Stone dust

Carrots grown with stone dust (left) and without (right)

The Progressive Review has long argued for more attention being given to the remineralization of the soil as a way of increasing productivity. Now there seem to be other ecological benefits.

PAUL KELBIE, INDEPENDENT, UK – With the prospect of an earth made infertile from over-production and mass reliance on chemicals, coupled with an atmosphere polluted by greenhouse gases there seems little to celebrate. But belief is growing that an answer to some of the earth’s problems are not only at hand, but under our feet. Specialists have just met in Perth to discuss the secrets of rock dust, a quarrying by-product that is at the heart of government-sponsored scientific trials and which, it is claimed, could revitalize barren soil and reverse climate change. The recognition of the healing powers of rock dust comes after a 20-year campaign by two former schoolteachers, Cameron and Moira Thomson. They have been battling to prove that rock dust can replace the minerals that have been lost to the earth over the past 10,000 years and, as a result, rejuvenate the land and halt climate change. To prove their point, the couple have converted six acres of open, infertile land in the Grampian foothills near Pitlochry into a modern Eden. Using little more than rock dust mixed with compost, they have created rich, deep soils capable of producing cabbages the size of footballs, onions bigger than coconuts and gooseberries as big as plums. “This is a simple answer which doesn’t involve drastic life changes by anyone,” Ms Thomson said. “People don’t have to stop driving cars to do this, just spread some rock dust on their gardens. We could cover the earth with rock dust and start to absorb carbon in a more natural fashion which, along with reducing emissions and using a combination of other initiatives, will have a better and faster response.”. . . The couple claim the technique may also play a significant role in the fight against climate change as calcium and magnesium in the dust converts carbon in the air into carbonates. Such is the interest in the theory that NASA in the US is examining it in preparation for growing plants on other planets. The couple say that the rock dust means that crops don’t need water to produce harvests of magnificent vegetables. “It would be perfect for Third World countries that are usually unable to grow crops because the land is so dry,” Ms Thomson said. “This could hold the solution for them.”

BBC, APRIL 2004 Cabbages the size of footballs and onions that fill the palm of your hand are now being grown in the barren soil and harsh climate of a Scottish glen where nothing has been grown for human consumption for the past 50 years. Moira and Cameron Thomson (on either side of BBC presenter Steve Chalke in picture) put their success at growing such healthy vegetables down to rock dust – powered rock from the local quarry. The anecdotal evidence is so strong that it has persuaded the Scottish Executive to invest almost L100,000 for the Department of Environmental Chemistry at the University of Glasgow to do some serious scientific research. If their claims prove to be correct, there could be huge implications for gardeners, for farmers, for human health and, according to the Thomsons, even in the fight against climate change. It seems impossible that a discovery of such importance can start in a Dundee garden, but the Thomsons are on the brink of finding out whether their work really has all the benefits they think it has in terms of better produce which improves human health, taking more carbon from the atmosphere, holding it in the soil and therefore helping fight climate change, making positive use of waste (including stockpiled rock dust), reducing the use of chemical pesticides and fertilisers, and improving poor soils in some areas of Scotland with few other economic opportunities. If it is proved to work in just some of these areas, it will be of enormous significance for all of us.



– In one experiment in North Carolina, 500 five-year-old red spruce and fraser fir trees were treated with rock dust applied at various rates. After six months it was found that all of the rock-dusted trees had survived, while only 77%-87% of the non-treated trees had. Growth rate increases, depending on the size of application, varied from 5% to 39%.

– At the Hardin Brothers farm in Queensland Australia, rock dust has been used since the mid-80s. Among the results: fertilizer applications have been reduced by 80 percent. There has been a saving in fertilizer costs. There has been less environmental damage caused by runoff contamination. 25% higher yields. 20% increase in growth rate. There has been an 80% increase in production even using less fertilizer.

– In another case, glacial moraine gravel dust was spread on 10 acres. In an area of sparse rainfall and dry summers, and with no irrigation, the corn produced 65 bushels per acre, compared to yields of under 25 bushels per acre from other local farms.

– A study in Bavaria found that after 24 years the wood volume of the treated area was four times higher than in the untreated area. In the case of new pine seedlings remineralized with basalt rock dust, there were gains over the untreated area after the sixth year. After 24 years, the wood volume of the treated area was four times higher than in the untreated area.

– Another experiment by Jared Milarch, an undergraduate at Northwestern Michigan College, produced, by the 67th day, startling increases in immature tomatoes treated with montmorillonite clay.

– Your editor, who worked on his parent’s organic beef farm even before the publication of “Silent Spring,” is aware of the slow osmosis from ridicule to acceptance in matters of natural agriculture. My father had a hard time even finding a lawyer when he sued the Central Maine Power Company in 1960 for spraying along the farm power lines. The town lawyer took the case and won a settlement that to this day bars CMP from spraying power lines if the owner does not wish it. The remineralization movement is presently in a somewhat analogous position of odd novelty. The one person I have met in Washington who is sympathetic to the idea is Pentagon whistleblower Ernie Fitzgerald, who recalls steel mill tailings being successfully used on Alabama farms when he was growing up.




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