Remineralization – what Mars and a Volcano can tell us about improving our food

Soil remineralization has been in the popular science news recently.  Remineralization uses natural minerals to improve soil health and produce nutritious food.

Remineralization Lessons from The Martian

Martian Remineralization
In the film ‘The Martian’ (shown) Matt Damon’s character grows potatoes in a controlled environment – researchers in Denmark suggest that this is feasible.

In a nod to The Martian, researchers from the Netherlands have successfully grown food in soil analogous to Martian soil.  With organic matter, crops grow well on Mars and moon soil simulant, and there is no evidence of increased metal uptake from these soils.

Remineralization Lessons from a Volcano

Lava remineralization
Lava flows from Mount Nyiragongo, DRC, providing remineralization for surrounding agricultural soils

Closer to home, on January 17, 2002, Mount Nyiragongo in the Democratic Republic of Congo began erupting.  A 13 km fissure opened in the south flank of the volcano, with lava streaming from three spatter cones at the end of the fissure and flowed in a stream 200 to 1000 m wide and up to 2 m deep.  The flowing lava flattened more than 30 percent of the city of Goma, 20 kilometers away, nearly 150 people died, and 400,000 fled into neighboring Rwanda.  However, the upside is that farmers are finding increased harvests from the rich volcanic soil.

Natural remineralization is due to the weathering of fresh minerals. Volcanic material breaks down easily due to small grain size and minerals prone to weathering (Harley and Gilkes, 2000).  Soils formed on volcanic ash are called Andisols  (UDSA Soil Classification) or Andsols (FAO Soil Classification) and are prized for their agricultural properties (Shoji and Takahashi, 2002)

Resources

Remineralization works on using this natural process of adding fine grained minerals to improve soils, plant growth and food quality.  To learn more about remineralization, I strongly recommend Remineralize The Earth as a great resource.

As mentioned, remineralization is a critical piece to improving food quality by improving the mineral content of our food.  Minerals are critical for health.  To identify what mineral nutrition you may need, sign up for this free health assessment.

References

Harley, A., and R. Gilkes, 2000, Factors influencing the release of plant nutrient elements from silicate rock powders: a geochemical overview.: Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems, v. 56, p. 11-36.

Shoji, S., and T. Takahashi, 2002, Environmental and agricultural significance of volcanic ash soils: Global Environmental Research – English Edition, v. 6, p. 113-135.

 

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