A MODERN GABRIEL . . . AND A HORN OF PLENTY
After studying music and architecture at Fullerton College in California, Howearth took a degree in architectural landscaping at the University of California, where he was introduced to Alan Chadwick, a horticulturist and disciple of the Austrian philosopher and clairvoyant, Rudolph Steiner, founder of Bio-Dynamic Agriculture. On the UC campus at Santa Cruz, Chadwick, in the 1960’s, set up a model garden based on the French Intensive method which he pioneered as his interpretation of bio-dynamics.
In the early spring of 1984, Howearth moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, to take up the study of acupuncture and Chinese herbal treatments at the Southwest College of Acupuncture. His exposure to the curriculum convinced him that its weakest link was lack of knowledge of how to develop radiantly healthy herbs, training for which in China can last up to six years and more. Once again, heeding the call of his plant and seed spirits, he moved to San Juan Pueblo, an Indian community at the confluence of the Rio Grande and Chama rivers, about 30 miles north of the New Mexican capital, in order to help the residents, at the request of their elders, develop skills that would allow them to return to native lands they had all but abandoned in favor of city-based U.S. government jobs, and regain a once thriving, now fast-disappearing culture rooted in the soil.
With the help of a financial grant, Howearth, together with two Indian village leaders, Ramos Oyenque and Herman Agoyo, and three young tribal apprentices, grew out from seed a three acre test plot of some 300 varieties of grains, vegetables, fruit and herb crops with the object of selling seed, a product that could realize many times the revenue per acre affordable from marketing the plant fruits they could engender.
Best candidates were native strains of corn, chili peppers, black garbanzo beans, melons, and squash. He also reintroduced to the area two South American Andean high-altitude grains, rich in amino acids, Amaranth and Quinoa – for which Howearth and named his now three-year-old daughter – as well as herbs and root vegetables, all of which had once been successfully grown in the southwest United States as confirmed by archaeological digs.
As part of his work, Howearth began to organize a search for old seeds of many types that had been preserved for generations in gourds, pots, and other vessels as well as in the adobe walls of buildings and in the root cellars of traditional Indian pueblos throughout the region.
In May 1984, Howearth first learned of "Sonic Bloom," the revolutionary new method of growing plants developed by Dan Carlson when Dan paid him a two-day visit. After learning what Carlson’s method had achieved in various parts of the United States, Howearth immediately decided to integrate it into his garden program during the ensuing summer and fall. He set up one of Dan’s sound-emitting boxes on a post at the corner of the garden which was turned on one half to one hour before and after each foliar spraying the ensuing summer and fall. He set the morning, every other week on the average. Like their treated neighbors, control plants "listened" to the sound but were not furnished with spray.
As detailed in Howearth’s meticulously detailed report, Fertilization Trials Research Data for the Sun Juan Pueblo Agricultural Project, submitted for notarization on the last day of 1985, formal tests were begun on 15 April and lasted until 15 November. Statistically speaking, this report was the most thorough one yet presented to Dan Carlson Scientific Enterprises, Inc., and outstandingly impressive with respect to what the Carlson process can achieve in less than optimal alkaline-adobe type soil and arid climate conditions.
The report is broken down into 13 rubrics including the crop-plant grown; its variety; the soil type in which it was planted; the type and quality of any fertilizer – mostly humates(**)—used in addition to Carlson’s atomized spray; irrigation times, ranging from 3 up to 8 for the whole season, depending on the crop; date of planting seeds or transplanting seedlings; percentage of seed germination (in all cases over 95%); dates for first mature fruits or seeds; total number of plants grown per row and total yield in pounds for amaranth grain, corn seeds, and tomatoes, or number of fruits for peppers and melons; average yield per plant; number of foliar spray applications; and any additional comments.
Just a brief glance at Howearth’s tally sheets cannot fail to impress one with the effectiveness of "Sonic Bloom": three varieties of amaranth were planted, Cruentes, Hypochondriacus and Nepalese, in alkaline clay-loam or adobe-sandy soils with a pH ranging from 7.7 to 7.9.
To take only the first variety, six rows were put in, the plants ranging in number from 261 to 312 per row. The odd-numbered rows, 1, 3, and 5 were treated with foliar spray; the even-numbered rows left untreated, with the following results:
Average yield per plant in pounds
Row 1 0.21
Row 3 0.21
Row 5 0.19
Row 2 0.14
Row 4 0.12
Row 6 0.12
The summary comment reads: "Sonic Bloom increased the average yield from1600 to2600 pounds per acre and reduced the maturity time by 15 days. The increase was thus over 60%." For the high-yield amaranth variety from Nepal, the Carlson treatment reduced the average maturity time by more than nine weeks. And the Hypochondriacus variety produced seed heads up to one pound in weight. This alone so impressed officials at the Centro Agronomico Tropical de Investigacion y Ensenanza (CATIE), a plant-breeding and seed-production research station at Turrialba in Costa Rica, which over 20 years had been able to grow amaranth seeds heads only 1/10 of a pound in weight, that CATIE has agreed to enter into a combined seed-exchange and research program with Carlson and Howearth.
Seven varieties of pepper were field-tested with Sonic Bloom, all of them grown in adobe-sandy loam with a pH of 7.7. Three varieties double (or came within one or two percentage points of doubling) average yield per plant. Thus, two rows of treated Cubanella (yellow, bell-shaped sweet) produced over 33 and 31 fruits per plant while two untreated rows could manage only just over 17 and 15 fruits. Respective figures for Italian Marconi (red, pointed, like an Anaheim sweet) were 25 and 29 versus 13 and 13.
Four rows each of Choco (sweet, chocolate-colored bell-shaped) and Cayenne (skinny, 4 to 6 inch, hot and esteemed by the Indians for "chili" powder) were planted and, in this instance, alternate plants in each row, rather than alternate rows, were sprayed with the Carlson nutrient. Treated plants in row number 1 -- representative for all eight rows – produced fruits in the following numbers: 34, 29, 37, 27, 32, 35, 28, 31, 39, while untreated plants in row number 2 achieved only: 14, 15, 11, 12, 9,16, 17, 11, and 18.
Examining Howearth’s data for melons, we see that Afghani Honeydews (yellow-white, green-blotched "basketball" shaped fruits with pure white insides), sprayed five times over the season produced from7 to 11 melons per plant as against 4 to 6 for untreated. Escondido Gold Muskmelons (that can be eaten right down to their thin rinds and have a fragrantly sweet and rich flavor) had their seeds soaked in Sonic Bloom nutrient overnight. After rapid germination, the treated seeds went on to produce plants with 10 to 10.3 fruits per average plant while their untreated siblings could do no better than 4 to 6.3. Golden Honey Watermelons (large, yellow inside and out, early maturing) produced rows of plants bearing on the average 12, 9, and 6 melons each while comparative figures for untreated rows ran 7, 5, and 3 and their Crimson Sweet cousins showed comparable results.
While examining the Howearth results for tomatoes, one should bear in mind that these vegetables, like carrots, have never been successfully grown in San Juan Pueblo soils! All plants were therefore sprayed with Carlson nutrient from 4 to 8 times, it being expected that any untreated plants would not thrive at all. Four varieties of large-size tomatoes gave the following results in terms of average yield per plant, reckoned in pounds: Marvel (big, heart-shaped with alternate golden, yellow and orange striped exteriors, high yield, richly flavorful, developed by Howearth from originals in Oaxaca, Mexico), 30-43. Peron Sprayless (medium-large, dark red and so-named because they don’t ‘squirt’ when cut open),17-23. Bonny Best (old-time, medium-size, ‘heirloom’ type, disease resistant), 21-39. Stupice (earliest maturer of all, red, medium-sized, yielding throughout the season, very good in greenhouses in winter), 26-42. In all cases, the highest figures were obtained with eight, the lowest with four, sprayings. Large Cherry (golf-ball-sized, excellent flavor) produced 126-179 pounds from 250 to 400 fruits per plant.
Three varieties of corn were planted in sandy-adobe loam, heavy rock-clay, and clay-loam with pH levels of 7.6, 7.9, and 8.0, respectively. The first, Mandan Sweet Red (short 75-80 day maturity time from North Dakota, only 3-1/2 feet tall) produced in alternating treated and untreated rows: 3.95, 2.13, 3.84, 1.96, 3.77, and 1.43 average pounds of corn seed per plant, the total yields for treated plants being double that of the untreated. This was due to the treated ears being twice the size of untreated ears and more numerous. In one case, a single corn seed made 5 stalks and 14 ears.
For Inca Rainbow Sweet (the only sweet corn with multi-colored kernels, red, pink, purple, etc., much better tasting than the ubiquitous yellow and white sweet corn varieties), the seeds in treated rows were soaked in "Sonic Bloom" nutrient and exposed to sound before being planted. All seeds were put in the ground on 16 May. Plants in treated rows bore first fruit between 31 August and 5 September while those in untreated rows came to the same stage only between 16 and 18 September or at least two weeks later. 2,600 untreated corn plants put out 5,829 pounds of corn seed whereas 2,504 treated plants produced 10,752 pounds. The average yield per plant for all untreated plants was 2.22 pounds and for the treated 3.77 pounds.
For Hickory King (traditional North Carolina variety yielding hefty ears and much appreciated by the Indians for posole, a stew with kernels in the liquid), the "Sonic Bloom" shortened maturity time from 120 to 99 days despite an unusually cool growing season. 3,490 treated plants produced 1,193 pounds of corn seed whereas 396 untreated plants furnished 623 pounds.
Stress + Stress
During the 1986 growing season, Howearth reports: "Conditions have been trying. Attacks by huge swarms of grasshoppers were the main problem and it took quite a while to solve it with some ancient esoteric Mayan Indian techniques. The majority of our surviving crops were amaranth and other native species. Whole varieties of grains and vegetables were completely destroyed. I hope this year’s experience will teach us a lot about which seeds can produce the staying power to overcome such adverse conditions, because in Africa, for instance, locusts have been on the rampage in 1986 over millions of square miles and our San Juan Pueblo seeds, established on that continent in 35 test plots, are proving to be resistant to the onslaught."
** Humates are million-year old composts derived from the evaporation of inland seas and formed of fresh- and sea-water plankton over the centuries. They are ground to powder with a hammer-mill. Howearth obtains his from a deposit that contains 42% humic acid.
-- Acres, November 1986
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