So much for my happy summer vacation

It figures.  After I write a happy post I get an email question that brings me back to reality.  I plan on sharing a little more about the question – and my answer – with you later, but I’m going to give you some homework.  Let’s see what you can find out about these topics:

International Ag Labs

High Brix Gardens

Reams’ Biological Theory of Ionization

Hint: they are all interrelated.  Post your comments on the blog and let’s see where we go with the discussion.

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Linda Chalker-Scott

Dr. Linda Chalker-Scott has a Ph.D. in Horticulture from Oregon State University and is an ISA certified arborist and an ASCA consulting arborist. She is WSU’s Extension Urban Horticulturist and an Associate Professor in the Department of Horticulture, and holds two affiliate associate professor positions at University of Washington. She conducts research in applied plant and soil sciences, publishing the results in scientific articles and university Extension fact sheets. Linda also is the award-winning author of five books: the horticultural myth-busting The Informed Gardener (2008) and The Informed Gardener Blooms Again (2010) from the University of Washington Press and Sustainable Landscapes and Gardens: Good Science – Practical Application (2009) from GFG Publishing, Inc., and How Plants Work: The Science Behind the Amazing Things Plants Do from Timber Press (2015). Her latest effort is an update of Art Kruckeberg’s Gardening with Native Plants of the Pacific Northwest from UW Press (2019). In 2018 Linda was featured in a video series – The Science of Gardening – produced by The Great Courses. She also is one of the Garden Professors – a group of academic colleagues who educate and entertain through their blog and Facebook pages. Linda’s contribution to gardeners was recognized in 2017 by the Association for Garden Communicators as the first recipient of their Cynthia Westcott Scientific Writing Award. "The Garden Professors" Facebook page - "The Garden Professors" Facebook group - Books:

18 thoughts on “So much for my happy summer vacation”

  1. High Brix Gardens is an “undertaking” (their words) of International Ag Labs who seem to be basing all their work on the “theories” (closer to hypothesis or, as we say, wild-*** guesses) of Dr. Carey Reams, inventor of Reams’ Biological Theory of Ionization. I’m not sure what direction you want to go with this, but the phrase, “correlation does not imply causation” sprang to mind when I read Dr. Reams’ “theory”. And they (International Ag Labs) seem to like throwing around phrases that have no meaning in science–“nutrient dense food”–sounds impressive, but what does it mean? Don’t get me started on how “high brix” plants are not attractive to insects–my grapes would beg to differ; you can get carotene poisoning from carrots (ask my uncle)–so much for the “plant foods need no ‘buyer beware’ label; plants were not “designed” to do anything. Arrrgh! One big steaming pile of pseudo-science.

  2. While doing a web search on the above material, I came across “Quack Watch” (, a rather interesting site that could be called “medical myths”. Something intresting I read on that site stated that Dr. Reams was prosecuted for practicing medicine without a license, possibly because his theories don’t pass as medical science. Instead, his theories seem to have found a home with the “nutritionists” and those into “altenative mdecine”. I’m not surprised his theories in agriculture seem to be at home with the similar movements in horticulture/agriculture.

  3. Bryn and CP – great detective work so far! I love “Quack Watch” – that’s a new one for me. I’ll wait for a little longer to see if anyone else wants to post info. And Jeff, I can just see your rubbing your hands together! Sometime you and I need to get together – maybe we should get Timber Press to have us put on a road show!

  4. Oh, dear. The website at says that, according to Dr. Reams, the human body can manufacture vitamin C (if all the required minerals are present) and that cancer is just dead cells hanging around past their “sell-by” date. I guess the good doctor was sleeping in the class when they covered L-gulonolactone oxidase enzyme production–humans can’t do it.

  5. One last point: several sites try to connect Reams with Albert Einstein. The claims run from them being extremely close friends (Reams is not mentioned in any of the biographies of Einstein I have) up to him “studying under Einstein as a young man”. The latter would have been difficult. Reams was born in 1903. Einstein emigrated to the US in 1933 which means Reams would have been 30. Reams also claimed to have been a biophysicist, a mathematician and any number of other things. None of those claims see
    m to be backed up with universities where he studied or with any info on degrees awarded him.

  6. Bryn,
    By the USDAs own analysis the nutrient content of our fruits and veggies has dropped significantly in nearly every category. I would rather have produce that has more nutrient content. WHat better way to get your vitamins and minerals.

  7. Mark, I’m not sure I understand what you’re referring to since I never argued that veggies were bad only that, like anything else and contrary to the claims of HBG and IAL, they can be harmful in excess. My argument was that both High Brix Gardens and International Ag Labs uses a plethora of fuzzy language, i.e. the phrase “nutrient dense food” doesn’t *mean* anything. How are you (general “you”, not you) measuring “density”? What are you actually measuring? What foods are you measuring, say, peas vs carrots or carrots from one source against another or one variety vs another? Also, the two organizations are basing their work on the “theory” of Dr. Reams. What’s Dr. Reams area of expertise? His education? His degrees? Why wasn’t his “theory” ever published in a peer-reviewed journal? Why doesn’t it seem to have ever undergone any sort of double-blind testing? Does it even qualify as a theory since there doesn’t seem to be any independent testing and there doesn’t appear to be a mechanism for making predictions from it? No two sites I’ve visited that
    reference Dr. Reams seem to be able to agree what his area of study was, where he studied or anything else factual about the man; loads of anecdote and “a friend of mine heard Dr. Reams once say…”. One states he was a physician, another assures us that he was a biophysicist, yet another that he was a “brilliant” mathematician.

    If you could point me to the USDA analysis you refer to, I’d appreciate it.

  8. Follow the money. International AG Labs sells a 4 DVD set for $200. They also will conduct many soil tests (looks like the $$$ could add up quickly here), and can’t find how much their remedies/fertilizers cost. Yes, good soils grow good crops. However, replacing a farmers dependence on Monsanto products with a dependence on IAL products doesn’t seem like a good thing.
    I see seaweed extract in one of their products – there’s probably no more research supporting seaweed’s ability to grow more nutritious veggies than there is in supporting the myth that seaweed is a miracle for landscape plants. I’d imagine that it would be much cheaper to use lots of compost and good land management practices to increase crop quality.

  9. Bryn,
    My understanding of nutrient density goes something like this. More nutrients per calorie in a fruit or vegetable compared to less nutrient in the same fruit or vegetable from a different source. I am not addressing Ream or anything else. Just pointing out that there is such a thing as nutrient density. High Nutrient density is more likely achievable on a healthy well balance soil as compared to an abused and depleted soil.
    I am never a fan of people pushing any product,be it International AG or the Local fertilizer dealer. Whoever it is the bottom line is money most times.

    4. Mayer A-M. Historical changes in the mineral content of fruits and vegetables. Brit Food J 1997;
    96(6):207−11. 5. Christian J. Charts: Nutrient changes in vegetables and fruits, 1951 to 1999. News 2002. 6. Davis DR, Epp MD, Riordan HD. Changes in USDA Food Composition for 43 Garden Crops, 1950
    to 1999. J Am C Nutr 2004; 23(6):669−82. 7. Thomas D. A study on the mineral depletion of the foods available to us as a nation over the period
    1940 to 1991. Nutr Health 2003;17(2):85−115. 8

  10. Mark–my problem with “nutritionally dense” is that it isn’t a phrase seen in the literature. It’s utilized by websites promoting an agenda: “health” foods and/or supplements, anti-HFCS sites, etc. It isn’t something given a rigorous definition (at least, as far as I’ve been able to ascertain) in science; it’s a nice-sounding buzz phrase. The only science I’ve seen that uses it in any meaningful way is marine biology. There, they use it to describe “trash fish” that sea predators are having to make-do with since the more “nutritionally dense”, commercially valuable fish are being taken for human consumption. Under that usage, I would agree, for example, that the average (if there is such a thing) North American diet is more nutritionally dense than than of the average (ditto) Ethiopian.

    Thank you for the citations. I haven’t looked at all of them yet, but I notice in the abstract for Anne-Marie Mayer’s paper the comment:
    “The changes could have been caused by anomalies of measurement or sampling, changes in the food system, changes in the varieties grown or changes in agricultural practice. In conclusion recommends that the causes of the differences in mineral content and their effect on human health be investigated.” Which sounds as if it’s raising the possibility of a change, but certainly coming to no conclusion that such is the case. My apologies for the epic-length novel. 😉

  11. While many of the Reams advocates will hate to admit it, the basics of what they are preaching is actually based on balancing the Base Saturations. Reams was supposedly a good friend of William A. Albrecht. Albrecht and others like him demonstrated quite readily how nutrient density or nutrient composition can change provided the issue of adequate calcium is addressed and that the rest of the bases are in the right ranges depending upon drainage, overall CEC levels and soil types. To my understanding, they use the Morgan procedure to analyze the soil at IAL. Personally I see much more correlation to crop yield response and brix using Melich 3.

    I asked the folks at U. Mass which procedure they are advocating and will post their answer as soon they respond.

    I don’ sell anything by the way. I am a farmer and a crop consultant.

  12. Thanks for this, Mike! As you might know, I have great respect for U Mass Amherst’s soil lab and will be curious as to what they say. And I’m grateful for practitioners like you to bring your viewpoints to this blog. (I am still appalled by the recommendations made by IAL, however, as noted in my column on 2/17.)

  13. I have been reading the various posts about IAL and their “odd product names”. You people obviously have never taken a business course in “fear marketing methods”. Lol. I am coining the phrase for you.

    It works like this: IAL will do soil tests for people and make recommendations for people to use their products. They purchase a product or formulate a product and then they give that product an odd name like “Inferno” (just as an example). Their instructions are to apply “Inferno” at a certain rate per acre or at particular times during the growth cycle. Their customers purchase “Inferno” and apply it per the recomendations they were given that pertain to their soil test. The customer only sees that so much “Inferno” is needed and they are not told what is in “Inferno” that meets their particular soil mineral deficiencies. This keeps the customer coming back to IAL to purchase that product. If people knew exactly what was in the product then they could go around IAL and purchase the product or components elsewhere.

    IAL is afraid people will go around them, so they came up with private label names and instructions and leave it at that for their customers. This holds their customers “captive” and they continue on in the program because t
    hey were told that in 3-4 years, they too will be growing high brix, nutrient dense plants. 3-4 years comes and the results are not achieved for the majority of their customers (I hear from a lot of those folks!)

    Fear Marketing techniques involve not giving the customer enough information so they can decide for themselves who they purchase products from. It is an attempt to get the customer to be dependent upon IAL as a sole source.

    I have studied Dr Carey Reams work and he puts modern agriculture to shame, but IAL is not achieving the results that Dr. Carey Reams achieved. Dr Reams was quite successful and IAL simply is not showing anything like what I would call a 90%+ success rate with their customers. That is something that ties into Fear Marketing. Without specific knowledge, it becomes very difficult for their customers to determine why they are not achieving the goals IAL says they can achieve because they are “In the Dark” when it comes to applying and understanding the principles taught by Dr Carey Reams. Dr Reams wanted everything out in the open so people could learn his methods and make the decisions that needed to be made in order to achieve those goals of growing High Brix, nutrient dense plants.

    IAL says Dr. Reams theory is “too difficult” to understand and that people should come to them and trust them to do the right thing for them.

    Fear marketing: private label products; get people to rely only on IAL’s knowledge of something too complex for ordinary people to understand; get people to depend upon IAL as their supplier; get people to depend upon IAL for soil testing and recommendations; it’s like dangling a carrot out in front of the customer only the customer never gets the carrot.

    IAL won’t tell you how they “calculate” what you need… “It’s too complicated for the ordinary person to understand.”

    IAL doesn’t reveal what is in their private labeled products… just what the product is, how much to apply and when.

    Dr Reams was quite successful in teaching people how to grow “Exellent Brix”, “Nutrient dense” produce. I have talked to a lot of people trained by him and they are able to achieve those results. Dr Reams wanted everyone to know how to achieve those kind of results.

    The methods of “Fear Marketing” say… keep people dependent upon IAL. Don’t allow them to know what to do or they won’t have to come back to IAL. But what doesn’t make sense to me is that they do not have a 90% plus rate of success in what they do for their customers. They have a nice song and dance about what should happen but it never seems to be realized by the majority of their customers.

    Many of their customers do say, “Improvements were realized.” So, it isn’t entirely a flop… but achieving excellent brix levels and nutrient dense foods seems to be achieved by very few people.

  14. How many of us purchase food from the local stores only to find that it rots before we can get around to eating it? 100% of the people will raise thier hands on that one!! That kind of food is what I call.. poor food and is all so common in the market place.

    Dr. Carey Reams found when he tested foods to see what nutrients were present, that foods that had higher sugar content also had higher mineral content. Minerals are required to be present as catalysts as plant made sugars. Minerals + sugars + other phytochemicals dissolved in plant juices will show up on the brix scale of a refractometer. Dr Reams developed a brix chart to rate the quality of fruits and vegetables. The higher the brix level of plant juices, the higher the quality of the plant. Here’s a few brix charts: CHARTS .

    In general, the higher the brix value on plant juices the higher the quality of the plant. The higher the brix value the higher will be the mineral and sugar levels in that plant. When the juice from plants reaches “excellent” and higher on the brix charts, we are into much higher levels of nutrients (minerals, sugars, and phyto-chemicals) present in the plants. When we can grow those kind of plants, we can store the fruit and vegetables for considerably longer periods of time and can easily consume those fruits and vegetables… unlike the poor quality plants we find sold in most of the stores.

    For example, we are growing hybrid and heirloom tomatoes at 10-13 brix and finding we can store those ripe tomatoes at room temperature for months and they do not spoil. They taste better than anything you can purchase at the store and they do indeed have higher levels of nutrients present in them.

    Another item of interest is that when the brix of plant juices reach 12 brix, those plants are not on the menu of the destructive insects. As the brix levels go higher, we will find those plants are no longer host to disease organisms.

    This idea of nutrient density is nothing more than as the brix levels rise in plant juices, so do the nutrients rise in the plant.

    As one gets into good and excellent brix levels in plants, one will find that the specific gravity of the produce will be much higher. Anyone with a refractometer, an accurate scale, and a graduated cylinder large enough to hold the fruit or vegetable sample, can measure the specific gravity (wt/vol) and observe that there is a higher specific gravity present in fruit and vegetables that have good and excellent brix levels over fruit and vegetables that have lower brix levels. This is where the term “nutrient density” or “nutrient dense” comes from. You can easily verify that more nutrients are present in high brix foods than are in the low brix foods…. and you better have the $’s ready because those tests are pricey.

    Anyone can measure the brix and the specific gravity of poor food that rots fast which is sold in 100% of the stores and it’s easy to also document how long that crap takes to rot. And if you happen to be filthy rich, you can send the produce off to get a nutrient analysis done.

    Finding Good and Excellent brix level foods in the stores is not impossible, but that sort of food is rather rare. You can find it, however and measure the specific gravity, brix, and send it off for nutrient analysis too.

    I call all of this.. re-inventing the wheel. Dr Reams did those experiments. Unfortunately, we have only his end result analysis work and not the data. So for those with the big bucks.. here’s your chance to put those dollars to work and have the data that goes with what Dr Reams taught people. It won’t change anything except to lower the level of your bank account… or draw upon some government grant you might get to fund this work.

    Do you really need to do all of that to determine quality? I don’t think so! Here on the left we have the low brix food that rots fast which is purchased from any store in the USA. Notice it is rotting even now. Here on the right we have the same kind of food that is good and excellent brix and is months old and has not rotted at all. Do you need some “expert” to tell you which is better quality food?

    We grew an earlygirl tomato plant and harvested 215 tomatoes from the plant when frosts started. 30 were ripe, the rest were green. They were all ripe at room temperature in two weeks. They all measured 10 brix. They were eaten down to 95 tomatoes stored at room temperature for 5 months. None of them spoiled. We can produce those kind of yields and quality at will here in Spokane as can any backyard gardener using our methods of growing. What’s the market value of 215-300+ tomatoes that are 10 brix and don’t rot after harvesting? A $1.00 to $1.50 perhaps? And we didn’t throw any rotting tomatoes away! What do you think having that kind of food quality would do to our economy? If we could make this a reality in most of the food supplied to the stores for sale to the public, the economic impact would be far reaching and would go way beyond the issues being talked about on this blog.

  15. Johanna, if you mean the topic, you can see follow up columns on Feb. 17th. If you mean a follow up to Thomas’s last post, we’ve responded to many of these types of posts explaining that anecdotal or nonscience based information can’t be examined in a scientific way. Thus, it’s nothing that we Garden Professors consider scientifically valid. (As you’ll see from the Feb. 17 post, we had over 100 comments. It got a bit tiring reiterating the above point.)

  16. I was just referred to this site by a friend.

    After reading some comments I have this to say:

    I am a truth seeker in all subjects.

    I am only partial to the highest truth in all subjects. I impartially have studied many points of view on many subjects.

    I have studied Ream’s science in both soil and crops and human health.

    I have found it to be a workable science and what Reams said was true.

    I have to quote my gr 12 science teacher of many yrs ago. She said on the last day of class before she dismissed us, that everything she taught us will someday be proven wrong.

    I am continuously finding that to be more and more true.

    In fact all the sciences taught in school except math are wrong.

    The truth is not determined by authority or argument or consensus. The truth is the truth.
    The truth is impartial.

    She was the most intelligent teacher I had.

    All you critics of the Reams science on this site or anywhere are not qualified to comment on the Reams’ science.

    Because everything you were taught in school in the sciences is wrong.

    So you can argue and chew the rag till the cows come home and country music goes out of style and it will not make you right.

    You are only intelligent enough to argue to defend your ignorance.

    You all went to the wrong school.

    Diogenese was a Greek philosopher who allegedly was said to go around town with a lantern searching houses looking for a sane man.

    Sanity is the ability to discern right from wrong.

    Insanity is the inability to discern right from wrong.

    It is not sane to comment on anything you are not qualified to comment on.

    If you are partial to anything other than the highest truth in any subject you are intellectually and perceptually dishonest.

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