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Cultivating Knowledge

Biological Inoculant Or Snake Oil?

When an Organic fertilizer, potting soil or microbial amendment claims to have one or more species of beneficial microbes, particularly “Mycorrhizal Fungi” in the mix, can you be confident that the biology is there, alive and at the levels of “propagules”, “spores” or “colony forming units” reported on the label? Until now, it has been difficult to verify the content unless you send it to one of very few labs that can do a biological assay; and the average price of a test is around $200.00.

This is now beginning to change, at least in Oregon where the Oregon Department of Agriculture, ODA, is acquiring samples from retail nurseries and hydroponic stores and then having them tested. In a previous round, the ODA tested for certain bacteria and “Trichoderma”, a pathogen suppressing group of fungi. They found that bacterial counts were in most cases, much lower than what was claimed on the label and that none of the products claiming to contain “Trichoderma” actually did.

Now they are focusing on “Mycorrhizal Fungi” and the results are not much different than what they found in their previous assessments of “Beneficial Microbes”. Seventeen products claiming to contain mycorrhizae were tested and only three met their claims reported on their label.

Xtreme Gardening “MYKOS” was one of the three products that met the claim of containing 300 propagules that is listed on the “Product Label”. And it wasn’t a matter of luck. RTI, the parent company of Xtreme Gardening Products is the oldest and largest producer of “Mycorrhizal Inoculants” in America. And the company got to this level by producing consistent quality products, testing, retesting and assessing cultures both internally and through an independent lab.

Quality produces results and MYKOS has a track record to support this fact. Actually, it has a “HUGE” record to be proud of. Starting in 2006, MYKOS was used by Ron Wallace, a giant pumpkin grower in Rhode Island to grow a world record breaking 1,502 lb pumpkin. The next year a grower surpassed Ron by producing a 1,637 pound monster using MYKOS. Since that time every consecutive “Garden Grown” world record giant pumpkin as well as the current world record tomato, watermelon and squash has been grown with “Biologicals” from RTI including MYKOS and AZOS.

Crop Bio-Fertility products are a “Natural & Organic” means by which growers can increase yield, crop quality and disease resistance while being able to reduce both irrigation and fertilizer inputs. However, until consumers can be assured that they are truly purchasing what is claimed on the label, it will be difficult have confidence in this new approach to growing.

Hats off to the Oregon Department of Agriculture for taking the first step in protecting consumers and holding producer accountable for the quality of their products.

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