The Implications of Higher Brix
January 9, 2023
Photosynthesis is not fixed; it doesn’t occur at the same pace all the time. Most of us know that intellectually, but do we really understand the implications?
To help understand the implications, imagine a solar panel; which collects energy from the sun and turns it into usable electrical power. This is great and useful, however not all solar panels are created equal; there are differences in efficiency and size, which obviously impacts the amount of power they generate.
So it is with plants as well. Plants are like solar panels; they collect energy from the sun and convert it into usable energy through a process called photosynthesis, which is simply the production of sugars, and measured as brix content. These sugars are the energy that is used for practically all of the plant processes.
Also like solar panels, efficiency matters. The brix reading is an indicator of how efficiently the plants are photosynthesizing. It is not uncommon for plants to have low brix content, sometimes as low as 4, which is much too low for optimal crop health. When brix levels are this low, it’s indicating that the plants have potential to produce approximately 5x more sugar (crop dependent).
To put this in perspective, think of photosynthetic potential to scale in comparison with brix content. When plants are at 20 brix, they would be considered as producing sugars at nearly 100% of their potential. 16 brix would be considered 80% of their potential. 12 brix would be considered 60% of potential. 8 brix would be considered as 40% of potential, and plants with 4 brix content would be considered as producing sugars at 20% of their potential. This is a rough analogy; it’s not perfect because it does actually vary from crop to crop, but it does give us an idea of where our crops are at. From there, you can get more specific and compare the brix reading with the brix chart for specific crops.
So if you’re looking for a simple meter to use in the field, that indicates level of health, consider the refractometer. I grant that the refractometer has limitations, and for that reason is unpopular to some people. However, what other tool do we currently have that gives us such a reading in the field in a moment? One downside is that when the brix readings are low, it gives you no idea what to do to improve it. This is where sap analysis comes in.
Circling back to the implications of having high brix content; have you considered that practically every other plant process is dependent on sugar? This includes quality, yield, etc. For example, when considering yield, only about 5% of a plant is mineral based – the rest, in other words 95%, is all coming from sugar, from photosynthesis.
Now before you think that doubling your brix content (i.e. doubling photosynthetic capacity) means that you double your yield, I want to be clear that that is not what we are talking about. Doubling sugar production does not correlate directly to doubling yield. What is happening is that some of these extra sugars are going out through the roots as root exudates, similar to the way we sweat, and then feeds soil life. So in addition to additional yield, quality, and flavor benefits, a larger percentage of the sugars go out through the roots as root exudates, which then feeds soil biology, and which eventually lead to higher organic matter gains. In other words, as we increase sugar production, we are triggering the regeneration of our soils faster than before.
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