2021-2022 Nutrition Grown Farmers’ Educational Program Final Report
Four Big Island farms participated this year in the grant-funded Nutrition Grown Farmers’ Educational Program and Farm Trials. The program included Dr. Bogs’ online Perfect Soil course, Zoom meetings, Dr. Bogs’ book, Beyond Organic: Growing for Maximum Nutrition and Flavor, and side-by-side farm trials. The trials included comprehensive pre- and post-trial Nutrition Grown soil analyses, organically-approved soil amendments, and help with the application of those. The farmers are Bryan Hein in Mountain View (east side of Big Island), Lichun Huang in Papaikou (north of Hilo), Fabi Vlchek in Papa`aloa (farther north of Hilo), and Justin Udovch and Joy Spirit in Honaunau (west side of Big Island).
BRYAN HEIN at Eden Plan (farm) in Mountain View—
Photo: Bryan in his farm trial area near the end of the trial. The control plot is to the left of the log, the Nutrition Grown plot to the right. He largely gave up weeding the control plot after it performed so poorly.
Mountain View is a very rainy area, which means that a lot of the minerals in the soil have been leached out. In addition, Bryan’s farm has thin, rocky soil, making farming here a challenge. In some places of the trial garden the soil was less than 6 inches deep.
Soil Reports: The initial soil report showed a very low exchange capacity, which means the soil cannot hold very much nutrition. It had very low levels of sulfur, phosphorus, calcium, potassium, boron, manganese, cobalt, molybdenum, and silicon. By contrast, the zinc was excessively high, as was the aluminum. Having imbalances like this can be very problematic.
The Nutrition Grown plot had a full array of nutrients and microbes applied. The control bed only had horse manure applied.
Soil Microbiology—Bryan Hein–Pre-trial report compared to post-trial report: The soil microbiology is much improved. Pre-trial bacterial level was 250/slide field on the initial check, and 50/slide field on the recheck. These are low numbers. Post-trial bacterial level was much improved with increases to 1200/slide field on the initial check, and 1200/slide field on the recheck. These represent a 380% increase and a 2300% increase, respectively. Other soil microbiology parameters did not significantly change.
On March 20th Bryan reported: “We are a month into growing here and the contrast between the two beds is incredible. We’re hooked on the BOGS!!!” (The BOGS is the Beyond Organic Growing System we use to create Nutrition Grown crops.)
Here is a picture of the Nutrition Grown plot at one month:
Here, by contrast, is the picture of the control bed at one month which was planted at the same time:
On April 28th Bryan reported: “BOGS side is impressive, control side is pathetic. We couldn’t be happier with your method.”
Plant tissue data from Bryan Hein—
May 2nd was the day I went to harvest some of Bryan’s crops. Overall, the control plants performed so poorly that there was not enough plant tissue to do an accurate assessment of them.
The Nutrition Grown kale was 4 times larger than the control. Only 2 control kale plants grew to “maturity”. The control kale had leaf damage—yellowing, spots and cabbage moth worms. The Nutrition Grown kale had beautiful leaves with little insect damage, and a nice, mild flavor.
The difference between the Nutrition Grown beets and the control beets was even more dramatic. The Nutrition Grown cylindra (genetically long and slender for even slices) beets matured normally and were picked when they averaged 4.5 inches x 1.75 inches. The beet greens looked healthy, without insect damage or disease. Both the beet roots and the beet greens were delicious, without a high oxalic acid content.
By contrast, the control beets hardly grew. The largest plant was only about 4 inches high although planted at the same time as the Nutrition Grown.
Bryan also grew lettuce, the Nutrition Grown of which grew approximately three times as tall as the control. His Nutrition Grown okra was twice as tall as the control.
Bryan managed to get some zucchini squash from his Nutrition Grown plants, but the control plants never got taller than 6 inches.
Course and Farm Trial Evaluation Comments by Bryan: “I believe Jana’s work to be critical to growing healthy and nutritious food and I’ve found her methods of checking and amending the soil to be extremely time and cost effective. I love working with Jana! She’s very helpful, friendly, informative and always has answers to my questions. I cannot quantify the wealth of knowledge she has bestowed upon our farm. The amazing improvement in the quality of the food we grow will be enjoyed for generations!”
LICHUN HUANG’S FARM IN PAPAIKOU (NORTH OF HILO)
PHOTO: Lichun in her growing area before starting trial.
Lichun’s area gets a lot of rain, which leaches minerals from the soil. Her land is old sugarcane land, which means that it was further depleted. She told me the previous farmer said the soil quality is bad. So we had our work cut out for us.
Soil Reports: The initial soil report showed a very low exchange capacity, which means the soil cannot hold very much nutrition. It also had very low organic matter, which means that it also has a very low nitrogen release and little food for beneficial microbes. The soil had very low levels of phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, boron, manganese, zinc, cobalt, molybdenum, and silicon. By contrast, the potassium, sodium, and sulfur were excessively high, as was the aluminum. Having imbalances like this can be very problematic.
The Nutrition Grown plot had a full array of nutrients and microbes applied. The control bed only had chicken manure pellets applied.
Upon sampling the soil in the Nutrition Grown plot for the post-trial soil analysis it was discovered that the amendments had not gotten fully incorporated to the 6 inch depth across the whole area. The overall trial may have shown even more dramatic results had the nutrients been evenly mixed deeper into the soil.
Soil Microbiology: Post-trial comparison to the pre-trial report: The soil microbiology is much improved. Pre-trial bacterial level was <100/slide field on the initial check, and 20/slide field on the recheck. These are very low numbers. Post-trial bacterial level was much improved with increases to 700/slide field on the initial check, and 50/slide field on the recheck. These represent a 600% increase and a 150% increase, respectively. Other soil microbiology parameters did not significantly change.
Crop data and notes from Lichun—For most of her crops there was much more vigorous growth and greatly increased yields (harvest weights) from the Nutrition Grown beds vs. the control beds. J
Lichun also grew Cylindra beets from the same lot of beet seeds as Bryan (from Johnny’s Seeds). Direct seeding in the control plot resulted in no plants emerging, whereas direct seeding in the Nutrition Grown plot resulted in plants which grew normally to 24” tall and were ready to begin harvesting by week 9. The average beet weight was 205 g (7 oz). Lichun also started some beets in trays and transplanted them to the control bed, however they grew poorly and were unable to be harvested.
Lichun’s green beans in the Nutrition Grown bed had much more vigorous early growth and less rose beetle damage than the control. At harvest, the Nutrition Grown beans had a 49% greater yield than the control.
Lichun’s Nutrition Grown broccoli had flower heads approximately twice the size and weight of the control broccoli. More precisely, there was a 93% increase in head size and a 92% increase in yield weight. Furthermore, the control had an aphid infestation on the flower heads. (Notes: The samples in the pictures below had been frozen. There is a total of 8 oz of broccoli on each cutting board.)
Lichun’s tomatoes got eaten by birds, so there was no harvestable crop, however you can see the quality differences in the plants in the photo below.
THE FARM OF FABI VLCHEK IN PAPAALOA (HAMAKUA COAST)
Fabi’s area, up on the Hamakua coast, also gets a lot of rain, which leaches minerals from the soil. Her land is old sugarcane land, which means that it was further depleted of nutrients. Fabi started into the farm trial with an enthusiastic crew, who did a beautiful job preparing the soil. Unfortunately the crew unexpectedly moved away in the middle of the trial, leaving her without sufficient work force to complete the project. We did, however, get soil data.
Soil Reports: The initial soil report showed a low exchange capacity, which means the soil cannot hold very much nutrition. The soil had very low levels of phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, potassium, boron, manganese, zinc, cobalt, and silicon.
The Nutrition Grown plot had a full array of nutrients and microbes applied. The control bed had horse manure applied.
Soil Microbiology: Post-trial comparison to the pre-trial report: Pre-trial bacterial level was 500/slide field on the initial check, and 300/slide field on the recheck. These are low numbers. Post-trial bacterial level increased to 600/slide field on the initial check, and decreased to 100/slide field on the recheck. Other soil microbiology parameters did not significantly change. Had crops been planted there probably would have been an improvement in soil biology because the plant roots give exudates into the soil to feed the microbial life.
THE FARM OF JUSTIN UDOVCH AND JOY SPIRIT IN HONAUNAU ON THE KONA SIDE
This farm is mauka of the highway in the coffee belt. They get quite a bit of rain, and have clay soil with a high level of magnesium and a low level of calcium. This makes for a sticky soil. The calcium to magnesium ratio is considered the most important ratio for success in farming. Fortunately, we can add calcium to the soil to correct it.
The soil also needed sulfur, phosphorus, boron, iron, manganese, cobalt, molybdenum and silicon. By contrast, in addition to the high magnesium level, the potassium, copper and zinc were excessively high. Having imbalances such as these can be difficult to correct.
The Nutrition Grown plot had a full array of nutrients and microbes applied. The control bed had compost and turkey manure added.
Soil Microbiology– Post-trial comparison to the pre-trial report:
The soil microbiology is much improved. Pre-trial bacterial level was 400/slide field on the initial check, and 50/slide field on the recheck. These are low numbers. Post-trial bacterial level was much improved with increases to 1600/slide field on the initial check, and 1600/slide field on the recheck. These represent a 300% increase and a 3100% increase, respectively.
Due to predation, there were some early crop losses. This resulted in re-planting delays in both the Nutrition Grown and control crops, and no clear comparison data (due to differences in planting dates). However, you can see the beautiful results in the Nutrition Grown plot in the photo above. You’ll just have to take my word for it that the beets were delicious.
Course and Farm Trial Evaluation comments by Justin and Joy:
“The Nutrition Grown methods resulted in Very Healthy and full grown plants quickly with very little insect damage.”
“We are super grateful that we got to learn how to prepare the soil in the best way so we can enjoy the process of gardening and trust that the food we are eating is beyond organic. The course is well planned out and well executed to be efficient and effective in accomplishing the very righteous goal of supporting locally grown and nutritious produce.
Dr. Bogs has created an extremely valuable course that cuts straight to the point and delivers an abundance of knowledge and information to practitioners who are able to continue the process on their own and even share with others.”
Thanks to all the farmers and their crews who participated!