International Ag Labs – who are they and what do they do?

Last week I posted a short message about this company, asking you to do a little homework.  Bryn, CP, and Karen all have teased out some details that agree with my skepticism on how reliable this company is for soil testing and analysis.  (See last Wednesday’s post and comments if you haven’t read them already.)

To back up a little bit, I received an email from LB last week, along with the attached soil test, analysis and recommendations. LB intends to do some “market gardening” and here are his questions:

1. Is there anything to this perspective? Understanding your soil and rl37 (a “Jack of all trades” product).

2. I “get” that I should not willy nilly spread compost over everything, but what in the attached recommendation (based on the soil analysis) should I follow (Note: Crescendo and Stimulate are no longer offered, but there are lots of other interesting products here.)

3. Have you read any peer reviewed research that supports their “High Brix” market garden approach that uses sugar content and refractive index to supposedly correlate to improved flavor and higher nutrient content in selected vegetables?  I have heard of chefs using this to evaluate certain produce (carrots and tomatoes) in the market but nothing in a peer reviewed journal.”

Take a look at the linked report from IAL (from the second paragraph).  This is a confusing analysis, as it combines traditional ppm measures with pounds/acre.  (My understanding is that you can divide this latter number by 2 to get ppm.)  However, pounds/acre only represents a portion of what’s actually available in the soil.  It’s not an indication of how much, if any, of these nutrients to add.  (If you’ve never seen U. Mass Amherst’s soil testing lab, take a look at their webpage, especially their fact sheets related to soil testing.)

What irks me is the recommendations (which are in the first table in the attached document).  I’m not even sure of the rate – I assume it’s per acre, but who knows? And what is the purpose of all this stuff?

This company is heavily used by many people, including researchers (if you Google the name of the company along with, you’ll find reference to articles and university reports that use their services.

Let’s have some discussion on this.  I’m certainly not an expert on performing soil tests, but I’ve had enough of them done that I have a pretty good idea how to interpret them and their recommendations.

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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 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:

111 thoughts on “International Ag Labs – who are they and what do they do?”

  1. I hope LB is planning on having a *very* large market garden since she/he will be dumping just short of 5 tons of amendments on it!

    It made me ask a couple of questions:
    1. Why all the phosphate? Even in the form of rock phosphate, phosphate is a major pollutant in run-off. I hope the property isn’t anywhere near a waterbody. Also, they’ve got a ton (literally) of compost/rotted manure listed–wouldn’t that be a sufficient supply of phosphates especially when you add in 240lbs. (30 gals) of fish fertilizer.
    2. What’s with the molasses? Is this company connected with Jerry Baker? 😉 Molasses (or treacle, as they have it listed on another product) is primarily sugars and only 2% minerals. What good is it going to do other than making the ants, bees and a few other insects happy?
    3. Growing up, I was told never to add lime at the same time as you were adding compost/manure–that the two would “cancel” each other out. Is that an old wive’s tale or is the analysis a little screwy? Or both?

    There’s a lot of this analysis that’s making me shake my head, but I’m curious why they’re recommending “Stimulate”–I don’t see it listed any longer on IAL’s product website.

  2. I’m fascinated by the amount of stuff about molasses I’m finding – an awful lot of it seems to be anecdotal/folksy. (My grandpa had a tablespoon every day and lived to be 90 and healthy! Must be great for the garden, too.) Here’s one that seems like it might be legit – albeit dating from the 1950s. It says that molasses would serve as a food source for azotobacter, a bacteria that fixed nitrogen in soil.
    Saw this on the IAL website (page 3 of biological theory of ionization); “I have been looking in college textbooks for verification of the use of molasses in a soil program and have finally found one…” I guess it’s good that they’re looking at some textbooks. (Although page 4 goes away from the textbooks and talks about Jesus, saying; ‘It would be a good idea to get back on Jesus’ team, for He holds the answers to successful crop production’.)
    This is all just so fascinating. It might be interesting to take soil samples from the same site and submit them to both IAL and somewhere with a more traditional approach and see how the recommendations compare.

  3. IAL uses the Morgan Soil test which is very different from Mehlich III. It measures the available elements. just because an element is in the soil does not mean it is available.
    Farmers and Gardeners get good results from IAL. Higher quality.

    Dave Rogers

    1. David, have you looked at the document that I attached? These recommendations are bizarre and not based on any soil science that I can discern. If you have experience with this company, can you help interpret their recommendations?

      1. Did you call IAL for clarification? I recommend Science in Agriculture by Dr. Arden Andersen (ACRES) for some insight into how this works. Soft rock phosphate is naturally occuring and is not a pollutant, btw.

        1. Unfortunately, IAL does not have any plant or soil scientists on staff for me to consult. All minerals are naturally occurring – the problem occurs when you have too much of a particular nutrient, which does qualify as pollution. While soft rock phosphate is less soluble than some other forms, it should not be added unless there is a demonstrated phosphate deficiency, and only then in reasonable amounts.

            1. Sorry, Dave, but one of the functions of the Garden Professors is to “come out with guns blazing” when bad science is evident. Look carefully at the recommendations from IAL to my email correspondent. There’s no justification given on why all this stuff should be added, and at such great quantities. Why add molasses? Why be encouraged to buy nebulous products like “Stimulate” or “Crescendo”? Furthermore, IAL is linked to some pretty questionable ideas (e.g. “High Brix Gardening” and “Reams Biological Theory of Ionization”). This isn’t science – it’s pseudoscience. As a comparison, I’d suggest you spend $13 and send a soil sample to U. Mass. Amherst. You’ll get a full analysis, plus an explanation of their recommendations. And they’re not selling anything – just information.

              1. Your blog is public, so I thought you might want to pursue a measure of journalistic integrity and check the sources. Sure, some of Reams’ biographical info, etc. is puzzling, so read Albrecht, read Andersen, or talk to IAL. It is not my obligation to inform you about the function of molasses, especially when you refuse to ask the source. I’d hope your intellectual curiosity might prompt you to look into it. Not very scientific of you. I’ve been sending samples to Cornell and IAL, and have for years, btw.

                1. Dave, you can’t have it both ways. You can’t blithely dismiss the pseudoscientific framework this company is built around and then insist I “check the sources.” Believe me – much of my job for over a decade has been “checking the sources.” I can tell you quite a bit about how molasses acts in controlled experiments: it can increase nitrous oxide production and nitrogen leaching when added to a compost mix, for example. Or did you not want me to look at the scientific sources?

                  1. Over the years, I’ve followed recommendations from UMass, Cornell and IAL and, as a commercial grower, my concern is with results. The results helped me overcome a sincere skepticism about many of the claims in biological farming. You deem something pseudoscientific without reading up on it!? I’ve bothered to look into each viewpoint. Let me know when you read Science in Agriculture.

                    1. The book you refer to is written by Arden Anderson (and it is not peer-reviewed). Here’s his bio: “Dr. Andersen is a graduate of the College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific in Pomona, California. He earned his Ph.D. in biophysics at Clayton University in St. Louis, Missouri, and a B.S. in Agriculture from the University of Arizona. He is a diplomate in Chelation Therapy and is certified by the American Board of Sclerotherapy. “In addition to his work as a general practitioner in Goshen, Dr. Andersen is a physician for the U.S. Air Force Reserve Medical Corps and a sought-out speaker on the topics of agriculture and nutrition. Furthermore, Dr. Andersen has authored three books and produced two eighteen-hour professional tape series’ on biological agriculture.” I’m going to ignore the dubious quality of the PhD from Clayton University (now closed), as it and all the other advanced degrees and certificates are irrelevant to the topic. What I’m curious to know, Dave, is why you are so much more willing to trust the plant science knowledge of someone with a bachelor’s in agriculture, received many decades ago, than the combined knowledge of a lot of PhDs who actively research the applied plant and soil sciences? There are many of us, including all of the Garden Professors, who believe in environmental sustainability and living lightly on the earth. And I think it’s fine for you, or anybody else, to believe in whatever you wish. But scientific evidence, or lack of it, should not be confused with “viewpoints.” This blog is geared towards science-based horticulture, and that’s why we call out bogus science when we see it.

        2. Sorry to be late back, Dave, soft rock phosphate may be “natural”, but so is cow manure and bat guano. Washington State has regulations regarding run-off from animal pastures since it doesn’t matter if the source is “natural” or not, it’s still a pollutant. “Natural” is in quotes because everybody seems to have their own definition. Arsenic, ricin and taxine are also “natural”, but that isn’t synonymous with harmless.

          1. You wrote about IAL and requested discussion, but refuse to seek information. That speaks for itself. Personally, I pay attention to extension and independent scientists. My peers – real farmers – are the ones who really matter. We are seeing improved yield, flavor and quality by using a weak acid soil test. If organic farmers had waited for consensus from the scientific world, we would be stuck with conventional ag. Good luck with your blog.

            1. I guess you haven’t paid attention to what I do, Dave. I’m an Extension Specialist in Urban Horticulture. My job – and the job of ANY university extension specialist – is to provide science-based information to the public. (I’m not finding much science in IAL’s approach to agriculture, and I’ve perused their website diligently.) There are many organic practices that are supported by science and have been practices for decades: no till, polyculture, use of organic mulches, IPM-PHC, etc. That’s hardly conventional ag, is it? What you won’t find from university scientists, including extension specialists like myself, is a promotion of products or practices with no basis in science. Furthermore, the indiscriminate use of chemicals as recommended by IAL – which is how this posting began – is environmentally irresponsible. You seem like a person concerned about the environment – yet you defend these recommendations. Nor have you offered any substantial rebuttal to the points I’ve made earlier regarding molasses or phosphate pollution – issues you brought up. It’s hard to have a rational discussion if your only response is to “seek information” and then ignore the information I’ve tried to supply.

  4. The title of your blog might suggest that you want to know more about IAL. From your comments it sounds like you would rather run them out of business.

    I would suggest that you stop in and have a cup of coffe with IAL and learn more about them or anyother company or product before gunning it down.

  5. Dear Linda,

    I have run over 600 soil tests through IAL in the past 4 years. I have a very successful business that has been serving our community for over 55 years. We used other labs here in California with very poor results. I will say with out a doubt that the information that comes from IAL is remarkable and has help my business grow because of the results. If you would like some help in the interpretation of your sample I charge a consulting fee. I am supported by my results not tax payers hard work. Hope this does not offend you.

  6. I am an amateur gardener. I tried IAL last year and had the joy of tasting some of the most amazing vegetables. For example, broccoli that was actually sweet like carrots.

  7. I suggest you attend one of DVM Dan Skow’s seminars on the “Theory of Ionization” if you are really interested in finding out what the soil tests and recos are based on.

  8. Wow! That’s something like 5 posts in less than an hour! Are you guys all siting around a computer and passing the keyboard back and forth…Or is there just one of you….

  9. Let me boil my original posting down to a few simple points:

    1) A soil test should come with an explanation of the results.

    2) All recommendations should be based on current soil and plant sciences.

    My email correspondent, who I quoted in the original posting, was left with more questions than answers. To my mind, this is not a good business practice and I would never recommend a company that could not satisfy its customers.

    Read this fact sheet information that is provided by U Mass Amherst soil testing lab ( This is the kind of information people need to see when they spend money to have their soils tested.

  10. Linda you say that This blog is geared towards science-based horticulture, and that’s why we call out bogus science when we see it.So,,,any thinking other than your’s is wrong? I’m sorry but “science” can not and never will be able to explain how everything works.I have not used IAL yet but have talked to many people first hand that have and all have seen results.Good going Dave but I want to add something.The majority of oganics now are under the scientific “thumb”.It’s convetional ag with a Certified Organic stamp on it.The only thing organics has going for it is that it bans GMO’s.Dan C.,IAL by my understanding where dragged into this.Call me what you will,but I believe that the Lord God created this Earth and everthing in it and knows how it all works so there for he DOES have ALL the answers.And like George says it is not my purpose to offend but merely say what I truly believe.Samuel

  11. Linda,

    I don’t beleive Dr Arden Anderson woul agree with you. Maybe you should check with him.

    Many of us are trying to produce high brix products.
    The proof will be in the results.

    I believe you need to do a lot more research. You have not scratched the surface on molases.
    Check out EM it is used World Wide and fermented with molases. It is a big Univrse. It’s not what you don’t know that gets you in trouble. It’s what you know that aint so.


  12. Well Jon asked me if i would like to comment, I am a New Zealand brought up on a dairy farm and I certainly appreciate the collective knowledge that I have gained from numerous sources within N.Z and the scientists … come consultants that have come here from overseas. This soil science is really like the argument of theology and church practice… and really at the end of the day it is what has been formed or created. Does it work what is the end result!!! Yes I called in at a farm one day and after being cross examined about what I am about and what was needed to validate my approach to growing nutrient dense pasture she admitted for all her year and training and gaining a degree in Agriculture and her cattle stock prefer grazing the side of the road than what grows out on the farm and she has a so called orthodox approach to managing the fertility of the soil to grow pasture and that B Ag Science hanging on the wall hasn’t created any further desire for her stock to eat her grass

  13. I am so sorry to hear so much controversy. To allow a little light upon the subject, Carey Reams was definately a man beyond his time. He had created a retreat that healed thousands of people that were very sick and had lost all hope from the medical institutions. He was a man that never gave up hope for the hopeless.
    He discovered principles on both human and agriculture nutrition that has still yet to be proven incorrect.

    Remember when Columbus sailed the ocean blue the world was thought to be flat and if you sailed into the horizon you would drop off the planet. How Columbus changed the world as well as our mind.
    Using body chemistry and soil chemistry is an art and a science when it comes to application. Think about the teacher, if it is the industrial fertilizer company that is the teacher then you learn what they know. Such is the pharmace
    utical salesman they are teaching the doctors about how to care for patients with no scientific education. Smells like a dead fish out of water, they stink after a while.

    It is very interesting to remember an old proverb which stated from dust to dust we come and go. This is what human kind is all dictated to from the earth we come and to the earth we return. The most products that support life is glucose (sugar) and oxygen. Molassas is nothing more than a simple sugar when mixed with air creates energy, might be metabolism, mitosis ….

    An open mind is a terrible thing to waste. Blessings to all

  14. Molasses is used to stimulate bacteria. I’m sure a university professor would understand the desire of such a simple aerobic organism to want simple sugars in their diet, right? If bacteria are responsible for things like nitrogen fixation and nutrient/mineral availability, it stands to reason that tending to the soil bacteria would qualify as a good soil management practice. This is real SIMPLE science here folks. And for the biological farmer it’s damn near common sense. There are certain times to apply and certain times not to apply, just like anything else. Farming is about timing. It’s also about integration from a holistic perspective. We could really blow some minds with the hocus pocus of farming with the moon phase and astrological bodies positioning, but we don’t have to get into all that do we? The problem I find with ‘scientists’, per se, is the fact that they deal in empirical reckonings and believe that science is the definitive. I have accepted the fact that we really don’t need to know everything really. You could study for years ABOUT how to make a three point jump shot.. ball density.. velocity.. trajectory.. all that bullshit, but that doesn’t mean you could hit from the line.. you think Pistol Pete Maravich thought about trajectories when he popped the net? Science is useful, no doubt, but it only goes so far. Farming is also very intuitive. And when you can present to me a scientific theory that can even come close to explaining ‘intuition’, then you can really argue your point with a science that actually has authority. If you want to impress me as a scientist, then stop wasting your time blogging and get your butt out there in the field and do some useful research. Forget about quoting ‘your peers’ – what are YOU doing. Let me know how your experiments with molasses go. I know that my compost tea will go anaerobic and stink-up the place without the addition of a simple sugar and proper aeration. Oh, BTW, we all know that the university guys don’t endorse specific products… I’d be interested in knowing what your funding stream actually is.. you know, corporate money and such… let’s not pretend here.

  15. I’m a small market farmer not a scientist. IAL’s recommendations worked for me. I used the microbial product Cresendo and also molasses 5 gal to the acre. My pluots averaged 20-22 Brix. You can’t argue with results. It is my understanding that the molasses feeds the microbes which intern digest the nutrients in the soil making them available to the plant. I don’t have to know exactly how it works I just know it works. When I first got the Cresendo it didn’t come with much info and instructions for use so I called and they were more than happy to help me. If you have a question about a recommendation call them and ask why.

  16. Linda, Much of your objections toward IAL are based on credentials and science vs. pseudoscience. Evolution is accepted as “science” and yet there are no illustrations of “transitional forms either living or fossil”. Quoted from Colin Patterson Senior Principal Officer of the Paleontology Department of the British Museum of Natural History (repository for the largest collection of fossils in the world.) This is a case in point of universally accepted “science” with a very weak basis in fact.

  17. Linda, I have no fancy titles behind my name. I’m a market grower and a nurse. I do know that I’ve been very pleased with the results that I’ve had with IAL recommendations. Years ago, when I was younger and smarter I thought all outcomes could and should be science based. Now I’m no longer so smart. I believe that our earthly system is much more complex than we can imagine. I have no studies to show you, but I do know some amazing gardeners/growers who are using this High Brix system with great results. My own personal experience has only been good, and I’ve been a gardener for several decades. My recommendation to you would be that YOU find the funding and run the “peer reviewed” studies that you seem to desire. Sounds like a great thesis to me, do you have your PhD? In my limited experience, funding seems to come from well heeled corporations who are only interested in seeing their own interests expressed. Call me cynical. In closing, here are a few websites for you to look at:
    And finally, this guy, with a PhD, who is into this non “peer reviewed” science.

  18. “To my mind, this is not a good business practice and I would never recommend a company that could not satisfy its customers.”

    Dear Linda,

    I write from Toronto, Ontario in regards to your comment above. I have used IAL for some of my own market gardening soil tests. I have always been more than satisfied with the recommendations they have provided to me. More importantly, when I apply their recommendations, I get RESULTS! I encourage you to do some experimenting on your own garden/farm using IAL testing and recommendation services. Please let us know how things turn out. I assume we’ll hear nothing short of great reviews.

    Thank you.

    PS – There is a difference between “not recommending” a company and talking down about them. Your original post was pretty rude.

  19. Linda,
    I think your “peers” have spoken.
    IAL peer reviewed results are in, thumbs up.
    This is coming from people who are willing to implement a system that makes sense.
    I spoke with an apple grower from your state, who said the information he got from the seminars put on by Arden Anderson, saved his farm. Something the local extension agents failed at with their recommendations. There is sound thinking out side the “university box”.
    A Hawaiian proverb says: “not all wisdom is found in one house”

  20. Proof = I manage the turf for Hudson Soccer Association (45 Ac) for 12 yrs. End of 2002 used it’s 13 acres of irrigation a lot, mowing mostly once every two weeks, used conventional fertilizers, could feel & see the hard soil through the grass – probe ½”, No new young plants, used no mechanical aerification, detention pond would fill 3” on a 3” rain for 2 to 6 days, and the turf was getting worse. 2003 we changed to Managed Input, by Specialty Turf & Ag. By the end of 2004 we use 10/15% less water, after 1″ rain we mow more often, have no thatch build up, and we walk on a safe carpet of grass. 2006 mowing twice a week a few times, irrigation is off a lot, can put probe in 3” +/- into the soil, tripled plant count, August we had a 5” – 24 Hr. rain and our detention pond showed no water within 24 hrs, and have very happy customer and their 600 safer children. All we did was change the fertilizers, double it’s budget & tripled pounds of product applied for first 3yrs, met our goals and saved in all topics of turf management except frequency of mowing. In 2008 & 09 cut amendments by 1/3. 2009 a 3 wks NO; mowing, water, and dormancy. Bigest returns over organic or conventional and in all my plants. But don’t be lazy. You really do need to jump start the system for best return. So ask for medium start up or they have other consultants / suppliers.

  21. Farmers like myself who make their career farming care very little about universities and the scientific research being taught today thru them.

    The results would make anyone get out of farming. The extension agents, FDA, USDA, are all failing in their mission to provide healthy and safe products. (Plus)bringing a decent profit to the farmers!

    International Ag Labs is giving results that the above do not even know exist.

    I can grow blackberries to production 2-3 times faster in my mineralized soil. With a taste that makes the organic movement green with envy. You should see the refractive and/or brix index I get from my crops. HA! bug pressure what is that?? Fungus?? What is that?

    Once japanese beatle plagued crops are spotless. Fully mineralized and bacteria/fungi balanced soils smell just like a virgin forest floor. (ours sure do) Fertilizer is not even needed to produce healthy crops year after year. We check the mineral level every now and then and supplement as neccesary. It is better on the enviroment as well for sure.

    I have been to all sorts of university seminars. All of them with P.H.D’s of science and soil biology. So far the only thing I come away with is regret for wasting my time.

    International Ag labs gets the results we need period. Dog gone it in the field that’s all that matters! When today’s science and it’s doctors catch up with the truth that IAL is giving us they will see true fertility, true health and true profits for farmers.

    You would do well Linda to do what they say to the letter and enjoy the rest of your life eating foods that are better than what the queen of england eats than to stay inside the limited box that is found at a university.

    Kamon Reynolds Full time farmer and beekeeper. Age 21

  22. Linda, IAL is doing good work and helping many growers large and small. We see increased production decreased insect and desease pressure and improved taste. What more can one ask for? Testing the Brix is simple and excellent way to determine if our plants are healthy and produce nutrient dense. There is a definite link between high brix and improved taste. Our hope is that by increasing the nutrient density in the produce we eat, we can improve our immune systems and live healthier more productive lives. I encourage you to read a book written 30 years ago by Maynard Murray MD called “Sea Energy Agriculture”…you may find his scientific observations and findings easier to understand. I hope this discussion inspires you to take a professional look at some of the data you find so suspect and conduct research trials of your own. Taste the difference in the produce grown utilizing IAL’s methods and you’ll never be skeptical again.

  23. Sorry if you didn’t like my post. I believe it’s people like you who are to blame for the problems we have with food security.

    Without trying IAL’s recommendations, or doing a nutritional analysis on the end product….your opinions are irrrelevant and not even remotely scientific.

  24. I’m a home gardener that has used IAL for 2 years. The reports IAL sent included spread rates both times. That was missing from the posted test. Why not just call IAL and ask for the spread rate?

    I’ve had good results in a home garden. I did not follow IAL’s recommendations in one garden row last year. Those plants did not do as well and were more susceptible to pest damage.

    Otherwise, everything we grew had great flavor, quality and the yields were wonderful. The earthworm population noticeably increased too.

    Food growing isn’t all about science. It requires common sense, observation, intuition, luck and not messing with the natural way of things too much. I’m interested in building soil health, which in turn feeds the plant. IAL supports that goal.

  25. I looked at you alls testing linda and I am sorry but that is a vague test in comparison.

    It does not explain into detail the individual roles of the macro and micro nutrients and how they serve and complement the other minerals. To much magnesium cancels out Nitrogen.

    Potassium is typically higher in most soils while calcium and phosphate are low resulting in high bug pressure due to imbalance. I correct my Cal and phos problem solved.

    Goodbye organic sprays.

    Phosphate not only is a catalyst for photosynthesis but is important in building topsoil. Soft rock Phosphate naturally rises to the soil surface. It is not hard rock phosphate that has been misused and misunderstood.

    The phosphate toxicity problems are the fault of chemical artificial Super phosphates which are not even used in IAL or any other mineral programs of this kind.

    I have gotten soil tests exactly like the link you showed

    Where is the availibilty in your tests??? Rock powders/minerals even though small to us is huge on the microbial level and unless said minerals are digested by bacterial action which all take place on the microscopic level they won’t even be taken into the plant.

    What product(s) would your soil test experts suggest to stimulate bacterial action to digest minerals??

    I know a PHD who does this very type of agriculture Should you want some phone numbers to talk to him since they have a paper to prove their soil prowess?

  26. I’m not here to defend IAL or anyone else; I figure they should be here defending themselves, but because Barb, above, mentioned my web site and got my attention, I thought I would clarify a couple of points about rock phosphate and molasses. Apologies for the long post, but it seemed necessary.

    As a couple of people have pointed out, the molasses is to feed the soil microbes. They are simple organisms and need simple foods, especially in an abused and depleted soil where their populations are low and their vitality weak. In a seriously dead soil, one where the organic matter has been burned out by anhydrous ammonia and everything else poisoned with potassium chloride fertilizer and herbicides, even molasses can be too complex and difficult to digest. In that case refined white sugar would be a better choice, say 25 pounds per acre dissolved in fifty gallons of water and applied as a spray. Liquid seaweed extract would be a good addition to the mix, to supply trace minerals and plant hormones.

    There is a lot of hype and worry about phosphate pollution of waterways. It needs to be pointed out that phosphate is not very water soluble. Even if it is applied in a concentrated form that has been made temporarily water soluble such as triple superphosphate or mono-ammonium phosphate, it will very quickly tie up with any positively charged ion in the soil, forming insoluble compounds such as calcium phosphate, iron phosphate, aluminum phosphate etc.

    Once tied up, phosphate is practically immobile in the soil. It does not leach to a lower soil horizon like calcium, sulfur, or sodium do. Most of the phosphorus in soft or hard rock phosphate is not soluble in water at all. Calphos, colloidal clay soft rock phosphate, is only 3% soluble; same for the hard rock phosphates. And that 3% will tie up pretty quickly too. Spread it on a pasture and it will stay on the surface, mostly the top couple of centimeters unless earthworms eat it and take it lower.

    So the pollution danger from rock phosphate, or any phosphate source, is not leaching but runoff; erosion. And the solution to preventing runoff is good farming practices such as contour plowing and planting, and copying a rule of Nature: never leave the soil bare. Maintaining soil organic matter at 4% or above and with a good crumb structure will help a lot too.

    Why is IAL calling for “so much phosphate”? A couple of reasons stand out. One is that their focus is on growing food, as any food grower’s focus should be, as opposed to producing nutritionally depleted bulk tonnage. Most farming models are only about yield, not about quality or nutrition. Of the earth minerals, as opposed to the air minerals C,H,O, and N, the two in greatest abundance in the human body are calcium and phosphorus. Bones, teeth, the ATP Krebs cycle, nutrient transport into cells, nerve function, DNA synthesis, all require Ca and P in quantities much greater than any other mineral nutrients. So the grower whose goal is to grow food would be wise to ensure that the food they are growing contains goodly amounts of the minerals that are needed in the greatest quantity: calcium and phosphorus. Luxury levels of these two, Ca and P, are also necessary in order to grow high Brix crops. The Brix refractometer measures dissolved solids, not just sugars. It is used to measure the salt concentration in salt water aquariums among other things. But even just looking at sugars, the main food for our bodies and brains, a tomato that measures 12* Brix has four times as many nutrients as one that measures 3* Brix. Which do you think tastes better? Which is the better value for your food dollar? Obviously the one with four times as many nutrients, yes? That nutrient concentration can only happen when the needed minerals are available and in balance in a healthy biologically active soil.

    All that said, IAL could do a lot better job of clearly explaining what it is they are doing and why, assuming they can, and shouldn’t need to mass email their clients to defend them here.

    Michael Astera

  27. Hi Linda, I looked over the soil analysis you posted and having not ever dealt with International Ag Labs – I use Crop Services International – I find it to make perfect sense. The humus is 30 to 40 lbs/ per acre. That’s less than 1% organic matter.2 tons of manure per acre is a good recommendation. Have you ever seen a ton of fertility material? I’m doing a ton of pelletized lime with a cone spreader first thing tomorrow morning, all from 40 lb. bags. Doing it by myself an
    d I plan on doing it in about 1-2 hours with a small 35 hp kubota, by myself. Point is.. it’s not a lot of material. 2 tons of manure will be needed to bring the humus levels up. What creates humus? Soil creatures! Mostly bacteria. They are going to need a stimulation. They like sugar and carbs.. Liquid fish.. molasses.. all for the soil beasties. Liquid fish is 5-1-1. Hardly the phosphate pollutant. The Recommendation calls for 1 ton of soft rock/colloidal phosphate(0-2-0), which is about 20 percent phosphate. It is slow release Phosphate is extremely important – required to mobilize nutrients in the plant. Phosphate cycles in the plant. Some is lost in the harvest. It is necessary to get the phosphate levels up in the soil and establish a base. A 1 ton application of phosphate this year does not mean the same for next year. You can cycle phosphate in the soil with cover crops. Look at how low the calcium and magnesium are. Look at what is being called for. I don’t see the ph on the analysis but I’m assuming that the original sample may have been in normal range therefore the gypsum and sulfate will counter the effects of 1 ton of limestone per acre. I don’t see a CEC.. I would assume that the person that submitted the sample would know their soil type – Sandy, Clay, Loam, etc.. I would want to know. I’m sure that IAL knows the CEC and from that can tell you the soil type. Ask them. It’s important to know the CEC and base mineral values. The standard LaMotte test tells what is actually available in the soil solution. The recommendation calls for a two phase application. The first phase adds the re-mineralization components and the humus. The second phase stimulates the bacteria that are present in the manure which increases the incorporation and availability of the minerals. The Chilean Nitrate is going to give an ’emergency’ nitrogen boost in the low fertility soil and also make sure that any uncomposted manure decays in the soil very rapidly. It also supplies need potassium. The reading is not that low for potassium, but it is low. Soda of potash is 15-0-14, so the recommendation is low at 50 lbs. per acre. The soda of potash will also boost the sodium. This will definitely increase the taste of the produce! The manure will be supplying the humus to help retain the ammonia nitrogen. 3 gallons of molasses per acre this year, but I’m sure it would probably reduce down to one next year. The microbe populations have to be proliferated and maintained. If I were doing the analysis, I would have also called for an endo- and ecto- mycorrihzal inoculation. The recommendations given can be understood well enough and the literature is available in many books to answer any questions. Might I suggest a few to start: The Biological Farmer by Gary Zimmer, Hands on Agronomy by Neal Kinnsey, and The Non-toxic Farming Handbook by Philip A. Wheeler, Phd and Ron Ward. I would also recommend studying the work of Rudolf Steiner with an open mind. And I think you really need to tone down your ‘attacks’ on IAL. Your remarks are abusive and slanderous.

  28. Quite a lively discussion we have going here!
    Linda I grant you the benefit of the doubt, and honor your stated intention of “calling out bogus science” as a well-intentioned attempt to inform the public of what you suspect to be misguided or misleading. Skepticism is a common reaction towards a foreign body of knowledge.
    I have been growing vegetables and seed crops commercially for the past 10 years. This past season I sent out a sample to IAL, following a friend’s positive feedback about the company. Following the labs recommendations to the best of my abilities, I had a stellar year on new ground, easily the best of my short farming career. There are other soil consultation companies and services which espouse the same or similar fundamental approach to soil science; Neal Kinsey comes to mind most prominently. His book “Hands On Agronomy” has been instrumental to me in making sense of the theory behind soil remineralization. I highly recommend it.
    There are many paths one can take to reach the goal of healthy food growing on healthy soils. Biodynamics is another branch of agriculture you could easily write off as “pseudoscience,” looking only at the bizarre preparations and their functions, and yet it’s efficacy as a holistic, sustainable system cannot be refuted, nor can the quality of the food it produces. Visit any devout biodynamic farmer and you will see that with your own eyes. Steiner, the father of that approach, had no university degree in agriculture, yet his insights have spawned a movement that is capable of reshaping agriculture for the better. Should it be dismissed as a bogus science therefore because it doesn’t make sense? The answer is irrelevant to the farmer, whose focal point is one fundamental question: “Does it work?”
    It is imperative to keep an open mind when approaching some of these unfamiliar agricultural practices. In the rush to dismiss what seems bizarre or alien as pseudoscience, you are first closing the door on an opportunity to broaden your grasp of applied soil science, second demonstrating through your lack of willingness to investigate what is outside your field of reference that you prefer ignorance to curiosity, and third stirring a strong reaction from the very people who you purportedly serve (farmers, gardeners, etc), whose experience with IAL is in stark contrast to the judgement you have laid on the company. I urge you, like the others who wrote in, to experiment with the lab’s recommendations, to speak to farmers and orchardists who have, or at the very least give IAL the benefit of the doubt by speaking to them and directing your questions and skepticism to the very folks who can allay your suspicions most effectively (yes, I know, you might have to speak to someone on staff there who is not a plant or soil scientist, but I assure you if you are still a student of life, that you can indeed learn a great deal from people without a university degree in the appropriate field; any parent could attest to that, as children make excellent teachers! It is the experience of the people that counts, not the degree.) There is indeed a sound grasp of soil science behind their recommendations. The proof is in the produce.

  29. Just thought I’d add to the blog and say that if you have tried IAL approach to farming/gardening and found it to produce poor crops ( which you won’t ).
    Then you can have all the liberty to criticize something that failed you.
    Just try it, the evidence speaks for itself.
    Also (peer reviewed) is over rated, unless like Dave said your peers are real
    farmers that get their hands in the dirt.
    As far as putting molasses on the soil, if you haven’t ever heard about feeding
    the organisms in the soil then maybe you should do some more research.
    If the soil is alive then the plants are alive.

  30. Linda:
    I have been in the golf turf industry for 23 years. I have a simple little 2 year degree in horticulture. I began riding a spray tank applying things like lead and dithane to cure whatever ailed the greens. We applied urea and insecticide all with little guidence. I found year after year we applied more and more chemicals to control pests and disease. In 1996 I was invoved in building a new golf course and we had been struggling to get the greens grown in. Disease continued to knock down the grass. The builder at the time said to me I dont care if we need to get monkey crap and spread it on the greens we need to be able to open the golf course. I called IAL. I then attended a seminar. I walked away shaking my head. This was nothing that I had learned in college. Not even close. The first year on that golf course we made over 30 fungicide applications to control disease. Some applicaations were $2000.00 to cover 3 acres in bentgrass. The following year I jumped in feet first with an IAL program. 15 fungicide applications. The following year we made only 9 fungicide applications. By the way this was in St Louis where the heat and humidity equal or exceed 150 daily in the summer. Anything over 150 meant that the disease pressure would be very high. Now in 2009 I am on a golf course in st louis. 10 years of the IAL program in use. In 2009 I failed to apply one of them there natural products with microbes. The very first hot humid day I lost turf from PYTHIUM blight. I had not seen or had an occurance of PYTHIUM on any golf course in 20 years!I immediately began to apply the microbial product called micro turf and headed off a disaster.Please call me, call any golf course superintendent in the midwest and ask them how many fungicide applications they make. Then ask them who does there soil report and then ask about them natural microbial products.
    I will happily swim in my tank of liquid fish any day than get 1 drop of any fungicide on my skin to take home to my kids. Linda I have also spent about 8 years farming on a small scale certified organic and again IAL works the soil report and the recommendations. I have some of the best veggies at the farmers market with the longest shelf life as well as the best taste. I can give you a little science but I can back up a lot of everyday real life working, maybe off the wall stuff. Molasses never ever attracted bugs or bees to any area that I applied it to. I did look at the web page you spoke about and I dont see any info on how they actually extract the nutrients from the soil. I will say the last time any of my turf produced a strong acid to extract all of the available nutrients it was really a golfer relieving himself and the grass died.
    Chris Canby

  31. What amazes me is that there is all this “science” available to day, and yet there is rampent sickness in our western culture. Perhaps the ancients had it right, just look at the plant to tell us what it wants. It seemed to worl pretty well for our predecesors 20-30,000 years ago in the taiga (Russia). Perhaps we would all do better if we just listened to the plants a little more and to our PHDs a little less. But, then I am not a PHD nor am I beholden to any big pharma, big corporate, or big farms. Read “The Ringing Cedar Series” by Vladimir Megre. Aloha, Jay

  32. Linda, I am writing in as a consumer who blogs about small farms and healthy food. You might want to know that there is a growing minority of citizens that are fed up with “science” and are tired of their farmers being used as whipping boys by the scientific elite. With a nation whose health is so sick, we need a new breed of scientist that seeks to serve us, not the corporate interests whose foodstuffs are so deficient in nutrition that we are leading the world in sickness and disease.

    Please, take these comments to heart and start researching these innovative methods that are working and stop defending the indefensible status quo.

    I blog about raw milk, local foods and home remedies. Would love to have you visit my blog, anytime. I have amassed many voices of the local foods movement on food safety, government regulation, and true organic farming on my blog.

  33. A soil test is the empirical evidence of what is available in the soil. Perhaps it would be a good time to remind all that IAL recommends consulting if one does not have the ability to read a soil test. They will “walk through” every recommendation also. IAL’s results speak for themselves. Historically, the land-grant institutions have fostered quantitative results, rather than qualitative. I see both when I follow their program.

  34. This conversation is very typical of how a conventionally trained person perceives biologically based practices and how the biological / organic grower is pretty much on their own making critical decisions about extremely complex agroecosystems. It is unfortunate that conventional extension agents are not trained in biological ecosystems where geomicrobiological interactions are the basis of plant health. It’s not International Ag Labs fault that the US government has provided little or no peer reviewed research on biological farming practices. A few years ago, I split a soil sample and submitted it to 10 laboratories, which resulted in 10 different results and 10 wildly different recommendations. International Ag Labs was one of them. I’m sure none of them were “wrong”. You must pick a lab that meets your goals. Regarding the attack on Dr. Arden Anderson; anyone making that attack does not see the connection between soil health and human health. I recommend reading a USDA supported acad
    emic publication authored by some of the world’s best scientists; Gary. S. Banuelos and Zhi-Qing Lin (eds.), Biofortified Agricultural Products, CRC Press (2009). ISBN 978-1-4200-6005-8. Dr. Arden Anderson wrote the last chapter of the book: Field to Fork Perspective, Soil Nutrition/Biofortification as the Root of Human Health and Well-Being.

  35. I spent the past 28 years in University, NIH funded research, and have due respect for peer-reviewed scientific literature. However, I have also learned that A: not everything that is of interest gets funded
    B: not everything that gets funded gets publishable results
    C: not everything that gets published is irrevocable, final and complete. While it is encouraging to be able to read peer-reviewed literature to decide if a hypothesis is provable, even “scientists” make a lot of decisions on how to pursue their queries based on anecdotal evidence. That beign said, when I first encountered Reams and Andresen, I had to swallow hard! But I was compelled by the idea of treating the soil as more than an abstract composite of organic and inorganic components, of which we might only pay attention to a very few measurable factors like pH and NPK. What about the micro and macro flora and fauna? Why not think about how to feed them, and how they feed the plants? As a gardener and pastoralist, I now get both IAL *and* UMASS soil tests, and use both – which commonly agree both in description of the soil and recommendations – as a guide to my decision making. I’ve been trending more toward “biological” methods that nourish the soil in its full ecological complexity “beyond pH and NPK” and will continue to do so with a multi-faceted and non-dogmatic approach. IAL soil tests and soil amendments offer an important part of that broadening and in my experience have done so with integrity. I have had many in-depth phone call and email consults with IAL without ever being pressured to buy their products. We need more people to do more citizen science, and document their experiences like the turf managers who have already commented – perhaps WSU could publish a set of guidelines for market gardeners and farmers to set up test plots, and then this debate can take place with “real” peer-review!

  36. think this is a valuable discussion in that ideas are being exchanged…but as someone who has degrees in extension education I have to say I feel that the attitudes expressed by the extension educator are not appropriate. While it is the mission of extension to disperse peer reviewied research information, you have to recognize that your audience is paramount…results are paramount, and if you cannot demonstrate that your recommendations are what works the best, then your information is deemed useless in the real world, rendering your programming irrelavant. This does not mean that research should be ignored and that anecdotal should replace it-but I strongly feel that if producers are getting results from other sources then perhaps that should be looked into. While extension is charged with disseminating info from doctorates to the public, the exchange should also go the other way as well. You are a LINK betweek the two. Your job as an extension educator is not to dictate but to listen and solve real world problems. You have to have an open mind and flexibility that this educator does not seem to possess…in reading this post I see numerous comments about how useless real producers find extension, usda and other govt agencies because they have not had good results, and this is critical and the basis for the existence of such organizations. Perhaps instead of blantantly criticizing we should remember this is supposed to be a cooperative effort-if this system is no longer beneficial for the end user then the mission is not achieved.Maybe such organizations should look at what they can improve, new ideas for research and offer producers more…not just criticize others in the field. Demonstration farms were extremely effective for a very good reason-people will implement what WORKS. Yes the title question should be asked and explored, but not in such a critical manner.

  37. Dear Linda:

    I am writing this in rush so excuse the grammar and incomplete article.

    I don’t think anything frustrates me more than when someone starts throwing around the word “Scientific Evidence” or the word research.

    As we all know and have been shown, Science and Research can be flawed. Science is designed to have the outcome that is designated in advance. No company will spend 5 million dollars in research without a return. This is why each week there are drugs killing people and keeping the legal system overwhelmed.

    Greed and competition is what causes all this misleading information to travel around the internet. Every time someone tries to do something that brushes against the grain or they lean too far to the left or right, trouble is just around the corner.

    If someone is going to make a statement about someone else’s information or research they better have it backed up with evidence that they produce. (Not something they read somewhere else.)

    It amazes me how much time people have on their hands to waste writing this type of garbage.

    The depletion in our soil started over 80 years ago. Presently our soil where we get our food from is useless. It yields less than 3% of what the body requires in nutrient content each day. Malnutrition is the number one cause of illness between fast foods and our soil depletion. The vitamin industry has grown 5,000% in the past 10 years because of soil depletion and vitamin cannot take the place of highly dense nutrient foods.

    Spend your time writing about things that are destroying the human race and allow people that are doing good things alone.

    I will be following up with evidence that will disprove this entire article and make Linda look like a bad girl. This is where the general public learns who they can trust.

    I will also be doing a broadcast about this article to my clientele of 1.2 million people that trust what I say.


    Steven Litvak, DI, Hom

  38. As a student of this soil science, I will try to elaborate on something that, so far, hasn’t been addressed: Q. Why all the phosphate? Why lime? This method of growing produce focuses heavily on AVAILABLE calcium. Calcium can be present in the soil, but not available to the plant. There is a domino-effect that impacts every aspect of the plant if the calcium is insufficient for plant health. Preparation of the soil will invariably require applications of BOTH soft rock phosphate and lime (note: not dolomite). Taking these two products in the ‘singular’ is perhaps the overlooked point here. These two products are to be applied at THE SAME TIME in a layered process. An important chemical reaction takes place between the two that no longer leaves plain ol’ phosphate or lime sitting on the soil. The argument of phosphates leaching does not apply once the reaction takes place. The quantities cited are born out of the original process developed decades ago by Carey Reams’ and his analysis of mineral needs per acre. Soils new to the process often require very large amounts because they are so deficient. But no one just takes the info on faith. This IS a science even if it isn’t well recognized. Soft rock phosphate is used in this process, not rock phosphate. Those two products are perceived as different in this arena – – again, its based on their ability to increase available nutrients to the plants now, not later when they break down. What I’m trying to explain is being taken out of context of its entire philosophy. There are books that explain all this. It helps to learn it before you judge it. I don’t know anyone who has actually learned this and found it to be questionable.
    As for Linda’s comments about needing an explanation with the test… I know for a fact IAL would welcome your suggestions.

  39. I have not had any business with IAL (as of yet), but I am surprised that a university extension agency would post suggest an unscientific critique of IAL. Linda seems to lack the basic knowledge of soil science. Don’t you know that rock phosphate is largely just that-rock. The vast amount of the phosphate needs an acid to break it down and make it available. This is what the microbes in the soil do for you. Molasses is an energy source to feed the bacteria. (Note that molasses is used to ferment.) Note also that ground limestone is rock as well. This is why it takes time for the calcium and magnesium in the lime to become plant available. This is why it is best to put lime on the fall before. (Hydrated lime is another story.) It is common for soil labs to post recommendations and results in lb/acre. They let you do the math to fit it to your garden space. I do not know about IAL products but why do you not call and ask them. If you are not sure of brix why do you not buy a refractometer and do a taste test yourself. I am just a farmer, but even I can see Linda’s critique would not make it far in a peer reviewed environment.

  40. Linda, Since the research grants have dried up from USDA after Reagan, the pressure is now on university professors to seek grants for research. Those grants come from companies like Monsanto, Syngenta, Dow, etc. If the research results fit those company’s agendas, it’s pushed forward. If not, those results are thrown out. This has to be obvious to you as an extension agent. Do you expect us to follow only what those peer reviews have to say and still successfully farm? The American farmer is starting to do their homework and the answer is no longer what it used to be. The overwhelming evidence is that it can no longer be big agri-business as usual. Thank you to Michael Astera, Lawrence Mayhew and L Shockey.

  41. Let me clarify some inaccuracies in many posts, since the facts are being ignored. (1) I am not an extension agent. I am an extension specialist. People in extension know the differences between these two positions. A specialist has a PhD and does research in addition to educational outreach. An agent does not, necessarily, have a PhD and does not usually conduct research for scientific publication. (2) I do not take research dollars from chemical companies, etc. They aren’t particularly interested in urban horticulture and don’t put money towards relevant research. All of this information is available on this blog (just look under “About Us”) and on my web page (, – just look under “curriculum vitae”). You can’t be taken seriously if you don’t do the simplest research into who I am and what I do.

    1. Here is the type of hole peer-review will dig. Please see as an illustrative example. “And I think it’s fine for you, or anybody else, to believe in whatever you wish. But scientific evidence, or lack of it, should not be confused with “viewpoints.” This blog is geared towards science-based horticulture, and that’s why we call out bogus science when we see it.” To mix metaphors, it is difficult to be objective when one only grinds their ax on one side. It seems disingenuous to ask others to do the work that one should be prepared to do themselves. It is easy to say that something is “bogus” and disingenuous to make such a statements without any effort to try to understand another’s “viewpoint”, or theory. If one tries to be intellectually honest, in any field, one will make the effort to test another’s theory, and then either prove or disprove it for themselves. I realize, though, such testing can take years, and does not fit within the framework of a blog. “You can’t be taken seriously if you don’t do the simplest research”…

      1. It is an old and tired excuse to say “if you want the research, do it yourself.” I’m sorry, but if you want me (or any other scientist) to be convinced of a particular viewpoint, then support it with published, peer-reviewed data. That’s the way science works. If you don’t like the accepted paradigm, then don’t use it. But don’t expect scientists to take you seriously.

      2. Yes! That’s exactly it Terran! So why can’t IAL post the simple research which supports their recommendations, (which they must have done) instead of asking their customers to defend them?

      3. Peer-review doesn’t mean anything. If enough lemmings are going the same direction jumping into the ocean seems perfectly reasonable. With the URL that I posted in my first message in mind regarding GMO’s, what peer-review group have you decided to follow on that subject, or any other subject? One can find a scientist willing to say anything depending on who foots the bill. “Kool-Aid” regardless of the flavor can have detrimental effects if one is willing to subordinate ones own commonsense to the “authority” of others. Someone once said, “By your one hands and feet…”. Objectively look into the work of Dr. Reams. I believe that you will find the only difficulty to be that you are trying to compare apples and manzanas. Once the terms are translated, you will understand that apples are apples.

        1. Once more, let me spell it out very clearly and simply: (1) This is a science-based, university-housed, gardening blog. (2) Scientific inquiry is validated by peer-review. If you don’t believe in the scientific method, then this is probably not a good site for you.

  42. Glad to see P and runoff addressed. More geared to factory animal farms. Rock P isn’t getting into the watershed. I’ve used IAL and found their test good and recommendations fine. I know I can call direct and get an answer. I also cross with two other commercial labs as well my state lab. What I do find it is that the state labs have no clue as to how the volumes of minerals to add per test. I finally found the answers in “The Ideal Soil” For those who like the idea of soil testing and mineral balancing, but aren’t sure they want to spend the money to hire a professional consultant, there is one book that will tell you how to do it all for yourself, from an eco-ag and biological agriculture point of view. It is called The Ideal Soil Handbook, and is inclusive of all types and schools of agriculture. Anyone who cares about soil, plant, animal, and human health should read this book.

  43. Because if IAL comes on it’s just going to be a fight.They whant us to show and say how it has worked.Linda, how come your bashing this so badly? Whats in it for you? Unless you truly believe this is wrong you cant convince me that your doing this just to set people straight.

    1. Yes, I truly believe that IAL’s recommendations are wrong, until scientific data convince me otherwise. Anecdotes, regardless of how passionately people believe them, aren’t scientific data. And part of the reason I am pursuing this so strongly is that the deliberate over-application of nutrients is polluting, wasteful, and irresponsible.

    2. If IAL can show data — preferably peer-reviewed (but I’ll accept anything at this point) — then Linda and the other Garden Professors will review it and give our honest opinions. I’ve admitted that I’ve been wrong before and I’ll be happy to do so again.

  44. This is solid fact! I followed IAL’s recommendations for our vegetable garden 3 years ago – added soft rock phosphate, calcium, stimulate, liquid fish and other trace minerals. The first year, yes, the first year, we gardened after adding these things to the soil we were amazed to see that there was no insect damage through the entire growing season. Same the next year and the next. The brix of the vegetable gets a bit higher ever year. It works!

    1. Kathy, I’m happy to hear that your garden is doing well, but the fact that you followed IAL’s recommendations does not prove that those recommendations are any better than the recommendations from another lab. Furthermore, it’s possible that, by using IAL’s recommendations, you overfertilized making your plants look good but poisoning the environment. To test these possibilities side by side studies need to be conducted. Without studies like these we’re left with anecdotal evidence which carries little weight. Once again, show us the science which proves IAL gives recommendations which are better than other labs — show us evidence supporting the wacky things they seem to be recommending — We won’t be changing our minds without that kind of data.

  45. i am a farmer from mexico, no phd, no expert on the field. contamination is 2 4-D, glifosate and many others chemicals (not all)….lets work together against the real source of contamination. my point of view, is that conventional farming is not the solution, our land has become more and more compacted, with increments on fungal and microbial diseases, do we need to waste more time going around the solution, or keep on trying to work on the simptoms of the real problem. i have always try by doing experiments on my farm, sometimes they works sometimes they dont. i use algae, liquid fish, manure, molasses and other products…visually they have done a better job, yield is my witness. on the other hand, i prefer to spray natural products than to spray chemical products. i have a commitment with my environment as a human beign, and i am sure that i am doing the right practices without heaving real scientific studies. I invite everyone to work together against the real contaminants in agriculture, and discuss what has worked for everyone and what has not. lets share what we have in common and use that in favor of our environment, i am sure all of us want that. thank you

    1. “Emphasis upon soil quality cannot be exagerated, it seems to me: nor water for that matter. Nutritious food comes from soils wherein beneficial microbial communities are encouraged and nourished. Mainlining with NPK is the very antithesis of sound, sustainable agriculture. Several years ago, I conducted scientific trials on two fields of cherry grape tomatoes in Mexico. Sergio above evinces the true spirit of an agriculturalist. In evaluating their the quality of our fruit, we used a Brix meter — a device not really addressed in the coments above. It indeed measures sugar using the phenomenon of refracted light. However, it measures all the nutritional components of a healthy vegetable or fruit (or grasses as well) — vitamins, minerals, amino acids, proteins, enzymes, and oils (i.e. Total Dissolved Solids — TDS). Our control fields yielded Brix Readings in the range of 7 whereas the test field resulted in readings from 8 to 10.5. According to Brix Charts, the nutritional level in the control field was graded as “average” whereas the test field produced fruit in the range of “Good” to “Excellent”. That’s the meaning of High Brix. Brix readings have been around for more than 100 years, perhaps another quarter century. Japanese distributors buy their Kiwi fruit according to Brix reading. German distributors of Noni Juice also buy according to Brix reading. The truth be known, Brix readings are well established as an index of quality — nutritional and taste. Head buyers of Wholefoods, Walmart, Costco and five star restaurants make their purchases according to Brix results. The earliest users of Prof (Dr) Adolph Brix’s work were vintners and fruit juice providers. It’s a bit surprising that peer reviewed literature seems not to take it much into account. The entire food and dairy industries rely on the Brix meter. I have myself have surveyed foods in local green grocers and found most tested “Poor” on the Brix scale. How does that kind of figure escape peer-reviewed literature? In the Mexican experiments, we found healthy crops naturally resisted predaceous insects. They are like most predators in their choice of prey — weak or diseased. We were able to reduce ‘crop protection’ toxins dramatically. And foliar and soil tests confirm these findings. As we have all learnt recently, the presence of powerful industrial and political and governmental interests are able to subvert the reliability, indeed, pervert as well, so-called scienfigic findings and the very conduct and ‘shaping’ of peer reviewed literature. I think we should give that one a rest for a while. The USDA, FDA, Agri-chemical companies, pharmaceutical companies and academies reliant on funding from all of the above have powerful incentives for maintaining the status quo. Sergio and Dan Skow and others of their stripe are men after my own heart — they care about the soil, the plants and the food they produce for us and our food animals. Signed, P. Clark Ph.D., F.R.G.S.”

      1. Dr. Clark, please send your findings to me and Dr. Gillman so we can read them. Or post the link to the reports/papers here for everyone. Otherwise, we can only treat your posting as anecdotal, which doesn’t advance our discussion.

  46. Linda, A quick way to “catagorize” your arguments would be your answer to this: describe the importance of 1) humic substances and 2) soil microorganisms, as they relate to soil fertility. The universities are 10-15 years behind on these topics. Try to do this without being abusive.

  47. Linda, The title of your blog could be easily answered by just stopping in (as suggested previousley in this blog) and visit with Doc Skow. You might just get your answer. Perhaps the real problem is that you have no intention of actually answering your own question and, instead, rely on bloggers and IAL customers to try and do that work for you. Doc Skow can present the peer reviewed research to you if you would just simply ask him. Go get your answer from the source of this controversy. The answer is not going to be in this blog. Are you afraid of what you’ll find?

    1. This whole thread has been an open invitation to just that. If Dr. Skow wants to provide data (not anecdotes), by all means let him do so. I think Dr. Gillman was quite clear about us all welcoming such evidence. And let’s be honest. IAL could have provided this yesterday, rather than putting out their “under the gun” email to their customers. Why are they not speaking for themselves?

    2. (Just out of curiosity – why are Drs. Skow, Reams, and Andersen accorded the honorific “Dr.” by many of you, while I am not? I find that differential treatment quite remarkable.)

  48. Folks, this is a complete waste of time. You know what works. Just keep doing it, and keep trying to learn, whatever process you are using. Continuing to learn is the most important thing. Whatever knowledge each person has already learned, scientist or otherwise, is not the be-all and end-all. There is always something more to be learned. There is nothing to be proven to anyone else. If Linda also wants to learn more herself, she can easily do so, but she obviously has a different purpose, and has clearly said so herself. So give her that courtesy and leave well enough alone.

  49. Linda, What’s the point in responding? If the diatribe continues like every other exchange with your self appointed status as cow girl, you’ll just puff up guns drawn and exclude any reasonable response. I am one who would ordinarily avoid any discussion with you. Why is that? Your sarcastic comments vis-à-vis Arden Anderson are typical of your skewed and often self self appointed guardianship of the faith approach to traditional horticulture. It’s really to bad. But fortunately there’s a lot of good that has some out of the very people you target. My story is rather long, but the short version will follow. As the person responsible for the arguably largest collection of transplanted palms in North America, I inherited a nightmare. Soil and plant diseases decimated The Mirage gardens. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent on extension experts and researchers. The problems continued. I literally woke up one morning, after an evening of reading MSDS sheets on the peer reviewed treatments and said, it stops here and today. I locked down the chemical/fertilizer cabinet and began experiments with compost tea, organic fertilizers, and alternative methodologies. My search led me to International Ag labs, Elaine Ingham and Arden Anderson. I drank the kool aid, and there were many aspects I was very uncomfortable and ended up rejecting. I found problems but I found I was having more successes than failures. Because I was in Las Vegas I could afford to test, retest, compare and question. Everything that happens is budget based. Plant replacements were reduced by 90%. Fertilizer use reduced by 75%. Losses of specimen palms went from weekly to quarterly. Administration often teased me and referred to me as the hippy gardener. But one fact remained, I handed back over 1 million dollars in budgeted garden expenditures in the first year. The use of pesticides herbicides and fungicides was completely eliminated. Money talks peer review walks. So there’s something there. Peer reviewed? By your peers, no. But only because you insist on your singular approach unmitigated by any hope or dream. Many of your myth busting articles are not peer reviewed. There’s little in the way of reviewable research. Just the same old tired approaches that have many farms and gardens in distress. An old Polish immigrant neighbor in his broken brogue used to quip “there’s thems that teach and thems that do.” We don’t need teachers that can’t get their fingers dirty in the garden of life. BTW DDT was peer reviewd and I no longer have any contact, since retiring, with IAL. But thanks for reminding me how much of my success I owe to them!

  50. I’ve been thinking of using IAL, but some of the things that Drs Gillman and Chalker-Scott have made me question some of the claims made by some of the people here. Basically, while some of the stories are great, I can’t figure out how you can really know if something is working better than something else if you don’t compare them side by side — something that no-one seems to have done. Please show me some research, I don’t give a crap if it’s peer reviewed, which compares results from IAL recommendations with results from a more traditional approach. If you can’t then how can you expect me to except that IAL recommendations are better?

    1. “Please show me some research, I don’t give a crap if it’s peer reviewed, which compares results from IAL recommendations with results from a more traditional approach. If you can’t then how can you expect me to except that IAL recommendations are better? ” Actually I didn’t come hear to sell anyone on IAL. Do you own research. Pick a small section of garden and use the results from one of their tests. Minimal investment, and it worked for me. I first used the results on 1/4 acre, and at very little expense. What’s most importnat are your results. Unfortunately my employer would not allow the release of records. Sometimes in life we must trust and use calculated risks as our guide.

  51. Unbelivable,from “university”Standpoint.They do not reliaze all “modern sikness”coming from the emthy soil.I do not believe in the university not know all plants food served to the plants by the microbacterias in the soil ,they making the soil usable to the plants.Ths is elementary.But the chemical addectives ,chemical fertelizations KILLEDand KILLING all the workers of the soil,withouth that the plants minarals not in it or not in correct form and peole got sick,plants got sick sooner or layter.The soil become a salty unuseble stone like matter.And the acid rain formed that is more destroying the planet.The “green”movements only going to work by the Dr Reams discoveries,and that was blessed by Einstein Himself.Or somthing is other in behind this?thank you Gyorgyi Baunok Happy gardener

  52. Drs Chalker-Scott and Gilman It appears that what is going on here is that neither you nor the majority of those commenting are aware of the actual peer-reviewed work done by University Phd agronomists that support the fertility recommendations IAL is giving. IAL may not even be aware of some of this research. The hard science was done between 1920 and 1950 under the direction of Dr Firman Bear, largely at Rutgers NJ, and Dr Wm A Albrecht at the U of Missouri Ag Station. Dr Bear, PhD in biochemstry and bacteriology, U of Wisconsin 1917, was President of the Soil Science Society of America (1943), the American Society of Agronomy (1949), and the Soil Conservation Society of America (1950). From 1940 to 1966 he served as editor-in-chief of Soil Science Magazine. Here are a couple of links to pertinent papers by Dr Bear: and Dr Albrecht was chairman of the department of soils at the University of Missouri College of Agriculture; he was a member of the Missouri staff starting in 1916. He held four degrees, AB, BS, MS and PhD, from the University of Illinois. Here is a link to a collection of Dr Albrecht’s papers: That should establish their bonafides. Briefly, both men worked with the ratios of exchangeable cations in the soil, and came to the conclusion that the optimal cation saturation ratio was about 65% Ca, 15% Mg, and 3-5% K, known as the Basic Cation Saturation Ratio or BCSR. After 1950 the chemical corporations took over the land grant colleges and university agriculture departments in the USA. They managed to shut up and divert Dr Bear and forced Dr Albrecht into retirement in 1959. The seminal work they had done in soil mineral balance was buried and might have been forgotten if not for the vision of Charles Walters Jr who started the magazine Acres USA in 1970. Where IAL comes in is through the work of Carey A Reams, an independent agronomist who did most of his work in Florida in the 1960s and ’70s. He ran his own wet chemisty lab, testing soil samples using the Morgan extracting solution (pH 4.8). Whether independently or not, he came to the same conclusion regarding Ca and Mg ratios, but expressed it as available pounds per acre in a 7:1 Ca:Mg ratio. He recommended 2,000 to 4,000 lbs/acre available Ca and 285 to 570 lbs/acre Mg. If one converts these ratios to milligram equivalents of hydrogen H+, they are the same as the 65:15 Ca:Mg ratios of Albrecht and Bear. Reams unique contribution to mineral balance was the idea that available phosphate P2O5 should be 2 x available potash K20. In effect, actual P=K. This is slowly being adopted by advocates of the BCSR because of its beneficial effects on crop Brix and nutrient density. Dr Dan Skow, DVM, was a student of Carey Reams and is I believe the owner of IAL. Dr Arden Andersen was also a Reams student. Reams did not use CEC ratios or calculate the exchange capacity of the soil, which poses some problems when applying the idea of 2,000 to 4,000 lbs of Ca per acre to soils of various exchange capacity. Nonetheless they do get results, and it undoubtedly makes more sense to optimize the needed minerals in the soil than to pour on harsh chemical fertilizers and mine the soil for nutrients or dump on ton after ton of ‘organic’ compost and manure of unknown mineral content. Looking at the soil report and recommendations from IAL attached to this blog post, I don’t see evidence of overfertilization. 2,000 lbs of soft rock phosphate (SRP) at 3% soluble P2O5 is only 60 lbs/acre. The remaining 17% of phosphate in SRP is quite insoluble in water and takes the action of soil organisms or soil acids to become plant available. The amount of Calcium carbonate called for is equal to 46 lbs of ag lime per 1000 sqft, not an uncommon amount to use on a soil of pH 5.9. 500 lbs of Gypsum will add another 2.5 lbs of Ca and 1.8 lbs of sulfur per 1000 sq ft. 4,000 lbs of compost or aged manure per acre would be less than 1 lb per square foot, probably around 1 inch of organic matter, not an excessive amount for such a nutrient poor soil, though its main function may be to seed beneficial soil microorganisms. 30 gallons of liquid fish 5-1-1 would add around 12 lbs of nitrogen, a couple pounds each of potash and phosphate, plus trace minerals. It all seems sensible enough to me. As for comparative results, some 30 growers from around the world are doing their own private science project this year, called the High Brix Project. We are sending soil samples for lab testing and amending the soil according to various philosophies e.g. Albrecht-Bear, Biodydamic, Reams, and Rodale-style organic, as well as untreated control areas. Crops ranging from carrots to papaya to coffee, as well as pasture forage, will be grown in all climates on most continents. The crops will be measured for degrees Brix with a refractometer, and crop samples will then be sent to an independent testing lab for plant tissue analysis. The goal is to correlate soil minerals, Brix, and crop nutrient content. Michael Astera

    1. Now there’s a well reasoned answer, and based, at least in part, on science! Actually I’m familiar with Dr. Bear — He wrote some very famous articles criticizing organic growing — I’m not as familiar with his other work and had to review the articles you sent. To make a long story short, I still think there’s over application going on here, but, again, I respect your points. It’s also worth noting that Bear worked largely in alfalfa whose nutrient requirements are quite different from other crops — alfalfa likes high pH (because it’s a legume and needs that pH for its symbionts) and higher Ca than many other crops. But, anyway, now you’ve shown me why certain nutrients were used in the quantity they were — It’s time to provide me with some data supporting the use of molasses, Chilean nitrates (even in the 1800s when they were heavily used these weren’t considered a good choice — they’re primarily sodium nitrate after all and so sodium tox. is a problem) and the products Stimulate and Crescendo. These are the things that I find really odd. I do respect the fact that you’re conducting research and I hope that you will share your results with us.

      1. Dr. Gilman Thanks for your reply. Firman Bear’s later work on anion equivalency has yet to be followed up. Someone should, I think. The results from the High Brix Project will be freely shared, eventually. Re recent peer reviewed studies on BCSR, as I noted all of that research was shut down after WWII by the big chemical consortiums. That remains the case. On the organic end of things, try a forty year search through back issues of Organic Gardening magazine for “soil minerals.” You will get essentially nothing. Calcium is the most important nutrient transporter in plants and animals. Alfalfa doesn’t necessarily need more than other crops, it simply won’t grow well without abundant Ca. pH has zero to do with it. Anyone who thinks that Ph is of prime importance should try raising pH with Na, sodium, instead of calcium. Or lowering it with HCl instead of sulfate. It is the mineral nutrient balance that is important, not the pH. Rhododendrons do fine in a pH 8 soil as long as they are getting enough Mg. Plenty of books were mentioned in this thread if you’d like to learn. I’d also suggest buying a refractometer ($35 on eBay) and trying your hand at growing 12* Brix cabbage or 18* Brix carrots. I very much doubt that you can do it with your present systems and knowledge base. All the Best, Michael Astera

  53. As an avid backyard gardener and Farmers’ Market vendor, I am deeply concerned with the health of my soil and the quality of the produce I grow. After more than a dozen years of adding only compost to my garden, I noticed my vegetables were slowly losing their sweetness, never-before pests were appearing and I was experiencing a drop in yields. I am not a scientist, but I see what I see and taste what I taste. After only 3 years using IALs testing and amendment recommendations, my garden’s health is returning. Last summer my sweet corn tested at 27 degrees Brix. The ears were big and full and oh so sweet! I will continue using IAL and continue improving my soils as long as I continue to get these great results.

    1. Lynn, That’s great, I only wish you would have tried recommendations from a University on a separate section of your land so that you could compare the two and see if there was any difference.

    1. It’s an interesting web site, Kim, but frankly this thread is going to have to stop. Jeff and I have other topics to discuss on the blog and many (if not most) of our regular audience is tired of this discussion. Jeff and I continue to remain open to reviewing any scientific data or literature that addresses our specific comments and questions, but we’re going to move on. Be assured that if and when valid information is sent to us, we will reopen discussion. Science evolves and paradigms shift.

  54. WSU has a 54 million dollar deficit for 2009 & 2010. They had to cut 371 jobs. Research programs were cut severely. IMHO, this is going to make them more dependent on the money they receive from companies like Monsanto. After seeing that Omnivore’s Dilemma was removed from the reading list at WSU, I realized how important bio-tech money was to their ‘research culture’. Of course they are not going to run any side by side tests, let alone describe any metrics for success. If they were proved wrong, it would shatter the very fabric of their existence 🙁

    1. Get your facts straight, Chris. Research programs were not cut severely at WSU. If they were, they could hardly bring in the grant money, could they? The positions lost were mainly in Extension – those staff whose sole function is to educate the public. And your misinformed statements about the objectivity of university research aren’t helping your cause. Any further flames from you will be removed. The blog remains open to rational discussion.

      1. If I’m wrong about my facts, sorry. I saw the info here. . >>>RE: Omnivore’s Dilemma…..I got this from the New York Times….“Patricia Freitag Ericsson, an English professor and member of the university’s Common Reading Implementation Committee, wrote in an e-mail message that the panel was told that the program was suspended, and that “a substantial part of the reason was because of political pressure growing from the book choice.”>>>> Not sure why you have a problem with me questioning WSU’s objectivity. People within your own school question it….

        1. Chris, there’s a major difference between criticizing administrators for political decisions (something I have an unfortunate habit of doing) and accusing scientists of not doing their jobs. Decisions around the Common Reading program are affiliated with the instructional program at WSU, not with the researchers. Intellectually honest researchers welcome new ways of viewing the world. If we didn’t, things would never change. (Again, I’d encourage you to read about the history of science, especially pertaining to paradigm shifts. Thomas Kuhn is one author you should check out. He wrote The Structure of Scientific Revolutions among other things.)

  55. About molasses. Mothers are designed to make just the right kind of food for babies– as long as they (the mothers) receive needed nourishment themselves. Soil bacteria act like the milk-producers for plants. Without this help plants would need to spend a lot more energy “digesting” their food, and that takes away from other energy taxing needs, like growing up big and strong. Bacteria are 50% carbon and need this element for growth. Molasses is high in carbon (that’s a major ingredient in sugars) and makes for a low-cost, easy-to-apply way to make the bacteria happy. If you don’t have bacteria working for you you can “bottle-feed” the plants yourself. But, personally, I prefer Nature’s way. Hope this helps.

  56. I am a scientist, consultant and product developer. I do not understand the IAL recommendations either because the soil test is only intended to give clues as part of a systematic approach to agriculture. I have no idea what IAL is recommending for tillage, rotations, cover cropping or what the grower’s goals may be. However, I defend their right to help people who are seeking an alternative to synthetic chemicals when the soil system clearly has the ability to produce wonderful foods without destroying our environment and threatening the health of our citizens. I spend a great deal of time gleaning through scientific reviews and original research in an effort to gain knowledge of how soils (the most complex ecosystem on the earth) actually work. If you want to see the peer reviewed research before condoning a bio-organic or bio-dynamic approach to agriculture, you may have to wait for another generation to pass before you are convinced because there is a complete lack of systematic ecologically-based soil food web research. Frankly, most of us don’t have the luxury of waiting that long, especially when the rates of heart disease, diabetes and cancer have been rising exponentially since the introduction of synthetic inputs in general. Thank you for opportunity to engage in this stimulating discussion.

    1. Lawrence, thank you for your viewpoint. I think Jeff and I have been very clear that people are welcome to believe and follow whatever practices they like – as long as they don’t have negative effects. The sheer quantities of the organic chemicals they recommend applying to bare soil is troublesome. How do we know this doesn’t contribute to soil or water contamination? These volumes have not been justified, even by proponents of IAL.

  57. If it wasn’t for companies like International AG Labs and Southern Cross Labs in Australia, agriculture would be ten years behind as the soil tests done at these labs includes hydrogen in the cat-ion exchange and therefore gives a more accurate reading of calcium levels which isn’t the norm by a lot of our soil testing labs in Australia. It’s a pity that our Universities aren’t teaching the students these methods and therefore we have a lot of sick soils in our Country because of the incomplete soil tests that have been done.

  58. Dear Linda, The nature of the problem we face is defined quite well in “A study on the mineral depletion of the foods available to us as a nation over the period 1940 to 1991” Commissioned by the British Government. The work was undertaken under the auspices of the Medical Research Council, the Ministry of Agriculture Fisferies and Foods and the Royal Society of Chemistry by RA McCance and EM Widdowson. The data was gathered in the USA and the UK. At the time of the report it was recommended that each individual should have at least 5 helpings of fruit and vegetables per day. The position has deteriorated again and the current recommendation is 7 helpings. We obviously need to do something about it!! Do you agree?

    1. As an avid consumer of both fruits and veggies, I agree completely with the recommendation in Thomas’s posting. However, there is no documented connection between this recommendation and IAL’s fertilizer recommendations. The way to establish this connection is to perform rigorous, repeated field experiments and report them in the peer-reviewed literature. Unless and until that is done, scientists will not be convinced of the validity of IALs recommendations.

      1. Hello Linda, Thanks for the heads up reply. Here is part2. It is very understandable that we should have depleted the mineral resources of the soil. We have been farming in a number of areas now for Tens,Hundreds and even Thousands of years. In the virgin forest the nutrients were extensively recycled. During the period when man’s main occupation was farming his waste was essentially re-incorporated into the land. However in the age of the city dweller his waste principally goes into the sea. So we are effectively transferring minerals from the land to the sea. The process is slow but over many years the effect is serious. I live in the Asian Tropics in Thailand and we have about 40 acres of Fruit and Vegetables – it would be called a market garden in the UK. When we took possession of the land some 8 years ago a large part of the land could grow very little. The land had been cleared of tropical forest some 70 years ago and then farmed. With very little or no inputs during this period the land was essentially infertile. As the topsoil was physically in place(we have a sandy loam today) we were able to recover the situation but this involved serious inputs of Organics. The first thing we did was to contour Plow the land to keep the water and avoid run-off and then on average we put onto the land some 5 tons per acre per year – it should have been 10 tons per acre during the soil buid up period. Even with all this input we were still short of some micro-elements. As Dr Albrecht said ” good soil is the exception”. We noticed for example a lack of Boron, Zinc and Copper as determined by folliage problems and early fruit drop. We have obtained several soil analyses from Government labs and the local University and these seem to corrolate with our own farm lab and the inputs we have made. The outside labs have used Mellich which seems to used accross the country of Thailand. In the UK for instance the tests vary with the nature of he soil and climate – Olsen is used in England Wales and Northern Ireland, whilst Morgan is used in Ireland and Scotland. The tests gave figures for the major nutrients and some of the macro nutrients but to get figures for micro- nutrients is extremely difficult and sampling techniques are very important. I then came accross the work by Dr Reams and Dr Nortern and have become interested in the Hi-Brix approach as a help to analyse for quality and mineral deficiencies. After all we are interested in a final product which tastes delicious and is full of the necessary elements for a healthy life. In the words of Dr. Albrecht ” Disease is just Malnutrition” By the way the inputs of 5 tons per acre agree with the research work carried out on British Test Farms operating for more than 150 years and is also consistant with information we have from Japan.We therefore agree with Ag Labs that Remineralisation needs to be carried out. From the tests we have carried out so far we have found correlation between Hi Brix and delicious food and this method seems to be a useful indicator which can be carried out by the local farmer.After all it is the method used to pay locally for sugar cane and has been used in the wine industry to assess grapes for about 100 years. I look forward to recieving your comments. Perhaps you would like to join in a program of work to consolidate the theory and practice — we are willing to be a partner.

        1. Thomas, I appreciate your passion for the subject, but as we’ve said before – many times – anecdotes don’t take the place of scientific data. If you or anyone else affiliated with IAL methods would care to send us any data at all to analyze, that would be a start. Otherwise, all we have are interesting stories – nothing more.

  59. Linda, I am impressed with your patience through all these comments, you deserve a round of applause for your consistency and courtesy as a blogger (what a GREAT blog you guys have here, btw! Fun, well-written and a terrific resource!). I am an organic farmer in Massachusetts, and I wish *someone* would do some independent scientific examination of IAL’s recommendations. (UMass Amherst, where are you?) NOFAMass is pushing the whole amendments / mineralization / nutrient density growing program VERY hard, and a lot of growers are starting to ask what the real story is, because both the classes and the amendment program is very expensive and has a bit of a sensationlist / drinking the koolaid edge to it. IAL is the only lab as far as I know that supplies the kind of soil recommendations that a grower needs to follow those practices that NOFAMass is encouraging. And as far as I can tell, all evidence of the effectiveness is either anecdotal or not independently gathered. I did get their tests one year, and found the results difficult to interpret, found their recommendations for amendments expensive beyond belief, capped off with this slightly sleazy tactic of “You’ll never grow anything without buying X,Y, and Z!” As a bit of non-academic research on my own land, I followed their recommendations for ½ an acre. I was unimpressed, and resumed my usual compost tea / compost / organic fertilizer usage. While I do think that outstanding innovations come from non-academic minds, before an organization like NOFAMass that purportedly represents an entire community comes out so strongly in favor of a particular growing technique, I’d like to see some academic research.

    1. Thanks, @magicbean! I too wish there were resources to test recommendations independently. As I’ve noted on other postings, USDA grants are not particularly progressive in their scope, and a lot of the products and practices we’re interested in validating aren’t covered. And like it or not, the research won’t get done unless someone is footing the bill for the work and materials. It strikes me that those who sell and recommend alternative products and methods should be willing to fund university research to validate said products and methods – unless they’re worried about what the results might be.

    1. Jon, I’m glad you are pleased with your customers’ beliefs. For many of us, however, testimonials cannot take the place of objective scientific data. We all remain willing to review these data whenever you make them available.

  60. Thanks, garden profs, for allowing this long thread. I found it when looking for a reasoned critique of Neal Kinsey’s work. Kinsey will be giving a three day workshop locally in August on soil fertility, with CES providing the meeting space and our local Slow Foods chapter doing the organizing. Thomas’s comical ‘koolaid’ comment rings true, I’m afraid – the upcoming workshop has something of the air of a tent revival, where a real expert will come and explain how things REALLY ARE. We can be saved from our erring ways, if only we believe… Aside from ATTRA’s article on ‘alternative soil testing labs’: which at least offers a straight-forward list of different labs and their approaches, I can’t find anything approaching a coherent explanation, much less a critique, of these different views of soil fertility and crop response. IAL and Kinsey are just two among scores of choices. Perhaps there is great merit to some of these, including Kinsey’s, but some proponents’ aggressive, dismissive and even hostile tone sets off alarm bells. Agronomists, farmers and gardeners are engaged in tremendously important work, safeguarding our soil and environment and feeding our communities. I think the last thing we need is strident agro-evangelism that drowns out reason and divides us into contentious, competing factions.

  61. Nature is able to do most on it s own ! If we are good managers as we were created to be!!! The problem is there is a huge rat race going on since the introduction of salt fertilizers and poisons to control the symptoms of a failing farm system. I . A . LAB products and tests are important as they focus on nutrition the soil organisms need , the same as we need to be healthy! I agree we need to test and validate all the above ! The problem is MONEY as the root of all the evil! We are forced to follow the lead of Monsanto and the rest of the fat cat wich are putting in jeopardy the health of this and future generations for the love of MORE MONEY ! Sincerely mike g papa.

  62. There is nothing here coming from the pro-IAL, pro-Skow, pro-Andersen crowd that is convincing. If you start to do some serious online searching of the proponents of the “high brix”, “nutrient-dense” philosophy you will find it filled with charlatans of the highest order. For instance: these are people who base their concept of insect management on the work of Phillip Callahan and Francis Chaboussou–whose ideas are so completely at odds with settled insect science you will find few credible entomologists who even know their names or work. Those who do know of them dismiss them–and rightfully so–because none of their “theories” are supported by properly designed and analyzed experiments. In eight years of formal entomological training, I never heard them referenced once by my instructors. This is not because they were “ignored” and “marginalized” as they so willingly claim in their books (big surprise), but because they are utterly irrelevant to modern entomology. The sycophants who continue to promote their ideas have no understanding of either insect physiology, or the use of the truly successful non-toxic management tactics stemming from the work of legitimate IPM professionals. Many of these researchers were Callahan’s and Chaboussou’s peers, and ironically (or not) get disparaged by Arden Andersen’s loyal legions. Why? Because they don’t want to know about about it. If they did, they’d see how wrong they have been, and are, and will continue to be. The IAL tests aren’t worth the paper they’re written on; and on principle alone I would avoid any “consultant” who recommends them. You’re right, DR. Chalker-Scott. Unfortunately your blog has been spammed by the AcresUSA crowd, making everyone who has read it a little more ignorant of sound agronomic fundamentals.

    1. Thanks for your information on the entomological fallacies embodied in this belief system. And yes, our blog was inundated with testimonials from IAL satisfied customers but discerning readers (of whom we have an abundance) can see through the unsupported claims. It makes this particular thread highly educational.

      1. This snippet has a demented, semi-coherent and paranoid tone:

        ” but discerning readers (of whom we have an abundance) can see through the unsupported claims.”

        It’s a riot that you object to any assertion that is not scientifically validated. As a slave to conformity you filter challenges to your dogma by avoiding logic, and syntax too. The irony is that your slavish devotion to the scientific method reveals a fundamental failure of logic. Your thinking is stagnant.


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