A conversation with Olivier Husson, engineer, system agronomist and agroecologist, working on a health approach based around the balance of Eh (electrons) and pH (protons) in soil, plants, microorganisms, animals, etc. Unbalanced Eh-pH conditions lead to poor nutrition and poor photosynthesis. As consequence, plants which lack energy and are being oxidised are attacked by pests and pathogens.
LISTEN TO THE CONVERSATION ON:
This episode is part of the Nutrient Density in Food series!
This series is supported by The Grantham Foundation for the Protection of The Environment, which is a private foundation with a mission to protect and conserve the natural environment. The Grantham Foundation raises awareness of urgent environmental issues and supports organizations working to find solutions. Over the last few years, the Grantham Foundation has funded an extensive portfolio of projects focused on reducing emissions and removing carbon directly from the atmosphere.
Everything starts with plants and optimal photosynthesis, but most plants are too sick to optimally turn sunlight into energy. So, they are not able to create or regenerate soils. This is a fascinating deep dive into healthy plants and non-healthy plants. In short, it is all about energy and energy we either get from photosynthesis or photosynthesis from a few million years ago, aka fossil fuels.
HEALTHY PLANTS LEAD TO HEALTH SOILS
All the energy from the system comes from the plants. All the system relies on plants. We often hear that you need healthy soil to have healthy plants, but it’s the opposite. You need healthy plants to have healthy soil.
”The energy of the sun is the energy for photosynthesis, if you have plants, so, the plants are the key to catch all the energy from the sunlight and to inject it in the system, and then the plants will feed the microorganism. All this energy will be used to fill in all the functions we need to have for soil to work properly. So, especially on soil structure is fundamental, it is a key point. To create and to keep a good soil structure, you need plant roots, you need macro fauna, health forms, they eat plants remnant, and you need microorganism that are fed by the plants.” – Olivier Husson
”First, you need to catch the energy to improve the soil structure, and you can get healthy plants that will make healthy soils. But really, the first step is to have plants growing. You can’t grow plants without soil.” – Olivier Husson
”To keep the soil structure, you need energy, you need to feed microbes, you need to feed the earthworms, the termites, all the ecological engineers as we call them, and if you stop feeding them, then you don’t have the main power to sustain the structure. And you also need energy to make the glue that keeps the soil structure, all these fungi that will produce different kinds… sugar, but also glues that will sustain the structure, we need a structure that will not collapse in water.” – Olivier Husson
UNHEALTHY, OXIDISED PLANTS ARE ATTACKED BY PESTS
If parts of the plant are not balanced in terms of eH. and Ph., they are oxidized, they lack energy because photosynthesis was not sufficient, and then they will get attacked by pests.
”If the plant has enough energy and if it can control the pH correctly, because controlling pH is very important and it causes energy, you need to activate pumps that consume ATP so, you need energy to regulate almost everything to absorb the nutrient. The solubility of the nutrients relies on eh and pH for most of them. The form of mineral nitrogen is based on eh and pH diagrams, and it impacts all the plant nutrition for many aspects and all the plant physiology. Absorption of nitrates will oxidize a lot the plant and alkalinize a lot the plant. Absorption of ammonium will acidify the plant and the different type of pathogens and insects and pests they feed on plants that are too oxidized and according to different pH, each type of pathogen or pest can develop or can feed on different parts of the of the plants. And when they are at eh and pH level that should suit them.” – Olivier Husson
”So, for the plants, it’s almost impossible to keep a balance because it goes from asphyxia to over oxidation within two days. So, that’s the real problem with compacted soil, and then all the plant nutrition is deficient and all the nutrients will not be absorbed or not in the proper form. And then they will be attacked by pests.”- Olivier Husson
MOST PLANTS ARE TOO SICK TO OPTIMISE THEIR PHOTOSYNTHESIS
It is fundamental to understand, says Olivier, that when you have compacted soil, with a poor soil structure, as soon as it rains, it’s waterlogged, the water asphyxiate everything. So, there will be no oxygen for the roots, and they will not breathe. The plant is under asphyxia, and the photosynthesis will go down.
”It’s a vicious circle, when the photosynthesis does not function enough, the plant will spend a lot of energy just for nutrient absorption. If the soil is oxidized, the plant needs to spend energy to reduce and acidified, to get iron, to get manganese, which are essential elements for the photosynthesis.” – Olivier Husson
”So, the plant has not enough energy, and it needs to spend a lot of energy to access to the nutrients, and it will absorb nitrates when it’s oxidized. So, it creates an imbalance on pH, pH will get alkalinise a lot. So, the plant needs to regulate this and spend energy to do this. So, it has no energy to produce more leaves. So, no energy to catch the sunlight, to make photosynthesis, so, it’s a vicious spiral.” – Olivier Husson
THRESHOLDS ARE KEY
According to Olivier, there are threshold levels, and when the soil has not enough energy, the plants need to bring in the energy in the system. So, all the energy that plants spend for this, is energy they will not have to produce new leaves.
”…and then you go down and down, and then the plant produces little amount of biomass. So, there’s little energy for the soil, to keep the soil structure, to fit the microorganism, to fit all the macro fauna. So, the structure gets down, spiralling down. Once you have enough energy in the plant, you managed to produce enough, then you start an upward spiral, it will improve and improve and the soil will be more and more balanced. So, the plant will not need to spend energy to get access to the nutrients. So, there will be a high photosynthesis, a lot of biomass production, and then you improve the soil structure, and you go on like this.” – Olivier Husson
OTHER POINTS DISCUSSED
Koen and Olivier also talked about:
- How to increase the surface of photosynthesis
- Have you looked into systems in the tropics
- Sustainability relies on high productivity
- John Kempf – Forget about soil, Focus on plant health instead
- John Kempf, what would he do with a 1 billion dollar investment fund?
- Nutrient density in food series
- Anne Biklé and David R Montgomery – After studying more than 1000 papers the definitive answer, we are what our food ate
- Zuzanna Zielińska – Women’s hormonal health starts with regenerative agriculture and the focus on quality and nutrient density food
- Fred Provenza – What should we learn from domesticated animals when it comes to food as medicine
- Stephan van Vliet – The first randomised clinical trial comparing agro-ecological grown and supermarket food
- David LeZaks and David Strelneck – Why the USDA gave a $600K grant to figure out how to pay farmers for quality
- Erin Martin – Saving $750K by providing nutrient dense fruit and vegetables to 50 people with severe diabetes for 12 months
- Pierre Weill – After certifying the quality of over $3B of animal protein a year, now turning to vegetables
- Eric Jackson – Want to work on nutrient density? Start with animal protein
- Yasmine Cathell – Deep nutrition research on a 350 hectare commercial arable farm, everything from counting worms to sap analysis
- Mary Purdy – Why a supplement company launched a flour product
- Paul Greive – How the biggest exit in regeneration led to millions of more chickens on pasture
- Erwin Westers – Supermarkets didn’t care about his quality so he focussed on selling seeds to other regenerative farmers
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The above references an opinion and is for information and educational purposes only. It is not intended to be investment advice. Seek a duly licensed professional for investment advice.