by Daniel Tourigny
When it comes to the health of your plants, the sooner you notice a problem the sooner you can do something about it. We’re not all gifted with (or have yet developed) a “green thumb,” which means that we might not spot an issue by looking at the plants until the problem has been around for too long.
Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a device that could tell, quite precisely, if the plant was happy or not??? (Especially if the plant’s health will make it less insect- and disease-prone and yield more nutritious and tasty fruit!)
Well, there is! It’s called a refractometer, or as it’s frequently known, a BRIX Meter.
BRIX is a value of the amount of dissolved solids within the plant sap. It’s used to give an indicator of sugar, as well as other things in the sap like vitamins and amino acids.
What to Look For
In general, the higher the BRIX reading on your meter, the better. Here’s a chart to show you standards for different varieties of fruits and veggies. But that’s the finished fruit, so until then you will have to ascertain the plant’s health in a relative way. A good rule of thumb is to monitor BRIX from early on. If you see it going down, then you might want to start thinking of why. It’s also good to measure BRIX before and after you add a new supplement to your feeding regimen, or make another change to the plant’s environment. That way, you can tell asap whether the supplement/change is helpful, or hurtful, or simply useless.
From what I’ve researched so far, though it has been used for many years in the wine-making industry, it seems using BRIX for plant health is still a science in its infancy. You will find more BRIX talk in organic farming circles than amongst conventional farmers. There is little hard-core research (that I could find) which seems to have been done. But the anecdotal reports are voluminous — in a nutshell, you want *high* BRIX. Start by listening to this talk (DISCLAIMER: You might fall asleep while listening, but it is very thorough!) to get an idea of the potential of what BRIX can do for you. Also have a look at this report, which will give you both an idea of where BRIX is with relation to mainstream scientific study as well as some ideas of how to raise your BRIX.
A Dream of Growing: No Pests, No Diseases…will High BRIX deliver?
I’ve only started with BRIX but from what I have read and watched so far, I really like the idea of incorporating it into both my gardening regimen and my produce-buying regimen. (A caveat: dehydrated produce will have a higher BRIX due to less water. It’s beyond the scope of this post, but I suggest you search, “Measuring BRIX” to get some ideas of how to measure and the factors that affect the BRIX reading.) I’ve only recently dusted them off from the Mr. Fertilizer back-shelves to put them on showcase and started using one myself. I hope in future postings to give you more of what I learn and discover with BRIX, including, hopefully, high BRIX plants and no more worries about pesky pests that just love weak plants. Let the dream come true!!
UPDATE Aug28/14: Check out this fantastic interview for more information: http://www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/the-quest-for-nutrient-dense-food-high-brix-farming-and-gardening/