Sweet Corn, Paramagnetic Rock, And More…
By Calvin F. Bey
My American seed catalog says, “Sweet Corn, Country Gentleman (shoe-peg), 95 days.” I grew this 1890 heirloom variety successfully in 2007, and decided to grow it again in 2008, using some new techniques. I have been a gardener for more than 50 years, but what followed surprised me.
I teach a gardening course, Biological/Organic Gardening and More, so I am always trying new crops and new ideas that may help gardeners become more sustainable. In addition, I strive to develop practices that make for effective but easy gardening. I have double-dug, raised beds and actually work the soil as little as possible. I never use a tiller. I have a silty-clay-loam soil, with 5% organic matter content, and have been fertilizing with organic materials for seven years. Here in Northwest Arkansas, we have a long growing season, so sweet corn can be planted over an extended time to get several successive pickings, even with 95 day corn.
Oats and/or Austrian Winter peas make excellent all/winter cover crops in our climate. The oats are my cover crop choice for beds that can be planted from mid-August through September. The oats will grow to 30 inches in height by the end of November, and then winter-kill when the temperature gets below 20 degrees. The oats generally fall over, mat down, and provide a thick bed of straw mulch for soil protection and weed control until I am ready to plant in spring and summer. The Austrian Winter peas are my choice for a late season cover crop, i.e. anything planted after October 1st. The peas stop growing in December and resume again in February, and in the process, fix a lot of nitrogen in the soil.
For the bed where the 95 day corn was to be planted, I used Austrian Winter peas for the fall/winter cover crop. In mid-may I cut off the 3 foot pea vines at the ground line, and laid them back on the beds for mulch, I did not till or work the soil in any way. Two weeks later (June 2nd), I planted the Country Gentleman corn.
This year I added soil and foliar fertilizer mixes, as recommended on the basis of soil tests, by the International Agriculture Labs, basically following the Reams system. All the soil fertilizers were simply added to the surface. In addition, I have become a strong believer in the use of paramagnetic rock for building soil energy. In the fall of 2007, before I planted the peas, I added one pound of paramagnetic rock per square foot, to all of my garden beds. My original garden soil had paramagnetic values of 80-1– CGS, but by mixing the paramagnetic rock in the soil, to an 8 inch depth, I raised the CGS values over 500. I felt that would be a good paramagnetic value starting point.
I have been gardening for 50 years and have been following the organic approach for more than 35. Yet what happened with this year’s sweet corn is an unusual story. Remember now, this is 95 day corn, and I planted it late, so we could be eating it in late August and early September.
Here are the results. In three days after planting, the corn was up and it began to grow. In 30 days the corn was 6 feet tall, in 40 days it was 9 feet, in 50 days it was 12 feet, and on the 59th day from planting, we ate sweet corn with a Brix reading of 20. A few days later, the harvested corn had Brix values from 24-30. Any gardener would be happy to have these results. So what is the explanation for my corn reaching maturity in 59 days?
I strongly suspect the paramagnetic rock was a big contributer for the rapid growth and early maturity. Many studies by Dr. Phil Callahan, Malcom Beck, and others, attest to an increase in growth and other desirable traits for plants in soils where paramagnetic values are high.
Dan Skow, D.V.M. and Charles Walters Jr., in their book Mainline Farming for Century 21, point out that the growing season for 110 day corn can be shortened by creating a powerful magnetic field. In the mid-west corn belt, 110 day corn matures in about 110 days, whereas in central Mexico, where the magnetic field is less, it takes 9 months. See also The Non-Toxic Farming Handbook by Phillip A Wheeler, Ph.D. and Ronald B Ward, Biological Farm Management System Handbook by Bruce Tainio, and Graeme Sait in Nutrition Rules! for explanations and the value of paramagnetic rock. It is critical to understand that paramagnetic rock does not substitute for lack of minerals. The mineral content and mineral ratios need to be correct. Besides increasing growth and shortening the time to maturity, paramagnetic rock can increase frost hardiness, winter hardiness, insect and disease resistence, soil water holding capacity, microbial activity, flowering, and draught hardiness, as well as improve nutrient utilization.
Although what I have done, shortening the growing season, is not new, it’s the magnetude of the change that is amazing. I point all this out because I think that we as gardeners can all decrease the time from planting to harvest, and simultaneously increase production and quality simply by following good soil nutrition rules and by raising the soil paramagnetic values. Shortening the growing season is not an academic endeavor. It’s important from an economic standpoint for market gardeners, and it’s critical in the northern climates, where early frosts can oftern curtail production. I will be experimenting further to shorten the growing season for a marginal crop in this area – figs.
If there is a negative in this, it’s that the season for harvesting the sweet corn was also shortened. I had a simular situation with my Golden Bantam sweet corn this year, in that the time to maturity and harvesting period were both reduced. I believe that the shortened harvesting period can be remedied for growers simply by planting smaller, successive crops. In fact, once you understand the dynamics for your crops, it may make marketing easier to manage. After seeing what was occuring with the corn, I planted some cherry ball radishes, just to observe growth rates. When planted on August 9th, we were eating fully developed radishes in 18 days. Again, that was a substantial reduction from what I normally expect in our area.
I encourage gardeners and farmers to give paramagnetic rock a fair trial. For measuring the paramagnetic values you will want a Phil Callahan Soil Meter, which is available from Pike-Agri-Labs Supplies, Inc. located in Jay, Maine. The bottle neck for many will be finding a source of paramagnetic rock. Fortunately here in Northwest Arkansas, we have an organic farm and garden supply store (Nitron Industries in Johnson, AR) that purchased a big load of paramagnetic rock. The paramagnetic value of the rock is very high, testing over 10,000 CGS. The rock was purchased from Doug Murray, in Paw Paw, Michigan. Call Doug Murray at 269-930-9309 for details. He gets the rock from Canada, and can deliver it to any site.
I have been excited about this energy-building rock, since I first read about it. My vison was that my entire garden and eventually my entire 2 acres would be fully charged with magnetic energy, assisted by the paramagnetic rock. I visualize the entire site as an energy bubble, extending from below ground to above the plant surfaces. This was the first full year that the rock was applied to the garden, and the Brix levels of the produce have increased considerably. Better nutrition surely helped too. I have grown Moon and Stars watermelons for several years and their size has been in the range described in the catalogues, i.e. 10-25 pounds. Not this year! All the melons were considerably larger, several exceeding 40 pounds.
Another observation this year has been the increase in the number of birds and their activity. Since early spring, we consistently had more bird species in our garden area, in pairs, mating and nesting, than any previous year. We didn’t mind, even the feeding of 30 or more hummers all summer.
The idea that energy is a key component to the biological gardening and farming approach is not always easy to explain or sell, especially to the conventional gardeners and farmers. When folks see my 12 foot corn in 50 days, eating it at day 59, and with a Brix of 20 plus, they want to know more. For some, it leads to a stop at the garden store to get a bag or two of paramagnetic rock. I never criticize the gardeners for their past gardening practices. I do coach them to move in the Go-Natural approach. For some it is the first small step to healthier eating, a friendlier approach on the environment, and hopefully someday realizing the social injustice that is curently being imposed on many farmers and indeginous people of developing countries, who are losing the use of their heirloom seeds with the infusion of GMOs.
I will be following up on obsevations on other crops in the future. For those who have observations and/or questions, I welcome your information and inquiry. In the currently existing “world food crisis” era, and the rapidly growing interest in raising our own food, we as gardeners have valuable skills to share. I hope we can all be working together to provide the best information possible.
Calvin F. Bey Ph.D., is a retired agricultural scientist, living in Fayetteville, Arkansas, with a passion for teaching others about eco-gardening. He and his wife Dorris use their demonstration garden and energy-efficient home to help others understand the concept of sustainability.
Where To From Here With Plant Breeding/Selection For High Health Plants?
by Mark Christensen
Central Tree Crops Research Trust, PO Box 4088, Wanganui 4501
Since 2003 the New Zealand Tree Crops Association (Central Districts) and now the Central Tree Crops Research Trust, has studied apples and then tomatoes to find the best in the world for human health. We have been looking for varieties with phytochemicals in high amounts to be able to fight disease and keep us well, a concept that is sometimes referred to as nutrient dense foods. We have found what we were looking for amongst the very old varieties, the heritage and heirloom varieties that have been much neglected over the years. Orchards that may have contained these jewels have been bulldozed or the trees re-grafted over to new commercially bred varieties that look beautiful and appeal to the consumer. The same has happened with vegetables, with the traditional open pollinated heirlooms being replaced with beautiful hybrid varieties where every tomato for instance looks exactly the same – perfect and blemish free.
But beneath the perfection of polished fruit stacked to catch the eye on supermarket shelves, lies a problem. The fruit that once sustained our ancestors, nourished them and kept them well, has been altered so much that it no longer fulfils either function as it should. The complex breeding programmes have diminished the levels of these necessary phytonutrients over time, leaving us with supermarket food that is a mere shadow of what our great-grandparents would have consumed. Once we make the connection to what has happened, we begin to appreciate the value of saving and growing the old varieties again – because each one, whether it be an old fruit free or vegetable variety, holds a storehouse of nutrients that future generations may require for their very survival.
Being caretakers of the past is a vital role, and having the availability of that plant material can allow us to work co-creatively for the future.
Whilst collecting apples for our first study in 2003, I heard the story of a then 90 year old gentleman who had planted apple pips many years earlier. The tree we were testing, he advised, had grown from a Red Delicious seed. He explained that the reason he planted this seed was that he wanted to grow fruit trees for his family, and in the early years he could not afford to buy commercially grown fruit trees, so he chose to grow his own.
Upon studying the data, I realised that there was something more than the genetic makeup of the parents that contributed to this outcome – that the purpose and intention of the person who planted the seed was important, and had an influence upon the outcome. I came to realise that “it is the intention behind the action (or purpose) that influences the outcome”.
With our second series of chemical analysis testing, further evidence became apparent. Especially striking were the results from Neville Sinclair’s apple varieties. From a chemical analysis perspective, this amateur breeder produced 7 out of 8 outstanding varieties.
According to Neville, “As with growing potatoes from seed, growing apples from seed is an exciting exploration of life itself. In our increasingly monocultural world we can subvert those terrible tendencies and work with the force that seeks to express itself through diversity”.
One gets a similar feeling with the purpose and intention of Luther Burbank (the famous American plant breeder), that here was someone working with nature and not against it, working in a positive way and achieving a positive outcome.
When one also looks at the data, and the numbers of seedling apples that tested so well, some would have grown without any express intent of man. Could these un-tampered-with varieties be stronger? Or are they perhaps seeds from the many apple cores that have been thrown out of car windows, with that fleeting positive word or thought, to create an apple tree that will grow and bear fruit for future passersby to enjoy?
Man’s motivation, expressed through his intention and purpose, whether spoken or in thought form, does have an influence on his fellow man, as well as plant life. Plants are alive, with their own life-force. (This was demonstrated in the 60’s and 70’s with thousands of experiments on plants connected to lie-detector machines).*
That man can influence nature by word or thought has been shown by Dr Masaru Emoto with his experiments on water crystals. We can choose as individuals working with nature, to ignore this – or we can choose to acknowledge it, and work with it.
As far as methodology is concerned, commercial plant breeders have wanted to maintain control over the process, to choose both parents and make each cross themselves. We can see by Neville Sinclair’s example, that allowing nature to play a part in the process in choosing one parent has had very beneficial results. Luther Burbank on the other hand may well have controlled both aspects in many cases. So the answer may not lie so much in the methodology as in the reasons behind what each person is trying to do.
This creates a wonderful opportunity by opening up the field to absolutely everyone. Since anyone with a special variety that they wish to perpetuate, can just plant a seed, and coupled with a positive thought and energy of intention, can allow a new variety to be created. Through this process which is empowering us to work on a higher level of consciousness, we may assist plant material to develop – working together with the plant kingdom, not for personal gain (be it wealth, fame, or power), but co-creatively to enhance the attributes of these wonderful foods so that they can fulfil their true purpose.
* “The Secret Life of Plants”, Peter Tomkins and Christopher Bird