An uphill battle for evidence-based products

I was idly scrolling through Facebook, thinking about my topic for today, when I saw a link for “federal guidelines for sustainable landscaping.”  Perfect!  I skimmed through the document – some quibbles here and there, but nothing gasket-blowing on my first read – and then checked out the BioPreferred Catalog page.  I looked under “Landscaping and Agriculture” and clicked on “Fertilizers.”

There are 182 listings.  The very first one is “1-2-3 Instant Compost Tea.”  You can follow the link yourself, but here’s what the company says: “Contains macro/micro nutrients for turf, Increases potassium and phosphorous uptake in plants, Stimulates seed germination and root formation and growth, Improves soil porosity, Increases the protein and mineral content of soil, Increases soil microorganism populations, Aids in reducing soil erosion.”

And that’s just the first entry.  How about Bio Plant Wash?  Here’s what it is: “Bio Plant Wash is a BioBased Nano-Colloidal formula, a remarkable blend of processed extracts of coconut, corn, soy, sugarcane, etc. This unique formula improves plant health so much the plant can resist harmful insects and disease which in return helps produce vastly increased yields. Eliminate or greatly reduce expensive toxic chemicals.

“Bio Plant Wash can be used on Flowers, Fruits, Fruit Trees, Vegetables, Sod Fields and Lawns. You will see healthier, bigger, stronger and faster growing plants.”

But wait, there’s more!  Here are the results you will see if you use this product:

“Accelerated Photosynthesis,
Enhances Root Growth,
Better nutritional absorption,
Revives stressed plants,
Plants become more disease resistant,
Reduce expensive pesticides costs,
Cost Effective, Cost pennies per gallon when diluted,
Non-Toxic, Non-Carcinogen,
People, Animal and Earth Safe”

The only standard one needs to meet to have their product listed as BioPreferred is to show that it’s “composed in whole, or in significant part, of biological products, renewable agricultural materials (including plant, animal, and marine materials), or forestry materials.”

No testing is required to show that it actually works.

Published by

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 a 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:

8 thoughts on “An uphill battle for evidence-based products”

  1. Sigh. One person’s good intentions plus another person’s going through the
    motions plus general laziness have sabotaged more than one essentially good idea. Too bad.

  2. Good point. If the folks behind these guidelines respond to my request for an interview I’ll send them this link. Reporting back on GardenRant.

  3. Linda, I have read some of your comments about AACT …

    on it’s own, it is not a fertilizer, but many guys add nutrients and additives to it

    If you want to see tests, visit the cannabis forums

    sadly, people like you will always call it snake oil, as it cannot be regulated by Pharma/fertilizer companies …. and it costs pennies to make 5 gallons

    your views differ greatly from Dr Ingram and others who use it….

  4. Dimitri, the title of this post is “evidence based products.” As I’ve said before (as has Jeff Gillman, and many other academic researchers), there is no consistent, reliable evidence that compost tea works. Anecdote does not equal evidence. And neither Dr. Ingham nor any other CT advocate has published anything in the scientific literature to demonstrate otherwise.
    It’s both tiresome and laughable to be accused of being in big Pharma’s pocket. But apparently it’s easier to make unsubstantiated allegations than it is to examine the evidence (by which I mean peer-reviewed, published evidence) with an open mind.
    And lastly, it costs virtually NOTHING to make nonaerated compost tea, which just as effective, if not more so, than aerated compost tea. Which can cost a bundle in terms of equipment, additives, energy, and testing.

  5. quote:
    As I’ve said before (as has Jeff Gillman, and many other academic researchers), there is no consistent, reliable evidence that compost tea works. Anecdote does not equal evidence. And neither Dr. Ingham nor any other CT advocate has published anything in the scientific literature to demonstrate otherwise. …..

    LOL …. AACT is used by the guys who grow giant pumkins (the ones that grow 1500 pounds and heavier) … check their forums … When they tried growing the exact same pumkin strains without AACT, they never even came close …. this is not fallacy, this is fact …. John Evans who holds several world records for giant vegetables has been using AACT for several years …. check this youtube video:
    …. people who grow cannabis illegally in their lofts use AACT …. they compare growing with and without using it …. I am a landscaper and use AACT …. I have outstanding results since doing so …. Linda, you need to get out more and start growing things yourself and testing the product … don’t always believe everything you read in books …. and BTW, I am not associated with anyone who sells anything related to AACT

  6. I like compost tea, but wouldn’t bother paying for it. Just add rain water, green waste, and a stocking full of finished compost and let sit for 24-48 hours with the air stone on (or not). For extra points add some urine! I’m currently experimenting with adding raw goat’s milk. This tea of course never ever substitues good compost and soil ammendments, but I love it for a little boost 2-3 days after transplanting seedlings.

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