What’s New in Michigan Organic Production??

Nov 1-17, 2006


1. Source of Flavor-Is it in the soil or in the handling?

Soil amendments contribute to more than soil health


2. Corn Rallies, Calves Fall -- Fear And Greed Take Control


3. Markedly different gene expression in wheat grown with organic or inorganic fertilizer.


4.  Risk of Corn Mold Higher Due to Extended Rains in Michigan


5. Banning Backyard Poultry to Control Avian Flu???


6. Organic agriculture for the future:

Designing farms for better soil and pest management.


7. Salmonella Outbreak Update Information on the Food Domain


8. Great Lakes Fruit and Vegetable Expo, Nov 5-7, DeVos Place Conference Center, Grand Rapids, MI


9. Business and Market Planning for Farmers' Markets




11. Yes you can can! A workshop on canning food


12. A chance to share innovative approaches to farming and marketing


13. NTS Certificate in Sustainable Agriculture at ACRES Dec 4, 5, 6 in St. Paul, Minnesota


14. Animal Rights Initiatives A Little Scary  Go Arizonia!! J


15. 2007 Agri-Energy Conference will be held March 13-14, 2007


16. NEW ORGANIC FARMING COURSES for Spring 2007 at Michigan State University!


17. The Small-Mart Revolution: How Local Businesses are Beating the Global Competition˛

1. Source of Flavor-Is it in the soil or in the handling?

Soil amendments contribute to more than soil health


Raquel & Greg wrote:

> Hi all.  As some of you may remember, I started marketing my own

> organic brown rice this year.  The reasons we took the leap are

> many--wanting to escape the commodity system, wanting more connection

> with consumers, tired of letting other companies put their name on my

> rice, etc.  One of the great benefits of doing this has been the

> feedback I get from people who have eaten my rice, because they love

> it.  People regularly tell me that it is the best rice they've ever

> had, and didn't know rice could taste like that.


How can I buy 2 25 lb. bags or 1 50 lb. from you and get it shipped to me here in North Carolina?


> This is great, but now I want to figure out why, so that I can repeat

> it!  One reason could be that I let our rice mature and dry down in

> the field, as opposed to the normal practice of cutting it green and

> drying it with air and heat in the bin.  Like tree-ripened fruit, I

> think it allows the flavor to more fully evolve.


That's probably it.


> But could there be more?  Some organic farmers swear that soil

> nutrition plays a huge role in making sweet peaches, for example. 

> Charles Benbrook refers to a "dilution effect" caused by nitrate

> fertilizers that essentially waters down nutrient levels and flavors. 

> The article below shows that "specific genes have surprisingly

> different expression levels in the grain endosperm when nitrogen is

> supplied either in an organic or an inorganic form."

> Does anyone know of any more work in this field, especially with

> grains?  What do the rest of you do to grow tasty produce?  Does

> flavor correlate with nutritive value?  I'd also like to hear any

> general thoughts on the topic.


Great topic. I grow vegetable crops on four acres using a finely tuned grid of raised beds that cover slopes, curves and flat terrain. This system of parallel rows of beds has water/erosion breaks/dams every 50-150 feet to contain rainfall and prevent erosion. Half of the beds are very tall with deep furrows between and the other half are lower and wider with shallower furrows but with more growing area and less water impoundment between them. So, I get a lot of free irrigation and almost no loss of nutrients and micronutrients to runoff or leaching.

When the furrows fill with rainfall and runoff from the tops of the beds this water will be absorbed laterally back into the beds before going into the subsoil. So, I keep my nutrients on site and recycle them.


The equipment in the order used:


1) Yeomans Plow


2) Bottom plow


3) Howard Rotavator


      (there's a pile of quarry rock dust in the background)

4) Tillage tool/spring tooth field cultivator http://market-farming.com/farmpix/raisedbeds/bottomplow-tillagetool-YeomansPlowToolbar.jpg

5) Hiller-bedder with chisel plow shanks http://market-farming.com/farmpix/raisedbeds/hiller-bedder-3.jpg


Maintenance involves always using 5) and often 3) and occasionally 1)


I grow a lot of "sustainably-grown" spinach each year. Stores I have sold to have told me their customers have commented on its good flavor. A world traveller gourmet diner friend told be that my spinach was the very best he has eaten, anywhere, ever. My arugula, lettuce, squash, cilantro and collards also have exceptional flavor.

My crops also look great with robust color, size and yield. I get excellent germination, rapid growth, drought resistance, almost no insect predation and no fungal or bacterial diseases or blight of any kind so far.


I think the good flavor of my produce is due to:


1) The extensive use of finely ground rock dusts from rock quarries as soil amendments:

When I have manure or compost to put on the gardens I always mix it 50%-50% with rock dusts before applying with a skid loader along the tops of the beds; I then rototill it all in - this leaves the rock dust in the top 12-16"

of the soil.


I have applied hundreds of tons of this over 4 acres:


Quarry #1 - volcanic tuff (basalt?)

Quarry #2 - granite (grom grey rock with the little reflective sparklies) Quarry #3 - other powdered grey granite Quarry #4 - pyrophyllite screenings (an aggregate no larger than 200 mesh containing some talcum; .2% potash)


I have noticed that the root systems of my crops are huge and penetrate very deeply. Today I pulled a half inch carrot with a 3" taproot and a 3' turnip green plant. The extensive rosette of fine feeder roots that develop on most of my crop plants is astounding. If plants are spaced correctly with plenty of room, light and water they will grow to enormous size.


Some of these rock powders are so fine that when put into solution with water it turns cloudy and stays that way for quite a while. Some people living in high country near Hunza area drink white/grey cloudy water from pure, clean cold mountain streams. A high percentage of them live to a hundred and beyond, in robust good health.


2) adequate, balanced plant nutrition using a wide variety of soil amendments that include:


manures: chicken, cow and horse, some goat


compost: weed and crop plowdown, baled hay (grass and weeds; broomstraw makes the very best for mulch) This coming year I will be mulching about an acre of beds for tomatoes, potatoes and peppers with unrolled new round bales of broomstraw hay.


aragonite, high calcium limestone, azomite, alfalfa meal, blood meal, dried kelp seaweed meal, rock phosphate, colloidal phosphate from: Idaho, NC Black, Tenessee, Florida rock & Florida colloidal [CalPhos]) New Jersey Greensand, crab meal, fish meal, dolomitic limestone


3) highly aerated, highly mineralized, well drained raised bed culture of crops, eventually highly biologically active once I kick the rotovator habit (when I have reduced the weed seed bank to the point that I can get a food crop rather than more humus from having to till everything under to keep the weeds from going to seed.)


4) I haven't tried enhanced compost tea (Soil Foodweb recommended), EM or IM or Gil Carandang's methods but I feel this will eventually be necessary and will make a huge difference in crop flavor and yield.




Lawrence F. London, Jr.

Venaura Farm


Proc Biol Sci. 2005 Sep 22;272(1575):1901-8.

Related Articles, Links


2. Corn Rallies, Calves Fall -- Fear And Greed Take Control
Sure, corn carryover supplies have been reduced, yields have been lowered in some areas and ethanol demand is exploding. But, we're also going to post one of the largest corn harvests in history.

The base for corn demand has been altered and that's a reality the cattle markets and farmers will have to understand. The implications are real. The market is behaving like 3-4 weeks ago when it woke up and everybody decided ethanol production would require 20% of the corn crop. It's as if this increase had never crossed anybody's mind.

Funds, speculators and everyone has jumped in for the ride, sending the markets to new contract highs one right after the other. However, as is often the case the market is also likely overreaching against itself.

Already the experts are predicting that 2007 will see the largest corn plantings in history. Perhaps the market has sent the signal to plant corn from fence row to fence row. But as a good friend explains it, you bring flowers and then a very big diamond when you're proposing marriage, once you're married, flowers once a year usually suffices. There may be some wisdom there for those who are talking about $5/corn.
-- Troy Marshall

3. Markedly different gene expression in wheat grown with organic or inorganic fertilizer.

Lu C, Hawkesford MJ, Barraclough PB, Poulton PR, Wilson ID, Barker GL, Edwards KJ.

Rothamsted Research, Harpenden AL5 2JQ, UK.

Nitrogen is the major determinant of crop yield and quality and the precise management of nitrogen fertilizer is an important issue for farmers and environmentalists. Despite this, little is known at the level of gene expression about the response of field crops to different amounts and forms of nitrogen fertilizer. Here we use expressed sequence tag (EST)-based wheat microarrays in combination with the oldest continuously running agricultural experiment in the world to show that gene expression is significantly influenced by the amount and form of nitrogenous fertilizer. In the Broadbalk winter wheat experiment at Rothamsted in the United Kingdom and at three other diverse test sites, we show that specific genes have surprisingly different expression levels in the grain endosperm when nitrogen is supplied either in an organic or an inorganic form. Many of the genes showing differential expression are known to participate in nitrogen metabolism and storage protein synthesis. However, others are of unknown function and therefore represent new leads for future investigation. Our observations show that specific gene expression is diagnostic for use of organic sources of nitrogen fertilizer and may therefore have useful applications in defining the differences between organically and conventionally grown wheat. [The sequences reported in this paper have been deposited in the GenBank database (accession nos. AL 208216-AL 831324).]




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