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[SANET-MG] Ana Primavesi, ecological soil scientist in Brazil

The items below highlight Dr. Ana Primavesi's contributions to ecological
soil management in South America.

Ana Primavesi is a Brazilian soil scientist who has authored several key
books on sustainable soils and pature management as well as hundreds
of articles, yet little is published in English. The resource pointers and
links to Enlish-language material in this resource listing provide
information to gain appreciation for her work and also to connect several
threads of interest together on soil organic matter management, Effective
Microorganisms, and life force energy in healthy crops as measured by
kirlian photography.

Best regards,

Steve Diver


1.1 Nutrient Levels in Ecologically Managed Soils

In January 2002 I sent notes to SANET on Roland Bunch's paper
containing the Five Principles of Soil Management for the Humid

Date: Tue, 22 Jan 2002 22:58:14 -0600
Subject: No-till, Rolf Derpsch, Roland Bunch's 5 Principles, MOIST

At the time the emphasis of my notes were on the benefits of the no-till
approach. It contained Bunch's soil management principles -- maximize
matter production, keep the soil covered with green manures and cover crop
mulches, zero tillage, maximize biodiversity, and feed crops largely

The links to Roland Bunch's papers are noteworthy

Nutrient Quantity or Nutrient Access?: A New Understanding of How
to Maintain Soil Fertility in the Tropics
By Roland Bunch, October 2001
HTML Abstract:

Bunch's paper in PDF; 19 pages

Bunch refers to Ana Primavesi's "earth-shaking book", "The Ecological
Management of Soils" (in Spanish & Portugese) as the inspiration for
this paper.

The paper addresses the failure of the Nutrient Quantity Concept -- the
dominate Western scientific agriculture paradigm -- to work on tropical
soils where many of the world's poor and small-scale famers live. The
NQC is the typical nutrient sufficiency approach: determine soil nutrient
levels through a soil test and fertilize up to the standard level to ensure
nutrient availability, in order to reach crop yield goals.

But the NQC approach does not account for the longterm sustained yields
on tropical soils managed with organic amendmens such as biomass-producing
cover crops and green manures, nor does it take into account the biological
and physical impacts of cover crop roots, soil organisms, and decomposing
mulches. According to NQC, limiting nutrients should limit crop yields, but
that is not the case. In fact, fertilizing "up" to the supposed levels
for NQC are adding excess nutrients; in addition, organic matter practices
tend to be neglected in NQC as "fertility management" is focused on

As an alternative to NQC, Roland Bunch introduces the work of Ana Primavesi
and describes what he calls the Nutrient Access Concept. He explains why
NAC -- and Primavesi's research that elucidates the framework for NAC -- is
more appropriate as a soil fertility model for ecologically managed soils.

Primavesi's research with hydroponically grown corn showed that nutrient
solutions at 1/50th the standard NAC application rate can provide equivalent
plant growth, as long as the nutrient solution was in constant supply and
roots could access the nutrients.

Bunch states, "That is, crop growth above a certain extremely low
concentration, does not depend on the concentration of nutrients. It
depends, rather, on the constant access of plant roots to the nutrients,
even when these nutrients exist in very low concentrations. The Nutrient
Quantity Concept's remedy of increasing the concentration of nutrients
by applying large amounts of chemical fertilizer misses the point almost
entirely. What is needed is a constant supply of even a very small but well
balanced amount of nutrients over time, and the unobstructed access of
plant roots to these nutrients."

Further, he lists the following principles of the Nutrient Access Concept
of soil fertility for the tropics:

Maximum plant growth can best and most cheaply be achieved in the
tropics by:

1) the constant supply of soil nutrients (most inexpensively achieved with
fairly low concentrations),

2) a healthy balance between the nutrients, and

3) maximum access of plant roots to these nutrients (i.e. the maintenance
of good soil structure and/or mulches)

Interestingly, the farming system examples that Bunch provides in support
of NAC include the underlying factors that are familiar to sustainable
They highlight the "five principles of soil management for the humid
i.e., they maximize organic matter production, they keep the soil covered
with green manures and cover crop mulches, they reduce tillage, they
biodiversity, and they feed crops largely through mulches.

Included among these examples are: gm/cc (green manure/cover crops) and
agroforestry systems, SRI (System of Rice Intensification), fallowing, and
rainforest ecosystems.

The relevance of NAC in SRI is particularly succinct, and Bunch refers
to this
paper by Norman Uphoff:

Questions and Answers about the System of Rice Intensification
(SRI) For Raising the Productivity of Land, Labor, and Water
Norman Uphoff, Cornell Intl Inst for Food, Agriculture and Development

Upfhoff also remarks on the ground-breaking work of Ana Primavesi,
the view "that plants can have normal growth with very low concentrations of
nutrients provided that there is constant supply to the root system." He
suggests "there will be compensating growth of roots, so that small amounts
are continuously accessed to support growth of the canopy and further roots.

This statement from Uphoff grabbed my attention: "The beneficial effects
of using compost would be consistent with this understanding, as it releases
its nutrients very slowly even if they are not provided in large amounts."

All in all, none of this is really new to sustainable farmers who practice
organic matter management and observe healthy plants, focusing on a
holistic appoach rather than a NPK fertilizer approach. Not that Roland
Bunch or sustainable farmers neglects the value of soil tests or
supplementation / remineralization with rock minerals, as he clearly
But the NAC concepts and practices that Bunch describes do lend support
to a more holisitc approach to ecological soil management that goes
beyond nutrient sufficiency and NPK fertilizers as the bellwether of modern
agriculture. In addition, it highlights the contributions of Ana Premavesi,
and especially the notion that small concentrations of nutrients in
constant supply can be adequate for good crop yields, such as those
from slow-relase organic fertilizers, composts, gm/cc mulches,
and worm- and microbe-decomposing organic residues.


Interestingly, in re-examining Ana Primavesi's research in this new light
I recall a very similar statement from Mark McMurtry, when he delivered
a visiting lecture on integrated aqua-vegetable culture at the
University of
Arkansas in the early 1990s. He was invited to the UA by Gordon Watkins,
a well known local organic farmer who was interested in this integrated
approach that is now widely known as aquaponics.

McMurtry's research with Doug Sanders at North Carolina State University
resulted in great impact on integrated recirculating aquaculture and
hydroponics. The modern aquaponic industry has grown and succeeded,
largely through modifications and elaborations to the earlier NCSU
system.  Aquaponics is now one of the leading examples of a
sustainable food producing system. As water becomes scare and limiting,
it is especially noteworthy as a biological filtration treatment and
water re-use system.

McMurtry stated that a low concentration nutrient level is adequate for
plant growth, as long as the nutrient is in constant supply. This would
be the case in fish effluent -- with low concentrations of nutrients from
fish manure, algae, and decomposing fish feed -- diluted into a large
volume of water. Yet, plants and the microbial populations living amongst
the plant roots and hydroponic (gravel, sand) substrate respond to
these nutrients with a flourish. As I recall, McMurtry even stated that
nitrate at 1 ppm could be adequate for plant growth, in constant
supply (though concentrations of 20 ppm on upwards are common).

McMurtry, Mark Richard. 1992. Integrated Aquaculture-Olericulture
System as Influenced by Component Ratio. Ph.D. Thesis, North
Carolina State University.

2.1 Kirlian photography and life force energy

Some years ago I heard about an IFOAM presentation from Brazil that
displayed infra-red hot spots on leaves (similar to Phil Callahan's work),
supporting the notion that improperly fertilized plants "attract" insects.

In recent research, I learned this Brazilian research was done by
Ana Primavesi. It turns out that it was kirlian photography, examining
magnetic emanations from plants.

Dr. Ana Primavesi is a well-known Brazilian soils scientist who has
published extensively on ecological agriculture, including the prominent
book "Manejo Ecologico del Suelo: Le Agriculture en Regiones

To evaluate the effects of a biological inoculation system (EM, or
Microorganisms) on plant health, through her work with the Mokiti Okada
Foundation in Brazil, Primavesi employed the use of kirlian photography
to examine variations in magnetic fields in crop plants, based on different

Results showed that with nutritional unbalances, plants suffer a very
energy loss, reducing their resistance to insects and diseases. When plants
are attacked by insect pests, they exhibit an extremely high energy loss.
Kirilian photography can provide clues to crop quality and biological value
in addition to plant nutritional status.

Determination of Plant Health by their Magnetic Emanation and its
Improvement with EM
Ana Maria Primavesi | EM Database

Plant Energy Field Related to Health and EM treatment
Ana Primavesi
IFOAM '96 Book of Abstracts | 11th IFOAM Scientific Conference


Life force energy is a term that you find in bio-dynamics, nature
farming, eco-farming, and related alternative farming systems
that recognize that physics and subtle energy -- in its many
forms within and beyond the electro-magnetic spectrum -- are
part and parcel of agriculture. These incude defined and measurable
energies, such as the life force energy displayed through kirlian

This site in particular has spectacular kirlian photography that are
both fascinating and revealing. Especially see the images of healthy
leaves from vitalized crops and the images of plant leaves lacking

Kirlian photography | Mitchell May | Synergy superfoods

It would be interesting to measure the life force energy in the crops
and livestock that are found in our food supply, on our university
farms, in the corporate agricultural sector that are the model of
"success" for globalized agriculture and GMOs.

Then, compare the life force energy from crops and livestock raised
on bio-dynamic farms, nature farms, and eco-farms.

Likewise, using sensitive instrumentation to measure biophotons
Fritz-Popp found signficant differences in biophoton light emissions
in organically raised eggs and fresh produce vs. conventional food

3.1 Related EM Papers from Ana Primavesi

The EM Database, hosted at EM Technology Network, contains more
than 600 research reports and conference papers. These include
papers from the International Conferences on Kyusei Nature Farming,
EM symposiums, field trials, and unpublished manuscripts.

The following papers from Ana Primavesi are notable because few
English-language papers are available among the hundreds of
articles she has written in Portugese. Moreover, she is Science
Counselor for the Mokiti Okada Foundation in Brazil, which
conducts EM research.

Comparison of the Effect of EM and other Bacterial and Mineral
Products on Bean Yield

EM and Its Effects on Citrus

Effect of Microbial Inoculants and Mineral Elements on Drought
Resistance and Yield of Field Bean

Seed Treatment With EM and Micronutrients for Controlling Rice
and Maize Diseases

EM Technology and Organic Matter Amendments in the Tropics

Effect of Lactobacillus Inoculants, Organic Amendments and
Mineral Elements on Yield of Onion and Field Bean

Effect of EM on the Growth and Yield of Rice and Beans

Quantity of EM-4 which may be Applied to a Soil with
3% of Organic Matter

3.2 LEISA papers from Ana Primavesi

ILEIA, a Centre for Information on Low External Input and
Sustainable Agriculture, published ILEIA newsletter and now
publishes LEISA magazine. LEISA is one of the top magazines
in ecological agriculture.

LEISA Magazine, volume 18
Issue 1 - Livestock
Optimising climate-soil-pasture-cattle interactions in Brazil
Ana Primavesi and Odo Primavesi

LEISA Magazine, volume 15
Issue 3+4 - Agrobiodiversity
More rice with good soil fertility management
Ana Primavesi

ILEIA Newsletter v.6 no.3 (October 1990) p.8-9
Soil life and chemical fertilizers
Ana Primavesi

3.3 Soil, Food and People Conference, South America

Ecology Action, home of John Jeavons and the Biointensive Mini-Farming
system, will host a South American version of the Soil, Food and People
Conference, September 28 - October 1, 2004 in Costa Rica.

Soil, Food and People Conference, South America

Some of the well known soil scientists, agronomists, and ecological
farmers who will speak include Ana Primavesi, John Doran, Dominique
Guillete, Don Lotter, John Jeavons, Steve Moore, Reinhold Muschler,
Guillermo Romero Ibarrola, Ricardo Romero, and others.

"Ana Primavesi, Brazil, is a retired Agronomist and a PhD in Soil Management
and Crop Nutrition. She is also a Science Counselor for the Mokiti Okada
Foundation, author and a contributor to technical newspapers, a founding
member of the Organic Agriculture Society in Brazil, of MAELA in Latin
America and of IFOAM--Latin America."


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