Now that we know what brix is and how to measure it, we’re ready to find ways to apply this knowledge.
So what is an ideal brix level? Most plants show markedly improved vitality and pest resistance when their brix levels hit 12 degrees on a refractometer, although with care many can go far higher than that.
Increasing Brix in Produce and Pasture
Proponents of high-brix farming and gardening agree that soil microbe health is directly correlated with high brix levels in produce and pasture. Therefore, while chemical fertilizers can provide brief boosts in brix, they cannot maintain high levels over long periods of time unless special high-sugar hybrid plants are used. Organic fertilizers made to be applied directly to the leaves of the plant can also give a temporary increase in brix. In the long run, however, growers of heirloom and non-hybrid plants, whether they be food or forage species, must focus on feeding the soil.
Maintaining a balance of nutrients in the soil is an important step toward keeping microbes healthy and happy. If you are struggling with low brix levels, start with a soil analysis. Measuring NPK is not enough. It is important to know the levels of trace minerals, as well, because these are key to microbe health. Depleted minerals must be replaced.
Once the soil is brought back into balance, there are many options for keeping it that way. One of the most amazing soil and plant foods out there, according to refractometers across the nation, is raw milk. Pastures fed with raw milk can have a brix reading over 20 degrees! Grazing practices that allow for nutrient distribution and pasture recovery time tend to affect brix positively, as well.
Using Brix in Milk and Honey
Sometimes a quick fix is important when feeding milk to calves. If the brix levels fall too low (below 22% solids for colostrum or below 10% solids for whole milk), the calves will not thrive and mortality rates will increase. In this case, milk replacer or milk extender must be added to the milk. In the long run, managing the health of the dairy herd is important. Eliminating mastitis infections can make a big difference in milk quality.
Honey that contains a high proportion of moisture to sugar tends to ferment. Therefore, it should not be harvested until it measures 82 to 83 degrees brix (17% to 18% moisture on a honey refractometer). If for some reason the honey must be harvested before this point, the honey frames can be dried artificially with fans.
Refractive Index of Crop Juices
Very helpful chart that shows poor, average, good, and excellent brix readings for many common fruits and vegetables, plus a few grasses.