David C Johnson on soils and carbon and nitrogen sequestration.

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Norman Baker

Apr 12, 2018, 2:47:31 AM4/12/18
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PNW Biocharistos;

By now many of you probably seen (or at least should see) the latest issue of Acres Magazine that contains an interview of David C Johnson, a researcher at New Mexico State University in the College of Engineering. Very interesting and creative man. Unfortunately, the interview in Acres does not really do him or his work justice. Dr. Johnson uses a lot of PowerPoint slides to illustrate his points and conclusions and none of his slides are in the Acres magazine to support his interview. I have gone through every slide and every conclusion and, frankly I cannot find anything amiss in what he says. There are several additional questions to be asked and I'm sure all of us will start to ask those questions. The problem with what he says is that it is different from traditional soils dogma about plant nutrition. And, just so you know, he is aware of biochar but has not used it in his research. 

As he says at one point in the interview, "our traditional view is that the soil is a sponge to which we add things in order to make plants grow". His research shows us how to use natural soil biology to build a naturally fertile soil that sequesters carbon and builds nitrogen. I'm not saying his research is one grand answer to soil fertility, but it is a huge step forward. I would love the opportunity to talk to him at length in depth and ask some basic questions.

Unfortunately also, he came to academic research rather late in his life and so far has only published a very few peer reviewed scientific papers where you can really see and understand what he has accomplished - so far. A basic literature search on Google Scholar or ProQuest will take you to those publications easily. I have been looking at his work for some time now and I think it is extremely creative, extremely intuitive and is a huge leap forward in understanding our soils chemistry, carbon sequestration, and soils restoration. Most of his work is explained by himself in YouTube videos where the academic community brought him into to do presentations of his thinking and research. Truth is, I feel his research opens a whole new arena of answers and possibilities and, I find nothing questionable about his research. But, it sure opens the doors for lots of new questions.

When you go to Google David C Johnson, on You Tube, specify New Mexico State University. Otherwise you will run into several videos on David C Johnson - singer and guitar player. The Australians are probably five years ahead of the US in terms of soils research, carbon credits, soils restoration and fighting global warming. Of the eight videos you will find on a Google search and You Tube search, there are two that I recommend you start with - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=18FVVYKU9gs and also https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XlB4QSEMzdg&t=150s. These two present a good brief overview of his research and perspective and I guarantee everyone will start asking questions of interpretation and application. Then start watching the other YouTube videos to fill in more and more details. 

You will see his Johnson-Su bioreactor design to make fungal dominated compost, which can be used as compost for soil and plant nutrition. As you will see in the videos he also uses that compost as a seed inoculant to inoculate the soil with the appropriate fungal species. I have already built one of his bioreactors and will be filling it with suitable composting material in the near future. This is going to be a very interesting addition to biochar in soils and mineral balancing for plant nutrition.

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