Tuesday, June 2, 2020

To Brix or Not to Brix? That Is the Question!

Two items caught my eye in an article I read recently. One was a statement the USDA has determined that much of the food we eat today is grossly deficient in nutrient value – some say as much as a 50% reduction in some elements since the year 1963. The decline continues as minerals leave the farm gate and are not replaced. I am sure the same decline occurs in the plants we feed to our animals.

I was also intrigued by a reference to the use of the brix refractometer as a useful tool for the farmer or gardener to assess the nutrient value of growing plants.

The testing procedure is quite simple, requires no chemicals, and can be done almost anywhere, even the produce section of a supermarket. A drop of sap is placed on a glass table, covered with another hinged glass cover, and the reading is taken. Some refractometers have digital readouts which are easier to read. The only other equipment needed may be a small hand-held garlic press or a pair of pliers to squeeze sap out of stemmy plants.

Brix measures the sugar content or sweetness of the plant sap. Our taste buds do somewhat the same but the Brix reading gives a more accurate reference number for comparison and evaluation purposes. There are many Brix charts on the internet to help one evaluate the Brix reading for different crops and vegetables. High or low brix readings also gives you a an indication of the other minerals and nutritive elements present.

A Brix reading has many benefits for the gardener. In addition to being a measure of nutritive value it is also a soil fertility indicator. If a plant or plants consistently show low brix it indicates the need for remedial attention to soil fertility — perhaps a soil test and the use of an appropriate fertilizer.

A brix refractometer can be a boon to a farmer harvesting hay. There is an old saying that you should make hay while the sunshines. That is literally true as brix reading in a hay crop are low in the early morning, rise as the reached its zenith, peaks in mid afternoon and then declines. Timing of the cutting can be critical. There is a big difference in the nutritive value of hay cut early in th morning and that cut in mid afternoon. A brix reading taken periodically throughout the day will graph this phenomenon.

Read the complete story here: https://www.lakecowichangazette.com/opinion/mary-lowther-column-nutrition-in-our-food-on-the-decline/

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