Written by Jennifer Brodie from REMIN Scotland Ltd
A 5-day FACTS Course at SRUC, Craibstone, Aberdeen confirmed our soil is a mix of 5 ingredients: air, water, decayed organic material, minerals and living organisms. After 15 years working with ancient Scottish basalt, that erupted onto Planet Earth 360 million years ago, before vertebrate life lived on land, I am convinced that it is the interaction of these last 2 ingredients, in the soil, ie minerals and living organisms, that is the key to good health. This is health not only of our soil, but also our plants and animals, ie our food, ourselves and our planet.
As illustrated by Dr Elaine Ingham’s excellent work on the Soil Food Web it is now evident that decades of intensive farming have drastically damaged the life in our soil. The hijacking of agriculture by chemistry over biology has resulted in the loss, or locking up, of our soils minerals and trace elements leaving the soil biology in no fit state to make them biologically available to plants. The McCance and Widdowson paper shows the mineral content of our food crashed drastically from 1940 to 1991. Further exasperated by food processing, this is leaving us overfed and under nourished.
So yes, whilst chemical analysis shows many soils are short of specific minerals and trace elements, I am here to tell you the full quota of 17 are present in REMIN volcanic rock dust – and worms love it! This award winning, organically approved, freshly crushed, finely screened dust is currently sourced from one Scottish Quarry. It shouldn’t be puzzling, but it often is, why the benefits of volcanic rock dust are far more evident when applied to gardens than when applied to farmland. A key farming client is Chris McDonald of Bays Leap Farm, near Newcastle. His application of REMIN was featured in a recent broadcast of Channel 4’s Food Unwrapped when Chris walked the talk with presenter (and pig farmer!) Jimmy Doherty.
The programme included an excellent piece by Sheffield University’s Professor Johnathan Leake where he compared a soil sample from a wood coppice, with the soil in an adjacent cropped field. The difference in soil biology was dramatic with the undisturbed soil in the wood hosting a healthy population of worms whilst the famers field appeared lacking in life. Aristotle told us 350 years ago, worms are the intestines of our soil. As Prof Leake showed in this example, the life in some farmers soil is visually gone. It therefore takes longer to show the dramatic benefits that the gardeners are finding in their less intensively worked and more biologically active soil.
The best farming result I have seen is Warwickshire sheep farmer, Ted Mawby who mixed 4 : 1, by volume, with cow manure resulting in the best pasture Ted has seen in his 24 years of farming. The minerals and microbes in Ted’s mix would appear to be working together to produce exceptional results. Having exhibited at the ace Groundswell in 2018 it was then fabulous to get a 28t bulk REMIN order from John Cherry to mix with his compost windrow. This pile was turned with their new compost turner supplied by BJC Smalley and Co from Berwick and this was demonstrated at Groundswell 2019. Livestock farmer Alex Brewster of Rotmell Farm, in Perthshire has used our products since August 2017. Alex selected one field as a control, applied just REMIN to a second field and REMIN plus cow manure to the third.
When I visited Rotmell, Alex showed me whilst REMIN / FYM application displayed the biggest difference, the benefits of the just REMIN was also evident in the health and the yield of the crop. In Alex’s words “We are clearly onto something and I am particularly keen to follow through on the minerals / microbes aspect of the product.” For 2019 Groundswell I invited Jersey based UK Soil Food Web consultant, Glyn Mitchell of Credible Food to share our stand. We then went straight on to run a minerals and microbes course at the lovely Cabourne Parva Farm in Lincolnshire, that has good conference holding facilities. Here farmer, Peter Kirke, as well as including bulk loads of REMIN in his windrowed farmyard manure, wood chip and silage grass, boosted his compost tea with our product and we look forward to seeing the results.
This August the afore mentioned BJC Smalley took 2 bulk loads. I visited them in September and saw their windrow composting where the REMIN had been added. The photo below was taken by Hughie’s son Michael Leyland, who is a dab hand with the drone camera, of their Windrow mix topped with 2 bulk loads. I have so much more to share including the very topical (and fantastically exciting!) inorganic carbon capture of carbon by freshly crushed rock dust and the organic carbon capture as the soil biology, plant productivity and health increases. We know anywhere in the world with volcanic soil, ie soil close to recent volcanic activity, is exceptionally fertile and productive. With a decade and a half of seeing for myself what REMIN can achieve in gardening soil, all around UK and abroad, all I can say is “Stop havering, and try it for yourself. Just like the gardeners before you, I fully expect you will be back for more!”