05 Dec GREETINGS ERW! … a critical piece of the jigsaw …
Last week’s publication of the “Potential for large-scale CO2 removal via enhanced rock weathering with croplands” paper in Nature 583 by Prof David Beerling of Sheffield University and his team of 21 academics, is a critical and timely piece the jigsaw.
Enhanced Rock Weathering, ERW: It has been known for some time that just like iron captures atmospheric oxygen as it forms rust, ie iron oxide, so volcanic rock dust captures atmospheric CO2 to form mineral carbonates. This is noted in Royal Society Greenhouse Gas Removal 2018 Report where it is called Enhanced Terrestrial Weathering. Regardless of acronyms, I have been marketing and selling ancient Scottish volcanic rock dust, nationally and internationally for the last 16 years. Now trade marked as REMIN volcanic rock dust (REMIN®), it is certified by 4 UK organic certification authorities.
REMINERALISE: REMIN is short for “remineralise” and REMIN’s USP is that it is possibly the only product available to contain the full range of minerals and trace elements required for healthy growth. You can be as sceptical as you wish, but the bottom line is, that it is repeat business, so far mostly from gardeners, that has kept this product on the market. REMIN does what is says on the tin and REMIN Testimonials are now impressive. REMIN’s track record of improving crops, and by default the soil and compost it is mixed with, is sometimes dramatic, sometime subtle. Either way, REMIN’s track record to date means it cannot be labelled as snake oil.
PART OF AN EVEN MORE EXCITING PICTURE: Whilst last week’s well researched, written, and circulated paper is a break though in one specialist area, it is only part of an even more exciting picture. This story is what happens when we put MINERALS of rock dust and MICROBES of soil together. We need to understand there are 2 categories of carbon. One is inorganic carbon, ie carbon that has never been part of living tissue, as in the ERW process. The other is organic carbon, that is carbon that is, or has been, part of living tissue, as in the trees planted to capture carbon.
GROWING OUR SOIL: We must then take this one step further – into the realms of the living organisms of the soil. Nearly 25% of our own bodies are made of organic carbon. Carbon is the backbone of DNA. When we add REMIN to soil, the freshly exposed health-giving minerals in it boost the macrocosm of soil life. The healthier the soil, the bigger and more complex the soil life. Many REMIN users report significant increases in their worm population and we have little doubt this multiplication passes on to the soil’s bacteria, protozoa, and nematodes.
As explained here by Dr Elaine Ingham at the Oxford Real Farming Conference there is so much more we all need to learn about life in the soil. The point is that soil life is made up partly from what was ultimately atmospheric carbon, via the carbon cycle. Furthermore, as plant life flourishes more carbon, yes, sourced from atmospheric CO2, is pumped through the plant into soil as “exudates” to feed soil life. In the nothing-for-nothing life that has evolved in our soils, the plants do this because they depend on soil life to extract minerals from the soil, yes, REMIN included, that the plants depend on for good health.
So as well as recognising and utilising “ERW”, is it a step too far to accept that the most effective way of tackling climate change, apart of course from reduction of carbon emissions at source, is by good soil management, regenerative agriculture, horticulture and gardening practices as we also GROW OUR (healthier) SOIL and plant more trees, integrating volcanic rock dust as we go?
THE NEW DAWN: It is great to report that more farmers are coming on board with REMIN. Here is a lovely example from Bay’s Leap Dairy Farm in Newcastle: that was covered in Channel 4’s Food Unwrapped (18.5 minutes in). This is still based on REMIN’s health-giving properties as farmers turn their backs on chemical farming thus creating the new dawn of “regenerative agriculture”. Especially on industrial farms it is recognised that chemical NPK fertilisers inhibit soil life meaning more fertilisers are needed, year on year to feed the crops. The crops grow fast and weak and so require more toxins to kill pests as they become less able to fight diseases. Inevitably these toxins find their way into our diets weakening our defence systems as they kill our own internal biological defence mechanisms. The most famous example of this is the famous Californian case against glyphosate based weed killer “Roundup”, where Bayer, the manufacturer was fined 2billionUSD that dropped to 86.7million USD in July 2019. 2020 however has given us all one dramatic wake up call on how important our immune systems are to our survival as a species on this planet.
REGENERATIVE AGRICULTURE: It is particularly encouraging that the organisers of UK’s premier regenerative agriculture event, Groundswell UK, have for the last 2 years ordered bulk loads of REMIN to mix in with their windrows of farm yard manure. This is an elixir for good soil as REMIN’s minerals boost the manure’s organisms to multiply and break down the REMIN leaving more mineral rich, carbon rich compost to be spread on the fields.
At Groundswell 2018 I also met father and son farming team Hugh and Michael Leyland from near Berwick. They are offering a local farmyard manure / compost windrow turning service and mixing this through with REMIN should their customers take up this option. They can be contacted on email@example.com.
Other folk I met at Groundswell are Mike Donavon and Chris Fellows and as a result got an article on REMIN in their DIRECT DRILLER magazine – Jan 2020, Issue 8, P78 & 79 .
On the Regenerative Agriculture side we have plenty going on. We have MICROBES / MINERALS research both planned and on-going with Newcastle University thanks to the welcome support of their Professor of Soil Science, David Manning. Professor Manning was the first to show that biologically-mediated carbonate minerals form in UK soils made from mixtures of compost and volcanic rock dust. In fact it was only after David and I had been working together for some time that we realised we had both written chapters in the “seismic” GEOTHERAPY publication put together by REMINERALIZE THE EARTH – an organisation that is of course central to all of this… So there you have it, as ever, so much more to do..
CONCLUSION – FOR NOW: To tell it like it is…. remembering it like it was yesterday, I was making supper in our kitchen December 2018 and my husband (an electrician – just keeps an eye on me!) came running through from his office, frantically looking for the remote control for the kitchen TV. He found it and flicked the channels through to BBC Reporters David Shukman’s report on the 6 o’clock news – see it 1.30 minutes into this.
We are now one and a half years on, and it is important and exciting how Professor Beerling has made this progress and even more importantly brought it to worldwide attention. But I think we need to move faster down the MICROBES / MINERALS root / route that I have described above and learn how to harness this natural, living power right here below our wellies ie in our soil. We need to work with nature, not against it.
My thinking has been influenced by some superb speakers at Groundswell and I’ve been to a few of Graeme Sait excellent workshops in the UK, here is his TED talk . VERY recently I was told about Dr Zach Bush’s work on Food Independence and Planetary Evolution
and COVID-19. Please take a listen to these and see what you think.
My conviction is that we have all the pieces of the jigsaw now. Our survival as a species depends on our finding the wisdom to put the jigsaw together – so here’s a wee ditty that I found on You Tube to finish on:
Jennifer A Brodie
Founder and Technical Director, REMIN (Scotland) Ltd