SONIC BLOOM - An Interview with Its Creator: Dan Carlson
- Dale Lucht & Esther Turner
In the early 1960’s a young GI, stationed in Korea, witnessed a mother lay her young child beneath the tires of an Army truck, crushing his legs. She did it so she could get money from the government to feed her children. The GI’s name was Dan Carlson, a young Minnesota recruit, who, after witnessing that sacrifice, decided to devote his life to wiping out hunger.
How many people as young adults, make an oath like that, and then are sidetracked? But Dan Carlson didn’t get off the track. He went to college and studied horticulture and agriculture. As a result of Dan’s commitment, he developed his own present business “Sonic Bloom.” Sonic Bloom is more than a cute name, but is actually a revolutionary new technique to make plants grow and grow abundantly and beautifully!
While in college, Carlson concluded that if plants could be fed through their leaves, then it wouldn’t matter if the soil were poor. In leaves there are tiny pores called stomata that take in carbon dioxide and water from the air and give off oxygen. His theory was to feed the plants through the stomata with a mixture of nutrients. The trick was to get the stomata to open up when they were being sprayed.
At this time he stumbled on a record called “Growing Plants Successfully in the Home,” by George Milstein. That gave him the idea of using music to open the stomata upon demand. Carlson enlisted Michael Holtz, a Minneapolis music teacher, to aid him in developing music to go along with oscillating “cricket chirping” that Carlson had developed. Holtz realized that its pitch was consonant with early-morning bird chirping. They blended the chirping and musical tones into one sound which forms a command that stimulates the plant’s stomata to open and absorb the offered fertilization. Together, the stimulating harmonics and growth producing nutrients produced exceptional results. This blended recording is now available on cassette and is furnished in the Sonic Bloom Kit.
As our car entered the long driveway to his Nut Farm near River Falls, WI, we heard the unusual sounds of chirping! As we pulled up to the house, we were immediately met by Dan. After our four-hour drive, it was especially nice to be greeted with his warm smile and hardy welcome!
How is it that when you first talk to someone, and before you meet them, you already know that you will “connect” with them personally. I had this feeling about Dan Carlson. We had spoken several times by phone before I decided that I would like to know more about him and his product “Sonic Bloom.” In those conversations, I could sense something intriguing about him. Call it intuition, but I could feel a devotion and sincerity in his voice that caught my attention.
Dan bent down and picked up a hickory nut that was just starting to sprout and gave it to me. “Here, you can start your own tree from the nut farm!” The three of us immediately meshed and I knew this was going to be more than an interview but an adventure.
“Dan, the first thing I have to ask is . . . What is all that chirping?” Dan laughed and went on to explain the way he uses sound to promote plant growth. He’s been playing his music for the nut trees on the farm and is reproducing nuts from those endangered trees successfully with Sonic Bloom. As we talked, I learned that Dan is a nut tree expert who has personally cultivated and matured the following varieties on his farm: Chestnut, Horse Chestnut, Butternut, Beechnut, and Heartnut. I learned that there are more than one variety of Walnut and Hickory Nut and that some develop more “meat” such as the Weshcke Walnut.
Dan has a way about him that puts you at ease and makes you feel comfortable. I felt as if I was talking with an old friend. His warm smile and eyes display a quiet strength -- a strength which motivates him to fulfill his lifelong goal to assist in eradicating the hunger of the world.
We walked over to his favorite spot on the farm. A clearing amongst the nut trees, surrounded by wild flowers with their vibrant colors sparkling in the sun. He requested that we sit on an old tree trunk. This is the spot where Dan goes to collect himself during those difficult times and as I looked at him, I could feel the compassion this man has for life and nature.
Dan shared the fact that he does a lot of negotiating for business from around the world. Recently, he’s had representatives from England, Mexico, and Japan come to his farm at River Falls. He had them stay in his log cabin not far from this special spot. Dan loves to take his guests out into nature because it removes the formal atmosphere and helps everyone to relax. Looking around at this spot, I can understand why he feels this way. In 1980, Carlson incorporated, and now has patents in 35 countries. And what are the results? A Pennsylvania alfalfa grower wins every contest, both for growth and nutrition. A cauliflower box that normally contains a dozen heads, only holds four heads of “Sonic Bloom” cauliflower heads. Soybean plants produce up to 300 pods per plant (30 to 35 is normal). (The beans treated in Wisconsin contained 27% protein against a normal 15%.) Dill plants over four feet tall. Calla lilies over six feet tall. Bell pepper plants bearing over 50 peppers per plant.
Sonic Bloom’s ingredients are “generally recognized as safe,” says Carlson, and have been approved by different organic growers associations. Also, the shelf life of Sonic Bloom produce is longer because there is more nutrition and trace minerals in each head of lettuce, tomato or watermelon.
Another benefit from Sonic Bloom is that, because the plant takes its nutrition through its leaves and is absorbed throughout the whole plant, including its roots, the nutritional value of the soil actually improves.
Gabriel Howearth moved to San Juan Pueblo, New Mexico, in 1984. Among other things, Howearth introduced amaranth, a high protein grain. The soil was alkaline clay-loam or adobe-sandy with a pH ranging from 7.7 to 7.9. Sonic Bloom increased the average yield from 1600 to 2600 pounds per acre and reduced the maturity time by 15 days. It’s obvious that Carlson’s main focus is still on feeding the hungry, as well as growing food on poor soil.
He is also involved in an experiment in Israel where they are trying to increase production of endangered African trees.
Another interesting project Dan is working on is with the Chinese government dealing with the province of Sinhiang of Inner Mongolia. The Chinese government has sent representatives to River Falls to work with Dan on improving their crop yields. He is showing them he can grow plants in the worst areas of the world. His rewards come from the awareness that, “He is starting to feed people!”
He is also treating yew trees with Sonic Bloom. There is an extract from the bark that is showing promise in curing cancer. With Sonic Bloom, he is able to get the taxol into the needles; thus eliminating the need to kill the tree to obtain the taxol. In experiments he has been able to triple production of the taxol. Always the humanitarian, he says, “That means three times more people can be helped.”
He recently returned from the Philippines where he was asked to advise them on what can now be done after the devastating volcanic eruptions. Many times the soil is improved as in what happened at Mt. St. Helens in the United States. But the Mt. Pinatubo eruption contained sulfur dioxide, which is poisonous.
Dan showed us pictures from the Philippines with 15 feet of ash on the ground covering all life in the mountains. A million and a half people were relocated in Manila from the June 14,1991 disaster. A local university leader arranged to bring Dan in on a 4-wheel drive caravan to this devastated area where they are trying to recover and grow new vegetation. He went there to show them how his technique grows new plants. The special music aids in the absorption of nutrients and allows the plants to translocate the nutrients down into the soil and become accustomed to the toxins. He has been working with reclaiming soil from volcanic devastation for a few years now, with great success.
Dan’s witty sense of humor showed when he talked about how he views reclaiming devastated soil. He calls his attitude the “Robin Hood Approach,” where he robs from the rich (brings in nutrients) and gives to the poor (the depleted soil). Dan giggled with the thought.
Carlson said that not only did it affect the Philippines, but it also threw vast amounts of sulfur dioxide into the upper atmosphere and we may be affected by it in the future.
One current event Dan is extremely excited about is the annual Chelsea Flower Show in England. He has been invited to the biggest horticultural show in the world. This 23-acre flower show is called the “Show of Shows!” Dan is thrilled with his invitation, for it represents recognition for his work and products. On display will be his own rose bushes which yield 67-70 flower per bush as opposed to 8-10 from a normal rose plant. In listening to Dan, I could hear the sound of a deep satisfaction in his voice as he said, ”This show gives me the chance to share my joy with the world!”
Not all of his experiments are of a serious nature. Years ago his wife allowed him to try Sonic Bloom on her passion plant. Although it normally grows to about 18 inches, the more often he treated it, the more it grew. By the time the Guinness Book of World Records came to measure it, the plant was over 1300 feet long.
When we visited him at his nut farm near River Falls, WI, Carlson’s knowledge and love of the land and trees was very apparent.
The farm is an experiment, as well as a relaxation for this dynamic man.
One would think that the nut farm was his full time occupation. But, this is not so. His full time work is still “Sonic Bloom.” Even after 30 years, he is still excited by his quest.