Growing and buying high quality food in the Mohave desert


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High Brix -- Nutrient Dense
In vineyards growers have been using brix measurements to determine when to pick grapes for a long time. Brix is now also associated with nutrient density and a refractometer is an inexpensive way to determine how your fruit and veggies are doing.
Tags: brixReams
July 15, 2015
10:19 pm
Near Meadview, between Lake Mead and Grand Canyon West (Skywalk)
Forum Posts: 177
Member Since:
May 6, 2015
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Brix is a scale based on the amount that light bends when it passes through a liquid. If one were to place one's hand in a pond and measure the amount it appeared to bend, and then place it in the ocean, it would appear to bend a different amount. That differential light bending is the best tool currently available to consumers to determine the value of crops that are purchased or produced. The brix chart is the scale that anyone can use to determine poor, average, good or excellent in a foodstuff.

Joining BFA at the participant level includes a membership kit with a brix chart, refractometer and brix press that can be used on all fruits and vegetables to enable rapid quality testing.

How does Brix relate to quality?

Centuries of wine making and work with other fruits and vegetables always show direct relations between high Brix and high quality, expressed most simply and directly as superior taste. The process is somewhat altered for the gardener or farmer in that they test the leaf of the growing plant much earlier and are therefore afforded the opportunity to correct soil deficiencies before the crop matures. The gardener or farmer also benefits in that they soon learn that any crop with 12 or better leaf Brix will not be bothered by insect pests.

  • Brix measures the percent solids (TSS) in a given weight of plant juice‚ nothing more‚ nothing less.
  • Brix is often expressed as the percentage of sucrose. However, the "sucrose" can vary widely.
  • Brix is actually a sum of the pounds of sucrose, fructose, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, proteins, hormones, and other solids in one hundred pounds of plant juice.
  • Brix varies directly with plant quality. For instance, a poor, sour tasting grape from worn-out land can test 8 or less brix. On the other hand, a full flavored, delicious grape, grown on rich, fertile soil can test 24 or better brix.

Measuring brix:

What is a Refractometer?

[Image Can Not Be Found]A refractometer is the instrument used to obtain a brix reading. This simple, hand-held measures the amount of refraction (or bend) in a beam of light that passes through the plant sap. A conscientious nutrient-dense grower takes regular, routine field measurements of plant sap density.

Refractometers come in three basic types: optical, digital and laboratory. For growers, the first two are portable, handheld and simple to operate in the field.

How to use an optical refractometer

  • Squeeze sap out of a plant.
  • Put 2 drops on the prism.
  • Close the prism cover.
  • Point to a light source.
  • Focus the eyepiece.
  • Read the measurement.
  • Where light & dark fields intersect is the brix number.

Optical refractometers require a few drops of solution to be spread thinly on the surface of a prism. Then, like a tiny telescope or microscope, you peer down a long hollow tube at the prism. Part of the light beam passes through the thin film of plant sap on the prism, while the rest bypasses this specimen.

An adjustment knob allows you to align light and dark areas on a screen to determine the angle of refraction, and thus the solution density. A scale in the viewfinder allows you to easily identify the Brix number.

Digital refractometers are simpler to operate and easier to read. Just put a few drops of liquid in the well hole, and press the switch. The Brix number appears in the digital readout. Both types work great, although digital models require a battery to operate.

I read that the sharpness of the line in optical refractometers indicates nutrients density, with a fuzzy line indication more nutrients and minerals.  I don't know whether that is true, but from my own tests I know that sometimes the line is fuzzy and sometimes it is sharp.

Last year I looked into tomatoes and brix:


A ton of brix info is at International Ag Lab's and I attached their brix chart for various veggies.

I also subscribe to Rex Harris High Brix Yahoo group:

August 30, 2015
7:11 pm
Near Meadview, between Lake Mead and Grand Canyon West (Skywalk)
Forum Posts: 177
Member Since:
May 6, 2015
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Here's a nice summary about BRIX by Graeme Sait:

The Beauty of Brix – Ten Things You Need To Know

2.  It looks like you are looking at a fuel gauge and in a way you are. A low brix reading is akin to a plant fresh out of fuel. The line that divides the two visible hemispheres can also offer an indication of calcium levels in the plant. If the dividing line is clean and sharp, this indicates a calcium deficiency. It can actually be a sign of generalised mineral deficiency, but as calcium is "the trucker of all minerals", this mineral is the chief suspect. The goal of all good growers is to fuzz up that sharp line. A fuzzy dividing line is an indication of mineral density and desirable calcium levels in the plant.

Since there's no line at all in a digital refractometer, it seems that the analog meters should be preferred.

Does anyone have SCIENTIFIC references to prove it?

Low brix levels are often linked to high nitrate levels in the plant. It is impossible to achieve nutrient density in the presence of excessive nitrate nitrogen. This form of N is only ever uptaken with water, so the higher the nitrate levels the greater the dilution factor. A watery, mineral deficient plant is a calling card for insects and disease, so this could also be called a stress meter. In effect, your likelihood of anxiety is all locked within this ten second measurement. The higher your brix levels, the greater your farming fun.

I'm pretty sure there's a relation between high brix and farming or gardening fun.

Good brix levels can confer enhanced protection against frost. Kelp is often used for this purpose, as it is a primary brix-building tool. Studies in Tasmania, several years ago, revealed that kelp applications before frost events could provide up to 3°C of frost protection. Of course, the most dramatic frost protection strategy involves removing the root cause of the problem. Frost crystals are created by a group of organisms called ice-nucleating bacteria. If you can remove these creatures from the leaf surface, you can minimise frost damage. Thankfully, there is a solution. Nutri-Life Sudo-Shield™ from NTS features massive numbers of a leaf-dwelling organism called Pseudomonas fluorescens. When applied to the leaf, this organism will improve the leaf population of non-ice-nucleating bacteria and subsequently decrease the likelihood of frost damage; these organisms can continue that invaluable service for around 4 weeks. We have had tremendous feedback from growers around the world who have escaped the frost damage that has decimated their neighbours, following a foliar application of Nutri-Life Sudo-Shield™.

Kelp has been our most used foliar spray ingredient and I've heard that it helps with frost as well as heat protection.

But I never heard of Pseudomonas fluorescens.  This summer we got the BioRed nitrogen fixing microbes and it looks like we ought to have a cocktail of microbes.  

We can get a hard freeze as early as late October and that just totally ruins our tomato harvest.  This year we've barely had any tomatoes yet because we were so late and then it got HOT.  The plants are looking good, but not setting fruit.  So we're hoping for a nice fall crop as we finally start to see little tomatoes. 

Usually everything freezes by Thanksgiving at the latest.  One year it got down to 9 F and we found the freeze plugs from our truck on the ground.  Nothing helps when it gets that cold.  But in some years the lows stay in the high 20s until January and most of the nights it doesn't freeze at all and the days are warm and sunny.

Just did some reading on Pseudomonas fluorescens and it looks like they don't like our heat.  I'll start a new topic on it.  So much to learn ...

Anyway, a great read on BRIX by Graeme Sait at The Beauty of Brix – Ten Things You Need To Know.

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