Remineralise Your Soil – Lower Your Carbon Footprint

28 July 2008

Photo: www.remineralize.org

Every gardener knows that growing plants take nutrients out of the soil. There are many methods to return the goodness, from the short term fix of chemical fertilisers, through organic enhancers such as seaweed meal or manure, to nitrogen-fixing plants, and many others.

A new idea has slid quietly onto the scene: soil remineralisation . This term means the addition of fresh minerals to depleted soil using “rockdust” or “mineral fines” – the tailings of quarries, which are normally regarded as waste material. This is rather like a person taking a vitamin or mineral tablet to restore their health. Soils which have minerals added create richer, tastier crops, prevent soil erosion, increase pest and disease resistance, and provide an environment for the micro-organisms that enrich the soil to multiply.

Through the scientific study of inter-glacial periods – between ice ages - it is apparent that remineralised soil also captures and stores carbon.

Of course, not just any old rocks provide the most beneficial results. The end-product of the grinding of stones by ancient glaciers or volcanos is preferable. Fortunately these conditions exist in the British Isles.

Scientists have only recently become interested in the effects of remineralisation, but some remarkable increases in crop yield and vigour have been seen. Many experiments are being conducted at this moment, but science moves slowly and it will be years before the results are available.

Photo: SEER centre

Cameron and Moira Thomson of the Sustainable Ecological Earth Regeneration (SEER) Centre based just outside Pitlochry in the Scottish Highlands are dedicated pioneers of the technique. These remarkable people championed the issue to the point where it is gradually gaining mainstream interest. Food sustainability and soil health is now not a idiosyncratic pursuit, but central to the concerns of ordinary people, as evidenced by the rapid growth in purchases of organic food, and the upsurge in growing your own food in gardens and allotments.

A growing awareness of the potential for increased carbon sequestration in the soil has meant that leading institutions such as the Tyndall Research Centre for Climate Change have been examining how soils, as well as biomass, could capture more carbon than they do now. They have estimated that 3-5 million tons of carbon (1 gram in every 3.6 grams of Carbon Dioxide) per year could be taken out of the UK's emissions of 520 million tons of C02 per year by soil remineralisation – so that could take a small but respectable 3% out of our emissions, above the amount our soil already captures. Further good news is that spreading mineral waste on soil is a very low-cost option that uses existing surplus materials, rather than the unproven and technologically complicated method of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) at power stations.

Remineralisation of soil provides these advantages:

  • Slow, natural release of elements and trace minerals.
  • Increases the nutrient intake of plants.
  • Increases crop yields.
  • Rebalances soil pH.
  • Increases the growth of microorganisms and earthworm activity.
  • Builds humus complex.
  • Prevents soil erosion.
  • Increases the storage capacity of the soil.
  • Increases resistance to insects, disease, frost, and drought.
  • Produces more nutritious crops.
  • Enhances flavour in crops.
  • Decreases dependence on fertilisers, pesticides, and herbicides.

Photo: SEER centre

The SEER centre has created three products, Rockdust – which is the powdered remineralised material itself, and two other items where the Rockdust is premixed with organic compost to provide a “one-stop” soil enhancer. These products are available from their distributor, Angus Horticulture, and a small number of vendors throughout the UK.

The SEER centre has plans to introduce training courses (both weekend and longer week courses) into the use and great benefits of rockdust to the environment, organic ecological gardening and self-sufficiency techniques. 

Links:

SEER Centre

Angus Horticulture

Remineralize the Earth

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