How understanding the immune system of plants leads to greater yield without poisons
Kempf is the unlikely founder of Advancing Eco Agriculture, a consulting firm established in 2006 to promote science-intensive organic agriculture. The entrepreneur’s story is almost identical to Zook’s. A series of crop failures on his own farm drove the 8th grade-educated Kempf to school himself in the sciences. For two years, he pored over research in biology, chemistry, and agronomy in pursuit of a way to save his fields. The breakthrough came from the study of plant immune systems which, in healthy plants, produce an array of compounds that are toxic to intruders. “The immune response in plants is dependent on well-balanced nutrition,” Kempf concluded, “in much the same way as our own immune system.” Modern agriculture uses fertilizer specifically to increase yields, he added, with little awareness of the nutritional needs of other organic functions. Through plant sap analysis, Kempf has been able to discover deficiencies in important trace minerals which he can then introduce into the soil. With plants able to defend themselves, pesticides can be avoided, allowing the natural predators of pests to flourish.
[I think I just injured my fist pounding the table and shouting "Yesssss!"] And here's the contrast to "organic agriculture"
The entrepreneur promises clients higher-quality crops, bigger yields, better taste, and produce that carries a lucrative “organic” label. Kempf, however, considers his process as an important improvement upon standard organic farming methods. “Organic certification is a negative-process certification,” he explained, “You can do nothing to your field and become certified. In contrast, we focus on actively restoring the balance found in natural systems.”
I would bet that "negative-process" is why corporations were able to take over at least the label "organic" so, er, naturally.
Morin: [the author] What else can you tell by looking at your plants?
Zook: Well, one thing we learn is to read the leaves. This asymmetry here indicates zinc deficiency. The spots over here indicate a phosphorus deficiency. And, this here rippling of the leaf usually indicates excess nitrogen.
Morin: Before you started with this method were you able to read the leaves?
Zook: You know, I barely noticed them at all. I just planted and sprayed. Now, it’s much more fun.
Now, that's awesome. I can look at the leaves. In fact, next year I could try this out and keep a photographic record.