Organic farmer Dan Kittredge will be giving a two day class on Nutrient Dense Gardening at Wilton’s Millstone Farm on October 26, at a cost of $150. He gave a free preliminary lecture on his theories in September, and since we were out of town at the time, he was kind enough to provide us with a video of that lecture.
Kittredge is a working organic farmer who claims no academic training and has no publications, but has founded the Bionutrient Food Association and made himself the Executive Director.
This is a curious class, in that he is remarkably cagey about what he actually espouses unless you pay to attend the class. This is troublesome because he has no publications where you can learn what he actually believes and you really can only find out by paying to attend his class. This is simply not the way science is done.
His introductory video talks about soil mineral deficiency, asserting that crop yields can be much higher if these (unspecified) deficiencies are remedied, presumably using some sort of soil amendments. And he claims that such plants are more nutritious and flavorful as well.
He also asserts that healthy plants do not get plant diseases, such as Early and Late Blight in tomatoes, and that the plants are attacked while weakened while filling out their fruit. He called the brown leaves that result “electrically dead.” This phrase is not scientifically meaningful.
Since we did not attend that lecture, he was kind enough to call and talk to us and try to answer some of our questions. When pressed on whether there was any research to support his theories, he said that there was not because “agronomists are only interested in single factor analysis,” rather than considering multiple competing factors.
He explained that he knows his methods work from his actual farming experience. This is, of course, anecdotal evidence and can only be verified when he carries out double blind studies and subjects his ideas to peer-reviewed publication.
We searched PubMed and the Internet in general without finding any supporting evidence for these ideas, and when we pointed that out, Kittredge referred us to the work of William Albrecht. Albrecht (1888-1974) was a soil scientist at the University of Missouri, who did substantial significant work, but also developed the Base Cation Saturation Ratio (BCSR) theory for interpreting soil tests. This theory asserts that soil pH is much less important than the concentration of the cations of specific elements, such as Ca, Mg, K, and Na.
(A cation is a positively charged ion of one of these elements: these are usually written as Ca++, Mg++, K+ and Na+. These are the water soluble forms in which these elements are usually found in the soil.)
This BCSR theory has not gained wide acceptance and there is a great deal of work (see references here) debunking it and showing that yield is pretty much unrelated to cation ratio.
Kittredge also referred us to other references on the Bionutrient.org web site. While Gary Zimmer’s book on biological farming is probably pretty straightforward, the other authors are teetering on the edge of pseudo-science, notably Dr Arden Andersen and Dr Dan Skow. (Always be a bit suspicious when an author uses their academic “Dr” title on a book cover.) Both cite connections to noted charlatan and crackpot Carey Reams, who had very peculiar and non-scientific ideas about the meanings of cations and anions.
If you scan the bionutrient.org site and listen carefully to Kittredge, you will soon hear about how important the paramagnetic qualities of rock powders. The following is Kittredge’s summary of Andersen’s book, and should make any scientist’s skin crawl.
Dr. Carey Reams discovered biological ionization, RBTI or the Reams Biological Theory of Ionization. Reams taught that the function of nature is electromagnetic and primary to the chemistry of plants. He said plants grow through the process of ionization-similar to an electroplating machine and fertilization is electromagnetic in the balancing of positive and negative charges.
In short, Kittredge is a knowledgeable, working organic farmer, and a really nice man, who can probably grow crops very effectively, but there does not seem to be any science at all behind his theories and we cannot recommend that you pay good money to attend his lectures.