Investing in Regenerative Agriculture and Food

248 Olivier Husson - Photosynthesis is the biggest lever we have in health, climate, draughts, floods, but most plants are too sick to do it properly

September 19, 2023 Koen van Seijen Episode 248
Investing in Regenerative Agriculture and Food
248 Olivier Husson - Photosynthesis is the biggest lever we have in health, climate, draughts, floods, but most plants are too sick to do it properly
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

A conversation with Olivier Husson, engineer, system agronomist and agroecologist, working on a health approach based around the balance of Eh (electrons) and pH (protons) in soil, plants, microorganisms, animals, etc. Unbalanced Eh-pH conditions lead to poor nutrition and poor photosynthesis. As consequence, plants which lack energy and are being oxidised are attacked by pests and pathogens.

Everything starts with plants and optimal photosynthesis, but most plants are too sick to optimally turn sunlight into energy. So, they are not able to create or regenerate soils. This is a fascinating deep dive into healthy plants and non-healthy plants. In short, it is all about energy and energy we either get from photosynthesis or photosynthesis from a few million years ago, aka fossil fuels.

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Speaker 1:

Everything starts with plants and optimal photosynthesis, but most plants are too sick to optimally turn sunlight into energy, so they're not able to create or regenerate soils. Join us for a fascinating deep dive into healthy plants and non-healthy plants. We talk about the balance between EH electrons and pH protons In soil, plants, microorganisms, animals, etc. Unbalanced EH-PH conditions lead to poor nutrition, poor photosynthesis and, as a consequence, plants like the energy and are being oxidized. And guess what happens next? These plants are being attacked by pests and pathogens and need to spend a lot of energy on fighting off these pests and pathogens, which means they don't have the energy to produce healthy food. In short, it's all about energy and the energy we either get from photosynthesis or from photosynthesis from a few million years ago, aka fossil fuels.

Speaker 1:

What are the connections between healthy farming practices, healthy soil, healthy produce, healthy gut and healthy people? Welcome to a special series where we go deep into the relationship between regenerative agriculture, practices that build soil, health and the nutritional quality of the food we end up eating. We unpack the current state of science, the role of investments, businesses, nonprofits, entrepreneurs and more. We're very happy with the support of the Grandham Foundation for the protection of the environment for this series. The Grandham Foundation is a private foundation with a mission to protect and conserve the natural environment. Find out more on grandhamfoundationorg or in the links below. Welcome to another episode today, with an engineer in agronomy working on one health an approach based on the balance of electrons, ea and pH protons in soil, plants, microorganisms, animals, etc. Welcome, olivier.

Speaker 2:

Hi, welcome. Thank you Sorry.

Speaker 1:

And first of all shout out to Pierre Ville, who introduced us. I have a lot of questions around this because, as you know, I'm not a soil nor animal expert, and so I'm going to ask, I think, very often what does that mean in plain English, and can you explain that again? But I think I used to that and you've been in this place for so long, so I always love to start with a personal question and a question how did you end up focusing on soil and how did you end up focusing on agriculture as a career path? Because there are many other paths you could take, as an engineer, for sure. So what was it that triggered you into the fascination for food, ag and soil?

Speaker 2:

Well, I don't know exactly. I always wanted to be at work in agriculture. I was lucky enough when I started my career to have some bosses who told me that I was not allowed to specialize in anything, so that's a very nice way to focus on what is the most important. I just try to be as efficient as possible, to change the system and improve the way we grow things and the way we can keep our soil healthy.

Speaker 1:

And do you remember when you noticed, or when it hit you? When you discovered, let's say that the current way of farming is not doing that, is doing the opposite.

Speaker 2:

Again. I was really lucky to meet Lucien Segui very early in my career, so he's been working on conservation agriculture. He was one of the pioneers in conservation agriculture. He was working in Brazil but he came to visit us several times in Madagascar. I spent most of my life in tropical countries, in Vietnam, in Madagascar, so Lucien was really a pioneer of conservation agriculture and changing the system and showing how we need to regenerate the soil and how the plants are so important for the system to work properly.

Speaker 1:

It's interesting you mentioned that the plants as a focus point. Basically, the plants are sort of the entry, or the plants are the key tool and I'm using two here very deliberately, but of course it's not fair but a key tool to build healthy soil.

Speaker 2:

Yes, yes, yes, there's, there's. It's clearly something we have to stress more often is that all the energy from the system comes from plants, from the photosynthesis.

Speaker 1:

So actually it comes from the sun.

Speaker 2:

Yes, it comes from the sun, but the sun on the bare soil it's really oxidizing. It's lots of, a lot of energy. On the contrary, the energy of the sun is the energy for photosynthesis if you have plants. So the plants are the key to catch all the energy from the sun and to inject it in the system and then the plants will feed, the microorganism will and we would. All this energy will be used to fill in all the functions we need to have for soil to work properly. So, especially on soil, structure is fundamental, is a key point, and to keep to create and to keep a good soil structure, you need plant roots, you need macrophona, earthworms or they eat plants red nans and you need microorganism that are fed by the plants. So all the energy from the system comes from the plants and that's really one one thing that strikes me in the one of approach.

Speaker 2:

The one of approach was designed first by by veteran irons and doctors in medicine, and the soil and the plants are the last piece in the puzzle they bring in. And for me this is the opposite. It's the plants are worth. All the system relies on it. It's without the plants. We often hear that you need healthy soil to have healthy plants. It's the opposite you need plants to have healthy soil and healthy plants, and healthy plants any plants.

Speaker 2:

But first you need to catch the energy to improve the soil structure. Then you can get healthy plants that will make healthy soil. But really the first step is to have plants growing. You can grow plants without soil. You remove the plants from the soil, you get a dessert. Dessert with a scent only in a few months or years and depends on the climate.

Speaker 1:

And so it's really an energy question. Yes, I've heard people say like farmers are basically solar energy entrepreneurs and they use very small solar panels which are leaves and need to capture as much as possible and as long as possible and as layered as possible, almost to not waste, basically like a single ray of sunlight. Like you need to capture as much as possible and that's why you sent an email before. Like plants have to grow as much as possible, as long as possible and all over the year, which sort of goes against most of conventional agriculture systems at the moment. But just to explain, how much of a difference can that make in terms of if an experience that comes to mind, or an example, just to paint the picture a bit clearer, of how important plants are to make the soil and how important to turn that like sort of the key or the engine starts with plants taking sunlight and then turning it into sugars and exodates, etc.

Speaker 2:

How can you get it? I'm not sure I understand your question, In fact.

Speaker 1:

No, you've worked in the tropics, in the Madagascar, and like the difference between taking the plants first compared to the conventional approach of, okay, any better soil to grow a plant at all.

Speaker 2:

The main difference between temperates and tropical conditions is that in and in tropical conditions, if you don't work properly with nature, you can destroy the soil extremely fast. Within a few months, you get all your soil lost and then wasted. It's longer in temperate conditions, so that's a good thing.

Speaker 1:

We're finding out now.

Speaker 2:

basically, yeah, but it's the same processes, that it's just that in tropical conditions they are faster and quicker and stronger, so it's easier to study them.

Speaker 2:

That's also one of the reasons why I'd like to work on the tropical conditions, but at the end it's always the same If you remove the energy from the system, nothing is working anymore. And mainly the soil structure is fundamental, and to keep the soil structure you need energy. You need to feed microbes, you need to feed the earthworms, the termites, all the ecological engineers, what we call them, and if you stop feeding them, then you don't have the manpower to sustain this structure. And you also need the energy to make the glues that keeps the soil structure, all this fungi that will produce different kind of sugar, but also glues that will sustain the structure. We need a structure that will not collapse in water, and all this is energy. And this is the main difference we can see with conventional system is that in a geological system, in regenerative agriculture, the principle is to have most of the energy of the system coming from direct photosynthesis from the plant.

Speaker 1:

In conventional agriculture we use fossil energy, but it is very old solar energy, but this is all again coming from the photosynthesis.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, it's something like 100 million years ago. So that's the main difference. And the second main difference is that, as I said, soil structure is a key and with rotating tool, with iron and fossil energy, you can recreate some macro porosity for a while, but it will not be stable. But you cannot create the micro porosity, the one, the small pores where you can keep water, where you will have your water reserve. So that's another major difference. We use Fossil energy and we are not able to make the soil structure sufficient to keep water. When water is getting in, it's hitting us hard now. It's a key. It's really a key. Also, now we need to store as much rainwater as possible and the best way to store it is to have good soil structure with this micro pores that will store the water, that will retain the water, and this is made by micro organism. It's a very small pores and you cannot make them artificially, mechanically, and do you?

Speaker 1:

remember when the one health and the concept of basically the one health came on your path, when you started looking also at the quality of the plants or the health of the plants and then obviously, how to translate at some point into humans or whoever consumes those plants. With bleu blancueur, obviously it's very often goes through an animal, the animal protein side. But when almost this quality or nutrient density or health piece became part of your work, was that from the beginning or was that later on?

Speaker 2:

No, at the beginning, we quite rapidly understood that, with all my colleagues and from Syrat working in the team, we understood that the plants were the key and that we needed to have as much as possible. So we designed cropping system in order to. To announce this, and it's only later on when we started working on the micronutrients needed for photosynthesis and all this, and when I started to work on this redox approach, which is basically based on energy. The redox is the electron, so it's the energy kept in the electron, phs in the proton. Basically, I see a plant like a nitrogen plant. Photosynthesis is mainly storing energy in the form of hydrogens, and it's hydrogen and oxygen. It's all this pH story with electron and proton. Hydrogen is one electron and one proton, so when we add Proton or electrons to the system, we we store energy and the plant is the vision we are from photosynthesis. We always talking about carbon. We need to store carbon. Co2 has no energy, so it's full of and and diamond.

Speaker 2:

Diamond is pure carbon, but you don't grow anything on carbon or charcoal, so the importance that the carbon in fact is the storage unit is the compartment of the battery and the but it's not the battery itself and it's not the energy but an empty battery is useless, so you're saying let's focus on the energy, focus on the energy.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, focus on the. The energy inside that is the carbon is just the chance of carbon, are just the compartment to store energy. So we need to look at all the hydrogen's that are stored and also the, the aromatic cycles, because you have electrons also. But mainly when you start looking hydrogen versus oxygen, you have a good idea for the amount of energy you have in your, in your system, and it's what we need to look at in the, in your mouse, in in all the, in all the functioning, in all the components and and. At the end it's this energy that you will get back in the in your food okay and is that bit like.

Speaker 1:

I remember from the first time we appear on Pierre. We love Blancur. He was saying the omega 3 6 ratio is a really good proxy of what happened in the value chain or in the chain and if soy has been used or other things to, to unbalance that. Are you saying that the EHPH balance or non-balance, unbalance is a really good proxy of everything else and that that, like, if it's real well balanced, we can say that this is a well functioning and does well functioning, mainly also in the photosynthesis piece. Because that's what we want. We want an efficient plant that takes in a lot of this solar energy and not not take it in.

Speaker 2:

Basically, yeah, is it a good proxy for health yes, but it's not always enough.

Speaker 1:

But it's of course more complicated yeah, it's.

Speaker 2:

You need to look at why it happens, because you, you, in fact how do you measure that or how do you look at it? So we, we. It takes quite a few times. We took us five years to be able to measure properly because the measurement in with electrodes, for in electrochemistry, the, the measurement falls by the electromagnetic field. So it's getting more and more complicated to measure. But we are developing for the plants. We are measuring now through infrared spectrometer. So we need in field, in field.

Speaker 2:

We need to calibrate for for each plant. It's what we are doing at the moment, but the measurement is much faster and and and more accurate as I can imagine when you take a leaf and send it to the energy is gone, like it's not.

Speaker 2:

It's irrelevant yeah, it has to be unplanned yeah, we need to do it at a certain time or in the day, because during the night there was no photosynthesis, so the in the morning, the, the heat is dropping fast because the plant is getting energy from the sun and so. But the main problem is to measure the right scale for, for, for the different processes, because all this is compartmented in the plant. For instance, it's not the same level in the roots or in the leaves, it's not the same level in the, the apoplasa and outside the cell, inside the cell and in the mitochondria or in the coroplast or in the.

Speaker 2:

So it's compartmentalized. So that's that's difficulty, but but in plant physiology there's a lot of publication on this. So it's it's not so difficult to have good information and and, as agronomists, just measuring the average level of the leaf if you take the, always the same type of leaf, because also young leaves are oxidized and then fully photosynthetically active plants are leaves. So so but once you understood this, it's rather easy to have the measurement. Now, especially with the spectrometer, we were able to get get rain, quite a lot of information at the moment, especially for plants like grapevine or wheat.

Speaker 1:

So and then was it tell you? What does it tell you as an agronomist and also, indirectly or directly, the farmer? Like let's say it's an unbalanced or let's start with the balance, like it's a balanced reading you get and you compare it in like this this looks good, like is there, doesn't mean the farmer doesn't have to act and doesn't have to do anything, or what. What does it tell the agronomic practice?

Speaker 2:

basically, so that the it will tell you if the plant has enough energy and if you can control the pH correctly. Because controlling pH is very important and it costs energy. You need to activate pumps that that consume ATP. So you are, you need energy to regulate almost everything. To absorb the nutrient, the solubility of the nutrients relies on EH and pH. For most of them as well, the the form of nitrogen, mineral nitrogen, is based on EH and pH diagrams and and it impacts all the plant nutrition for many, many aspects and all the plant physiology. Absorption of nitrates is will oxidize a lot the plant and alkalin ice a lot the plant. Absorption of ammonium will acidify a lot the plant and and the different type of pathogens and insect and pests. They feed on plants that are too oxidized and, according to different pH, each type of pathogen or pest can develop or can feed on on different parts of the of the plant and when they are at EH and pH level that that should suit them.

Speaker 1:

So basically, a plant will get attacked if parts of the plant are not in balance in terms of yeah, they are in balance and they are oxidized.

Speaker 2:

In fact, they lack energy. And they lack energy because fantasies, photosynthesis was not a a sufficiency form and an average wheat field.

Speaker 1:

If you walk into it, how bad is it? Like a conventional, like that's? Let's not talk, but like, if, like, how unbalanced or how like just comparing it to like really well, let's say soil focused farmers, like, what's the difference? Is it night and day? Are we talking in terms of like? Just to understand for people that don't do this very regularly and see it in a lab or in the field like, how different? Like are they really sick plants compared to the other one? Or is the difference not so much?

Speaker 2:

so we're talking of a few tens of millivolts. We measure EH is a measure of a tension, of a voltage, so we measure millivolts and we can see difference between resistant or tolerant plants and susceptible plants. It's around 20 millivolts. So it's small differences we need to measure and there's a high variability. And what? What is the key, what is fundamental to understand, is that when you have a compacted soil with a poor soil structure, as soon as it rains it's water, like the water as fixates everything. So the plants will get, the roots will not breathe, there will be no oxygen for the roots, so the photosynthesis will go down. So the plant is under asphyxia and the photosynthesis goes down. So the leaf, the ayurvedic parts, will oxidize because photosynthesis is not efficient. And as soon as this soil is dry, they get really oxidized and then it's the opposite.

Speaker 2:

So for the plant it's almost impossible to keep a balance, because it goes from asphyxia to over oxidation within two days. So that's that's the real problem with compacted soil. And then all the plant nutrition is deficient and all the nutrients will not be absorbed or not in the proper form, and then they will be attacked and then they have to fight.

Speaker 2:

So they have to use to spend energy. It's a vicious circle. When the photosynthesis is not enough, is not functioning enough, the plant will spend a lot of energy just for for nutrient absorption. If the soil is oxidized, the plant needs to spend energy to reduce around the the roots in the rhizosphere, to reduce and acidify, to get iron, to get manganese, which are essential elements for the photosynthesis. So the plant has not enough energy and it needs to spend a lot of energy to access to the nutrients. And it will absorb nitrates when it's oxidized. So it creates an imbalance on pH. Ph will get alkalinized a lot. So the plant needs to regulate this and spend energy to do this. So it has no energy to produce more leaves, so no energy to catch the sunlight to make photosynthesis so. So it's a vicious circle.

Speaker 2:

It's a spiral down, basically yes, and you go down and down and then there's the plant produce a little amount of biomass, so there's little energy for the soil to keep the soil structure, to feed the microorganism, to feed the all the macrophona. So you, the structure gets down, spiraling down and down. Once you have enough energy in the plant, the photosynthesis, you manage to produce enough, then you, you start upwards per spiral, it's, it will improve and improve and the soil will be more and more balanced. So the plant will not need to spend energy to get access to the nutrients, so it will can. There will be high photosynthesis, a lot of biomass production, and then you improve the soil structure and and you go on like this. So, so it's. There's really threshold levels, when the soil has not enough energy anymore. The plants needs to to to bring in the energy in the system.

Speaker 1:

So all the energy that she spent for this, she will not have it to make new leaves so, and that means less energy into the system because, as we learned, all the energy comes from the leaves, have come from photosynthesis. And what does it mean for the quality? I mean, you mentioned wheat and grapes, like in the end, like, have you the step to the quality and the quantity of the harvest? I can only imagine it's. It's not good, but, like as a, do you have any anecdotal or in general experience there what it means for what you end up harvesting? I can imagine a stressed plant is not gonna yield what you wanted to yield, both in quantity and quality. But what? What have you seen there?

Speaker 2:

so the it's again a matter of energy. When the plant has enough energy, it can store it, making lipids, making secondary metabolites, making a lot of antioxidants, oxidants, a lot of entocyanin, of flavonoid, all this energy rich elements, when it has time, basically when it's relaxed, when it's not stressed for a survivor it has enough energy to, to spend, to store it, and then this energy is available when the plants would need it.

Speaker 2:

When you have a week with a cloudy sky where the photosynthesis will go down, then the plant we can as enough reserve to to to continue feeding the microorganism in the soil that are needed for for nutrient absorption, for water prospection, for for many things. So all the, all the stress in the plants or in the living organism are oxidizing stress. So the plant will need to spend energy to face the stress. It can be a drought, it can be a nutrient deficiency, it can be an attack by a pest. All this is oxidizing, so it's a loss of energy. So if the plant has enough energy, it can, it can face this without, without any any problem. When it starts lacking energy, there's, it will spend. There's two, two stages in fact. A plant will produce a lot of antioxidants, either when it has a lot of energy and then it can store it.

Speaker 1:

Or when it's under stress. Or when it's under stress, because I've heard of stories I never remember where, but it's good to stress them sometimes, because then you get that yes it's good to stress them, I never really understood that the plants, all the stress, are oxidizing, so the defense is antioxidants.

Speaker 2:

So, if you have If you stress the plants, it will be obliged to spend the little energy it has to produce antioxidants, otherwise the cell will just be destroyed. When it's too oxidized, the cell makes a cell death. So you wanted an anecdote, john Kemp, who says Ask the the, how do you call this? The cannabis producer? If they stress their plants to have a lot of TSH? No, they put them in perfect condition so that they can. They have a lot of energy and they can store a lot of this mid-secondarimitaballite. So, seah, you have two different ways.

Speaker 1:

But the safer way, let's say, is to not miss, to create the abundance.

Speaker 2:

In fact, when a plant has not enough energy, it will get attacked by different fungi, different bacteria, different. It depends on the pH and on the location. But the oxidation of the plant, the lack of energy of the plant, will allow the pest or the pathogen to develop or to attack or to digest when they are eating it. So in such condition the way for the plant to defend itself is also to kill locally. By over oxidation. It sends H2O2 around the fungi this green and Not green, sorry, black or brown around the fungi on a leaf, for instance.

Speaker 2:

So the plant has not enough energy to defend itself through reduction, through antioxidants. So it kills locally through over oxidation. So that's the only way for her. There's not enough energy to be digestible by the pest or pathogen, so it gets really oxidized, just like making a backfire or a counterfire to stop the fire. So you destroy, you sacrifice some cells, you can avoid the contamination of all the plants, and so locally it kills through over oxidation and then systemically it sends a signal to the rest of the plants saying we are too oxidized and we are attacked. So now we grow less and we keep more energy.

Speaker 1:

Okay still to protect it. Basically triggers. Yeah.

Speaker 2:

Which of?

Speaker 1:

course, is not something you want as a grower.

Speaker 2:

It's not something I want. But then if we move back to this one health approach, constantly, the way conventional system works, it's globally oxidizing practices, so the plant gets oxidized, so you have to protect and you help the plants to kill the DNA through over oxidation. Basically it's the main way for the plant protection in conventional system. Some are different, but most of them are like this.

Speaker 1:

Meaning the agrochemicals you use spray, etc.

Speaker 2:

Most of the fertilizer you use are oxidizing. Tilling the soil is oxidizing and not having plants all the time is oxidizing because you don't get the energy. So that's the main strategy is to help. The plant kills it's in me through over oxidation. But then the photosynthesis is producing antioxidants. So you go back to Narae where the different pathogen and pests can thrive again. So again you over oxidize, but at the end you get a product that is oxidized, that has low energy level. So when you think that, when you realize that digestive tube or stomach, it's just like a root that has been invaginated. It's the same structure, the same function. In our belly, the animals in their stomach, we grow some microorganisms that will digest the food we ingest. The plant does the same. The plant grows.

Speaker 1:

It says not internally, it's inside out.

Speaker 2:

But in topology, our digestive tube is the external environment. It's outside, it's open, it's an open air. So what does that means that the food we absorb is the equivalent for the plant of the soil. So when the plant is, Can we access it?

Speaker 1:

Can we?

Speaker 2:

access it. If we feed ourselves or the animals with two oxidized plants, we don't get enough energy. And then we need to spend energy to stabilize, to regulate the pH and all the things, and this you can measure in the room and, of course, for instance, you have some document on this. To regulate the pH you use energy. You use pH, proton, atp pumps that consume energy. So you're getting more and more oxidized. So when you change the diet from a cow, from a diet rich in, let's say, from green grass to corn silage, you see an acidification. You say the vash is getting acidosis, but the pH is stabilizing. At one level it drops but then stabilizes. And if you don't look at the EH, the redox potential, you don't see that the cow is oxidizing. It's our self.

Speaker 1:

So basically you're saying you miss it because it drops, but then it stays stable. Even though the cow is working really hard and spending a lot of energy on yes because there's a physiological level under which the pH doesn't go.

Speaker 2:

It cannot go below this, otherwise nothing will work. The enzyme will not work anymore. So the animals need to sustain this pH level. It's the minimum level at which it can work and then for this it spends more and more and more energy and when all the energy is exhausted then it gets sick and with a lot of disease. And we can find this also for humans.

Speaker 2:

Do you have some review paper on COVID-19 showing that it's purely redox disease, not purely but strongly redox disease, where the virus just exhausts your antioxidant reserve. If you have enough, then you can fight, it's okay. You don't feel it. If you don't have enough, it gets exhausted and then the reaction is to try to kill the virus through over oxidation. It's this cytokinein storm that drives you to the hospital and then the long COVID is when you don't recover your antioxidant defense. So all this is very well described in this review paper. So that's the interesting part also in looking at this very bio-energetics approach through redox and pH, because you can understand how it works in the soil, how the soil structure is fundamental to keep this balance, how it impacts the plant nutrition, how it impacts the plant disease.

Speaker 1:

It doesn't mean that our gut structure is fundamental. If we take the soil microbiome and the gut microbiome, does that equal?

Speaker 2:

It works the same way. It's the same structure, it's the same functions. It's just not the same microorganism, it's not the same level of functioning. The plants are more reduced than the animals. All the energy comes from the plants, so if the reduction is the accumulation of energy, so of the hydrogen especially. So it's very specific. Each organism and each part of an organism in fact has a specific EH pH level at which it works. Well, we need to sustain this. You have locally this, but you also have a lot of redox and pH signal, systemic waves and a lot of information to transfer through this. So it's measuring, it. It's a good proxy, but you need to understand the detail functioning behind this. But all the way, how it works, all the physiological changes it creates in the plant, all these are very well described in many, many, many publications. So we just gather different things that have been measured since Redox and physiology. It's the last 20 years only. It's rather recent. Ph is very old and the two works together. You cannot look at one without looking at the other one, otherwise you cannot understand. Well, really, that's the thing we need to understand.

Speaker 2:

Oxidation in biology is different than for the electrochemistry. Oxidation in biology is the gain of oxygen or the loss of hydrogen. In electrochemistry, oxidation is the loss of electron only. So what counts in biology it's electron and protons, not only electrons. But that's why seeing the plants as a nitrogen plant is very important. The photosynthesis, it's this. We, with the plant, split water in H plus so proton, electrons and oxygen. Then it vents the oxygen out and then it keeps the proton and the electrons and it's the energy. It's and one proton plus one.

Speaker 1:

Basically, the hydrogen. Hydrogen economy is already there. Yes, basically in agriculture.

Speaker 2:

Yes, yes, yes, yes, the only green hydrogen is the plant.

Speaker 1:

It's literally green in many cases. And what does this mean? A lot of this knowledge has been here for a long time. Some of it is relatively recent, but of course, 20 years is also not super recent. Like, do you see now, with this attention or at least we see, or I see more and more attention for this connection between healthy soil, healthy plants, or healthy plants and healthy soil? Maybe the order should be different, let's say healthy plants, healthy soil, healthy produce, healthy guts and healthy people? Like, have you seen something shift in terms of attention over the last years, as you've been following this for a while? Like, is there some more, finally some more attention growing, or is it still very nascent and extremely small?

Speaker 2:

It remains rather small. I must say that I have a very biased perception of the agriculture, especially in France. I'm back to France since five years ago only, but I'm doing a lot of training on this aspect to farmers. But the farmers coming to these trainings they are farmers that have moved on a lot. They it's not the usual farmers, so I only see very interesting farmers.

Speaker 1:

You see your bubble.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, so that's why it's still very it has the interest for the training of these grown.

Speaker 1:

They're more people show up on the door, because that's the sign.

Speaker 2:

Yes and the now. The important thing now is to, to transform the and the try is that we have a very detailed theory Now it's it's very strong, robust and this now we need to design, to, to, to, to get sufficient information to make it very practical for a farmer to use a spectrometer to measure, measuring and saying, ok, I'm balanced, it's OK, it has been cloudy, but no, no problem, my soil is working well, the plant is OK.

Speaker 2:

Or the opposite, oh, it's really unbalanced. Now I have to help the plant to to get reduced and it's. It's where we will. We are shifting to produce that, instead of oxidizing the plant and helping to kill the, the admins will help the plants to gain energy and and and remain protected against the, the attacks, in fact. So that's the. That's really what we need to do now is to to describe properly at which level we risk this kind of pathogen or. I'm working on data on on on the mildew for on grape wine, and it's a very huge problem. It's very, very sensitive at the moment, so there's less and less chemicals to that are allowed. There's a huge pressure, pressure on on on the wine industry.

Speaker 2:

So how do you approach that?

Speaker 1:

then Like what is it there also with with wine grapes? A lack of energy and a lack of for the synthesis to be able to defend.

Speaker 2:

So we we work a lot on the cover crops, showing the importance of the cover crops and also, in fact, the strategy will always you always need to regenerate your soil. If there's not a good soil structure, the plant will be permanently moving from beer it's, it's. It's changing too fast. You cannot control with spraying anything. It's, it's very difficult. So you need to the strategies to regenerate your soil, especially the soil structures. For so for this you need organic matter. That means carbon, with energy, that, that carbon that has been. That's what we learned today.

Speaker 2:

So so it's, it's through organic matter and all the things, and and increasing the, the biomass production, the photosynthesis, so so you need to increase the area of the surface of photosynthesis, so you need to have more leaves of cover crops and and using the winter period and all the periods where there's especially in in grape wine during all the winter period, the autumn and the winter, you absolutely need to have a cover crop at that moment you are using, because all the grape wines don't have any.

Speaker 1:

And so there's no activity, there's no competition, there's no, there's no risk of competition especially for water.

Speaker 2:

On the opposite, in autumn you have too much water, so using this water to grow crop, to cover crop, is really important.

Speaker 2:

So we're working on all this aspect, but also improving the water quality, improving the photosynthesis. There's a lot of manganese and iron will get not soluble as soon as the soil gets oxidized. So most of the growing period in the south of France, for instance, the soil to oxidize because they are dry and and so there's deficiency in manganese and iron and these two elements are fundamental for photosynthesis. So the only way in that case is to spray foliar fertilizer in reduced form, because iron and manganese, they can be absorbed only in their reduced form. So if you apply them on the, on the soil which is oxidized, they will get oxidized and the plants will need to spend energy to reduce it to get them.

Speaker 2:

So that's that's one of the way to increase the the surface of photosynthesis all year long as much as possible, and to make photosynthesis more efficient through foliar fertilization and and then help the plants to get more energy through different product that are reduced in acidic. So we're reaching energy all different maceration, all the micro, micro, micro organic, the efficient micro organism and all these things that are that so we need to use different levels. The more the soil is degraded, the more we need to use different levels to bring back energy as fast as possible in the system to pass some threshold level, so that's all the system will start functioning well. Otherwise you you do just slow down the degeneration of your soil but you don't really regenerate it. So that's that there's a huge demand for for that at the moment and in fact we need to to to get knowledge on what are the exact level EHPH of a great point leaves where you can feel that there will be no problem for for your plant or where you will get mildew or virus or different things.

Speaker 2:

So this is something that is used in fish farming already. They know perfectly. There's some software, they know perfectly at which level in the water they measure in the water, which level you risk virus, where you risk different pathogen, different parasite. So they have all this knowledge through a lot of measurements in the past decade. So that's what we need to do now with the plants to get more knowledge, and it's what the measurement with the spectrometer starting to to help a lot, because it's it's too long in electrochemical measurements.

Speaker 1:

No farmer can will ever do that.

Speaker 2:

Even for research, it has been a long, long, more months of measuring. So that's, that's a game changer to be able to measure directly in the field.

Speaker 1:

In a perfect bridge to to a question I always like to ask if you had a magic wand and could change one thing overnight. Could be anything in the food and agriculture space, so it could be very broad, could be very specific, like I need this tech, technology to be anywhere, etc. But could be also consciousness, could be taste, could be carbon, anything you probably not carbon. But what would you do if you had a magic power to change one thing only overnight?

Speaker 2:

It would be to get the way to measure more than pH and riddles, but also the micronutrients and nitrogen forms in the plant. So that would be a way to do a complete diagnosis of the plant health with through, maybe through infrared spectrometer. We will be able to do this, but it will take a lot of time.

Speaker 2:

But if we add the ability to to measure very rapidly, not only EHPH you know we call conductivity, which is the third parameter which is important but also, in fact, ehph, will give you the temperature and the blood pressure and then, if it's okay, you think it's okay, it's not, it will find me it's. If it's not okay, you need to analyze more and to detail what you have. So it would be a blood analysis, the equivalent of blood analysis. So if we could do, subanalysis is something that is developing and is really interesting, but there's still a delay between sending your leave, getting the results. So if I had a magic one, I would produce a tools that will be able to tell you EHPH electrical conductivity, but also all the micronutrients and nitrogen forms and all these things. That would be really, really a way to move forward fast for farmers.

Speaker 1:

Unfortunately, you no longer have this magic power, but you do have an investment fund. So you are not only training farmers and, of course, working, but you actually are suddenly, overnight, responsible for putting quite a significant amount of money to work. So I usually use the example of, let's say, a billion euros. I don't need to know exact euro amounts, but I would love I always like to ask it, because I like to know what people would focus on. What would be the few places they say I would absolutely invest in this, I would absolutely not invest in this and I would absolutely invest in that. What would you focus on if you had that amount?

Speaker 2:

First training, a lot of training and to have enough information. So it would be a research program that are designed. One of the problem we have is that we don't adjust the recommendation to farmer to the actual degradation or regeneration level of the field. In fact, most of the recommendation of all, most of the people who are selling product, or most of the training, they say you have to do this or that. But the transition to regenerative agriculture is not linear. It's slow. It's really slow at the beginning.

Speaker 2:

What your soil is really degraded and then you upgrade fast and then you reach a maximum, so flat or so you will not go over. So it's kind of sigmoids. And when you are on very, very degraded soil, the strategy will make plant growth and cover crop growth and all the things. But if you just say we need to stop the fertilizer, we need to stop plowing, soil dilation and everything, when you are on very degraded soil, if you don't plow, if you don't bring fertilizer, if you don't use chemicals, your plant will not grow. Okay, and plowing on a very degraded soil will not damage it a lot, it will allow the grain of your cover crop to grow. But if you say, well, no, we should stop plowing now, everywhere then, all this very degraded soil, we will never be able to start your cover crops and your cultivation of energy.

Speaker 1:

You're saying don't be dramatic. Yes, don't be dramatic, and it's the opposite.

Speaker 2:

So plowing when you are on very, very degraded soil is needed, and fertilizer and many levels will be needed when you are on very All to get plants going.

Speaker 1:

Basically, yes, yes, when you, as long as you get plants going, everything is allowed.

Speaker 2:

But it's you know, with the strategy to stop this, because once you start regenerating your soil, plowing a living soil is really destroying, applying excess fertilizer is really destroying, pesticides are destroying. So you need really to adjust the recommendation and the practice to the level of degradation or regeneration where you are. And this is not enough taken into consideration because, also, we lack information on this, so it's easier to say one recommendation for all it's what works best on average, but it's something that is needed in some condition, is dangerous, is harmful in other conditions. So you really have to adjust on this and we need to develop more knowledge on this, more consciousness on this, that you really need to understand how it works and to adapt the practice and the strategy. The strategy is always the same you need to regenerate your soil and so for this you will need to have more and more, as much crops, as much leaves, as much photosynthesis as possible.

Speaker 2:

But the tactic depends on where you are on this trajectory of restoration or degradation. It's not the same at all. You cannot plant some completely compacted soil. You need to feed the plants when there's no elements in the soil, you need to spray foliar fertilizer, you need to adjust your fertilizer. So all this really would require a lot of research work but on a very nice we could design a worldwide research program taking this structure, very well structured around this, and that would be. The other part of this research program would be to have experiments how to use the best deorganic matter that we have. For me, we need what do you?

Speaker 1:

mean by that?

Speaker 2:

Conservation agriculture with poor biomass production. It does not work okay Because you don't regenerate enough the soil, so spreading all your biomass all over the area homogeneously. It's working well when you have enough and that you have passed the threshold or above which there is working.

Speaker 1:

You're saying at the beginning, when it's still degraded, it's better to concentrate.

Speaker 2:

Yes, you need to concentrate the biomass so that locally you will make the system work better than produce a lot more biomass Get over the thresholds, and this is really, really important to me.

Speaker 1:

And have you looked into systems, especially when you've worked a lot in the tropics, like the I always call them sort of the extreme agroforestry systems, the syn tropic side like really really intensive systems on the agroforestry side a lot of leaves, so a lot of photosynthesis, a lot of biomass. What do you see there? What have you seen there? And of course, we haven't seen a lot of it in Europe, but people are bringing it here different layers, of course, different places in time, but really focused on getting the engine going and really concentrating it on the syntropy, not the entropy.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, so there's always will be a limit for the temperature, the sunlight and the water and the water. But for water we can improve a lot. The water storage we through soil regeneration, that's something we can improve a lot. And through vegetation the plants make the rain also. It's through evaporation is very that's another series we're doing a water cycle series.

Speaker 1:

But it's exactly. There's a very good message.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, it's very important to understand this is that most of the rain comes from the evapotranspiration from the plants. So when we stop having plants, we stop evaporation and then we don't have enough humidity in the air so that we don't create droplets. So that's the important part also. But that's why we also need to concentrate, to focus, and it's why in Burkina, the extreme condition you was talking about, the good extreme condition with agroforestry and a lot of system and a lot of rain and everything. But the other side of the extreme is the extremely dry and degraded condition and degraded soil.

Speaker 2:

In Burkina Faso they have a system called the ZYL system and it's just a way to concentrate. On one square meter they harvest all the rain to move through a kind of moon, half moon, bringing all the rain on one spot. It's just locally there they gather all the rain they make, they use all the biomass, they have all the organic matter they have and they just plant one plant of maize, one plant of bean per square meter. But locally there they have increase and they have passed this threshold where it can grow. If you spray all the little amount of rain on all the square meter, you don't have enough water for the plant to grow. If you don't concentrate the biomass, you don't have the soil improvement you need.

Speaker 2:

So for me the question is let's say you have 10 tons of biomass avoidable per hectare. What is the best use? Is it to put it on half of the area so that you have 20 tons and you pass the threshold? Is it 40 tons? How much do you need to do? But then you concentrate and then you pass locally. You pass the threshold.

Speaker 2:

You can produce much more and then you can spread the expand from there and that's that's a key, and it would be the sample water, and for me, that's really really important to show this very clearly that it's not linear and it's a sigmoids and you have thresholds and if you don't pass this threshold, you just slow down the degradation. So, above this, threshold.

Speaker 1:

Above the threshold, a lot is possible.

Speaker 2:

Yes, yes, it's amazing. Above the threshold, everything gets much easier, and then it grows faster, and then it's really amazing how fast the regeneration can be.

Speaker 1:

And as a final question, which usually leads to others but let's say, we're doing this in front of a, so you're no longer responsible for for the investment fund, but we're doing this in front of an audience. You might have done that as well. Amazing. Mostly, of course, train farmers and people in the agriculture space. Well, let's say, we talk to investors and people in the finance space could be pension funds, banks, people investing their own money, etc. And we're doing this in a live audience. We're doing this in front of a live audience in a theater. What would be your main message that you want them? Of course, there's going to be a lot of information on stage. What's your main message you want them to remember when they walk away from that room. What would be your message? Okay, if there's one thing you remember from this evening, it's this that all the energy comes from the photosynthesis.

Speaker 2:

So we have to do everything possible to increase the photosynthesis Globally. This works at almost all scales. It's valid for the planet that's what is is carrying with all these fires and but all the energy comes from the photosynthesis. The system, lacking energy, gets sick. All the system may get sick. It starts with the plants and then the animals and then the human. So we need to regenerate the soil and for this we need the plants.

Speaker 2:

And we should not oppose the quantity, the productivity, with the quality. Okay, when you are in a conventional system where the productivity is 4 through, it's like an electrical system. The voltage is going down, so you lower down the resistance so that you can produce a lot, but then you empty your battery faster. It's what happened with our system. So if you force the productivity by with the conventional system, then the quality will not follow, but the productivity and the quality in the system where, when you pass this threshold level, when your soil is working properly, when the ecosystem services are working well, as I said, all the energy comes from the system. So the sustainability of the system relies on high productivity and the quality relies on high productivity. You will have high quality when you have plant with a lot of energy. If you have plant with a lot of energies because you have a high productivity.

Speaker 1:

So you're saying the yield once you cross thresholds and once you have a healthy, functioning system and you catch the soil energy you catch the soil. Energy yield is not a limiting factor, let's say Definitely the quality is.

Speaker 2:

It's the opposite. Sustainability relies on high productivity.

Speaker 1:

Which is interesting, because somehow the framing is always in this phase, like, ah, okay, because the yield happened, ah, yeah, but this is nice. But how are we going to feed the world? We're not going to get asked that question, but how? And you basically saying that's nonsense.

Speaker 2:

That's the summary. Yes, if you just take a fundamental energetic perspective of this, all the energy comes from the system. So if the system is not with a high productivity, you don't have enough energy to sustain it and, as we said, the plant with high quality either when they are very stressed or when they have a lot of energy, so when?

Speaker 2:

they are very well and, by the way, when they are very stressed, you will get a lot of enzymatic antioxidants so that they will help to remove the very oxidized product, an harmful product. But you need to reload them and you need to reload them with non-anzymatic antioxidants and this non-anzymatic antioxidant it's. You get them when you have a high productivity, a high when you catch a lot of energy. So, for me, a plant with a lot of super oxidized mutas or catalytic antioxidant enzyme, it's a plant that is facing a high stress, which still has enough energy to produce this, but it's not the best food?

Speaker 1:

And to end with a personal question how has all this knowledge changed your personal eating? Like what has changed in your kitchen and on your plate.

Speaker 2:

It's, of course. The first thing is water. I'm not drinking tap water. I'm not drinking tap water with chloride and aluminium and all these things. It's oxidized water. So water is very important part of the diet. It's. For a cow it's something like 100 litres per day. So if you water the cow with bad water, with oxidized water, and it will make them sick clearly. So water is the first thing I'm very careful about and of course I'm I'm it's not necessarily organic food.

Speaker 2:

For me the difference between organic and conventional, and in conservation agriculture it's not there. For me, the difference is how much energy comes in the system. So I prefer to eat. Of course there will be the kind of food you eat. I eat a lot of vegetables and I don't stop eating meat at all, it's just moderately.

Speaker 2:

But we need pasture land for the planet and we need animals. It's easier to regenerate soil when you have animals, especially digests on your farm, because they transform the organic matter in a way you won't have in your soil. They sustain microorganisms that are needed and that you won't get on away. So the cattle raising is a very important part for the for the planet. So we and for the food we need some meat. Of course we need meat that is produced in better condition, with for mainly on pasture and not to. That's also an interesting view. Some plants they keep everything for them and they are excellent forages. Some plants they bring a lot to the soil through root exudates and these plants are very good for soil regeneration, but they are bad forages. So this is something we need to understand.

Speaker 2:

Also, for my diet, I eat a lot of of vegetable fruits, not necessarily organic, it's it's more the weather produce. I'm more on dealing with living soil, with the cover crops that have been put in the system, the organic matter that has been brought in the system. That's more important for me and usually when you have plant grown on this kind of soil, there's not too much pesticide. So of course we need to reduce the pesticide. But yeah, that's the main thing that the diet trying to be balanced. It's balanced. Also, you need diversity in what you eat.

Speaker 1:

I want to thank you so much for taking the time today to, first of all, for the work you do, obviously, and for taking the time today to come here and share about it. It was absolutely fascinating and I hope I learned a lot. I hope the listeners as well. So thank you so much, olivier, for coming here.

Speaker 2:

Oh, thanks a lot for inviting me.

Speaker 1:

Thank you so much for listening all the way to the end. For the show notes and links we discussed in this episode, check out our website Investing in regenderagriculturecom forward slash posts. If you liked this episode, why not share it with a friend or give us a rating on Apple Podcast? That really helps. Thanks again and see you next time.

Why are you doing what you are doing? Why Soil?
Is there more attention for nutrient density?
If you could wave a magic wand and change one thing overnight
What would you do if you were in charge of a 1B investment portfolio tomorrow morning?
What should smart investors, who want to invest in reg ag and food look out for?
How does Olivier eat differently knowing all this?