures in the range of 500 to 999 Millhouse units.  Now, if you check Wikipedia you will find a long list of particles that make up atoms - a very long list.  These particles have charge, spin, speed and a host of other properties.  Particle physicists are finding more and smaller particles all the time, and no one knows precisely what they do. What is true is that all matter behaves on this sub-atomic level, including us, the stars and the soil in which we are growing tomatoes.  When we talk about biological ionization then, we are talking approximates.  No one knows exactly what is going on, but we know the results of certain actions and amendments.  For the purpose of this and all discussions of RBTI, we will use Reams' terms, because the energy calculations work.  And that is all we need.  For a deeper understanding, I refer you to doctoral studies in physics at MIT.

We need to keep in mind that we are talking about biological processes, living tissues, and we don't have all the answers about life.  Essentially, anions and cations are the smallest measurable amounts of energy.  A change in the anion/cation balance results in a change of Ph which, as we now know, is a change in the amount of energy flowing in the soil.  Ionization is taking apart and putting back together again, and is the ions of the elements that fuel plants.  The soil could be compared to an electroplating tank, with positive and negative nodes and energy flowing between them.  As anions gain more energy and move from 1 to 499, they reach the energy level of 500 and become cations, they change their direction of spin, and have an entirely different effect upon growing plants.  During the anionic phase, plant growth is accelerated, the green stems and leaves grow.  During the cationic phase, the plant shifts into seed production.  All things grow because of a loss of anions and cations.  Plants gain during growth, and give up during decay.

Carbon in the soil holds water - four pounds for every pound of biologically active carbon.  The moon causes tides in all water, even us, and if there is water being held by carbon in the soil, a tide happens there as well.  Our authors liken it to the earth taking a breath as the moon draws the water and opens the soil.  In that two million pounds of soil in the top six inches of an acre, 1% organic matter will contain 20,000 pounds of carbon, which will hold 80,000 pounds of water (10K gallons).  It takes 28K gallons of water to cover an acre one inch deep.  The problem of lack of biologically active carbon is immediately obvious.  A two inch rain would inundate the field and half would be lost to run-off.  Carbon in the soil is not the pure element.  It is bonded with water and nitrogen to form organic acids — basically sugars/carbohydrates.  Some, like plant residues, go back to the air readily and others, like lignens and humates, last in the soil.  One of the problems with minimum tillage is that it is difficult to get carbon into the soil.  The authors recommend tilling at least the top two inches to get the carbon down to the bacteria. When there is sufficient carbon in the soil, roots travel more rapidly.

Manganese (Mn) is one of the heaviest elements necessary for the production of plant growth.  It takes 12 atoms of nitrogen to capture one atom of manganese.  Practically speaking, it can take up to 500 pounds of calcium to capture one pound of manganese per acre.  Our authors suggest that one of the reasons we have so much prostate and breast cancer in our country is because there is not enough manganese in the food.  Since it takes so much of the other elements to capture the manganese (due to its much greater atomic number) this would also indicate a lack of the other elements in our diets.  Chromium (Cr) has an atomic weight of 51, and like manganese, it takes many other elements to bind it in the soil.  Chromium is essential to diabetes prevention.  We need re-mineralization as much as the soil.

The nutritional value of the fruits and vegetables we eat has decreased since 1978, which you can discover in this nutrient chart on our site, found under "Library > Documents & Sundry" in the menu, and labeled "2011 Nutrient Guide".  This will show you the levels of nutrients lost over the last three decades. 

Hardpan is that layer below the topsoil that cannot be easily penetrated.  The only good thing about hardpan is that it does keep toxic agricultural chemicals from getting into the deep aquifers.  The cons are more numerous: it stops the downward growth of roots and the deep absorption of water into the earth; it prevents moisture from coming up from the subsoil at night when the soil is trying to take its deep breath, and renders crops dependent upon rainwater and irrigation.  Hardpan is full of salts which harden it, and keep it hard much the same way salt hardens homemade play dough.  Proper mineralization and the addition of biological carbon to the sail will eventually break up the hardpan.

Soft rock phosphate apparently contains all known elements save nitrogen.  If N2 is added to soft rock phosphate, plants can be grown in it without soil.  This soft rock colloid is formed from the mining of hard rock phosphate as a by-product.  Size is one of the measurements of a colloid, and this material is as fine as a powder.  It is put into holding ponds where it sinks to the bottom of the pond making a layer many feet deep.  Put on crops, this substance alone will result in yields far greater than gotten with conventional fertilizers.

We all have a tendency to put our crops in by seed or transplant, and add fertilizer at that time.  But, like infants of all species, small plants do not need adult amounts of food. Better to add amendments as the season progresses.  Measuring the conductivity of the soil on an on-going basis can help growers access the need for amendments, especially calcium and phosphate.  The plants need the greatest amount of food as they are fruiting or going to seed, and we are told, this is not the time to go on vacation.  Stay home and check the soil.

The process of photosynthesis is one of converting carbon dioxide, water and sunlight to sugars.  When these sugars are adequate in the plant, the mineral levels are also high.  This can be measured easily with a hand held instrument called a refractometer, or a brix meter.  The brix index of any particular fruit, vegetable, grain or legume is directly related to the amount of nutrition that plant delivers to our bodies - the higher the brix reading, the better the food.  Crops with high brix levels, that is, high sugar levels, are better able to withstand frost because the sugar slows down the process of crystallization; they do not provide nutrition for insect and fungal invasions; the leaves and stems are firmer because they are plumper with water; they last longer in storage; and they tend to dehydrate rather than rotting.  Dr. Carey Reams developed this system of checking the health of plants, and determined the brix levels of various fruits and vegetables, noting them in four categories - poor, average, good and excellent.  This list was unknown until 1982, when it was published in Acres USA.

While we think of a brix level we usually think of sugar content, but it is much more.  Without the necessary high mineral levels, the brix reading remains low.  Phosphate is especially noted, as the highest brix readings always come from vegetation with the highest phosphate levels.  Brix levels fluctuate, and cloudy days can drop the levels rapidly.  Excess potassium and nitrogen can also lower brix readings.  Generally, if brix readings are above 12, the plants are not bothered by insects.  However, calcium levels must stay above 2000 lbs per acre for this to happen.

The authors warn against the use of salt fertilizers, muriate of potash and anhydrous ammonia especially.  Sulfur must be used with great caution as it can only be used by plants when it has been transformed into a usable state by bacteria in the soil and then only in the presence of water.  Dolomite limestone carries a warning, too.  It should never have more than 5% magnesium, and when it does have more, it has been known to destroy entire fields.  When in doubt, have an independent lab check the product before applying.

The last quarter of the book has a number of specific recommendations for fertilizing crops with the materials discussed in the first chapters.  Much of the material needs careful reading, and is applicable only after a soil test is gotten, and requirements for specific fields have been determined.  There is good information in this book, but it is somewhat scattered throughout and somewhat difficult to pull together all the bits and pieces about any specific mineral, but on the whole I do not think that this diminishes the value of the book.  It just needs a close read.