Ed's Coffee Library

and Other Thoughts and Findings

By Ed Chen on 2015 27 August

Let's Talk About Tropical Soil Sustainability

Rooster Farms is an all-organic farm which does not use any chemical inputs. We use natural processes to create sustainable farming practices, and have been using both the latest techniques as well as tried and true techniques used by native Hawaiians to farm coffee since our inception over 30 years ago by Michael Craig. Four aspects of soil fertility include soil organic matter dynamics, efficiency of of nutrient use from organic sources, soil water regimes, and the role of soil fauna.

In the past, the majority of non-organic farmers have paid attention to the chemistry of soil fertility without considering the biological aspects of soil fertility. Thus, in many parts of the world, non-organic farmers have ruined their soil, as well as the flavor of their coffee by flooding their soil with salt based fertilizers such as ammonium nitrate, potassium nitrate, and other sources of chemical fertilizers which derive from salt based synthetic chemicals at high concentrations. These chemical fertilizers are typically injected in liquid forms, and only are available to plants for a short period of time, with most of their availability evaporated into the air, or leached into the ground water. To make matters worse, because of the salt qualities of these fertilizers, they have the tendency to cause microorganisms to die due to osmotic stress or sudden bursts of over nutrition. Think about what happens when you have too much to drink, and you can imagine how the soil biota feels when they are flooded with nutrients a few times a year.

On Rooster farms we have focused on building soil organic matter through scientific weed whacking, and meticulous application of green compost onto the soil. The plants which are whacked, act as natural miners of nutrients from the deep volcanic soils of Hawaii, excreting enzymes which help to break down the volcanic rock, to produce a rich soil for our coffee to grow in. Soil organic matter is the number 1 measure of the health of our trees, and if you visit our farm, you can see the difference immediately in our trees which have been in organic soil for over 30 years.
By keeping our soil covered in other green plants, with everything growing from Hawaiian Ti trees, to Taro roots, to turmeric and Mondo grass to fill the space between the trees, we make sure we do not lose the nutrients and soil organic matter we have worked so hard to build over the years. We also provide a safe and happy home for the microbiota of the soil which is so important to creating a sustainable growing environment for our coffee crops.

With increased levels of CO2 a major problem, we have also found a way for our plants, which use CO2 as a fuel, to further benefit from this problem. By using natural processes using low levels of electricity (think lightning) to fix nitrogen out of the air, our plants grow even faster, by having additional nitrogen resources in the air, which they absorb through their leaves, to then utilize sunlight to absorb additional carbon dioxide, both helping to lower carbon dioxide levels in the air, and to give our coffee berries an even greater sweetness and higher oil content. Our patented process produces nitrogen sources at parts per million levels so neither the soil biota nor the air sustains pollution from these sources.

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