Sunday, March 26, 2000, 5:45:15 PM, you wrote in reference to the
microbial products offered by a Canadian firm:
BA> Microbial products are almost always a bad deal for the farmer.
BA> Depending on how cranky I feel at a given moment, I tend to refer
BA> to them as foo-foo dust, preacher sweat, or squirrel piss.
That helps puts things into perspective.
BA> Look, the deal is this. When conditions in the soil are good
BA> (food, moisture, air, and warmth) microbes do just fine. When
BA> conditions are off, they don't do well. Think of them as highly
BA> unionised workers, with a nasty contract. If conditions aren't to
BA> their liking they either 'go slow,' or they walk off the job.
I assume the contrary is also true. - provide them with the proper
conditions and they'll get right to work, reproducing as they go.
BA> Your typical soil is going to have about 10 million microbes per
BA> gram, or at least their spores. Heavy doses of these foo-foo dust
BA> products may add about 100 microbes per gram, at a cost of up to
BA> $30/acre. If there's a better definition of "stupid," I've yet to
BA> find it. That same $30, spent on a green manure crop will help
BA> create conditions in which the microbes can double their
BA> population every 20 minutes.
Right with you.
BA> If conditions aren't right, you might just as well spray the stuff
BA> on the truck, for all the good it will do you in the field.
The company offers 8 distinct products, none of which had an action
that was well defined (which was disturbing in itself). One of the 8
is named Nature's Secret. I was unable to refrain from mentioning via
email that I didn't care much for secrets myself, and asked for a
clear breakdown of the processes involved.
I am busy writing up the business plan for another pineapple exporting
operation, and this time around we're going to do the packing
ourselves. This means I need written quotes for anything we'll need
The only product mentioned by my neighbors (as being produced under
license) in relation to what we'll need was "ultradine", which they
call a "disinfectant and sanitizer". This would be used for washing
the fruit before waxing.
Pineapples are very sensitive to fungal infections, since they're
picked a bit green (all commercial fruit is also force ripened in the
field - not ours, of course) and the cut stem constitutes an open
wound, that should be sealed.
The man I talked to didn't mention the "Cold Process iodophors"
mentioned on the website. The website mentions an iodine complex
produced without heat and the resulting advantages, that do make some
sense. This is not a microbially based product and not for the
production end of pineapple growing.
Here what the site says: (a little long, but light reading)
Cold Process concentrates are manufactured by a patented cold
process that requires no external heat. This greatly diminishes the
undesirable production of iodinated by-products. Also, this process
involves added ingredients which greatly enhance the "tightness" of
the surfactant - iodine complex as measured by a Distribution
Coefficient five times that of the traditional hot process iodophor
In summary, the features of the Cold Process iodophor are:
No detectable iodinate by-products
Higher Distribution Coefficient and greater degree of complexation
Lower vapour pressure
It goes on:
When combined with other features of iodine and iodophor products,
these features of the Cold Process iodophor provide the following
No stinging, burning or staining
Virtually no iodine odour
Not as corrosive to metals as other chlorine or iodine products
Greater product stability and quality
Very low toxicity
Better resistance to depletion by organic soil challenge
Not affected by hard water
Not affected by low water temperature in dilution
Approved for use without a final potable water rinse as prescribed
in Federal Food Additive Regulation 178.1010
Increased efficiency due to elimination of 10% over-formulation
Broad spectrum of activity against microorganisms
Kills strains resistant to antibiotics or other disinfectants due to
the chemical oxidation mechanism of iodine Tuberculocidal activity
Kills both hydrophillic and lipophilic viruses
Rapid rate of kill
Built-in colour indicator of germicidal activity since the
characteristic amber colour of iodophors is proportional to the
concentration of iodophor present
Spent solutions are harmless when compared to those of Phenolics and
The detergent component of iodophors provides cleaning ability not
present in tincture of iodine, Lugol's solution, and many other
Some of this makes some sense. One obvious question is whether or
not this substance is certifiable - although the pineapple in question
will not be certified no sold as organic. (A totally organic product
is a couple years off yet).
I have to get a quote on the disinfectant we'll be using. Any other
ideas? Fungicides are usually used, along with some chlorine.
In reference to microbial agents, the govt.'s pineapple production
manual recommends fumigating all material to be planted (to kill all
the fungi). However, I found last year that some fungi produce
fitohormones that are analogous to those produces by plants themselves
and stimulate plant growth. (And I wouldn't stimulate growth without
first providing for the plants nutritional needs - by building soil).
I also discovered (on a hunch) that the same fungus that produce the
fitohormones also produce anti-microbial agents that combat pathogenic
Therefore, I plan on inoculating rather than fumigating our plants,
using inoculant that we'll make ourselves (I have some designs
NIFTAL send me some time back). We'll want to be sure and create the
conditions that these beneficial fungi require in order to thrive, and
be sure those conditions are compatible with those required by the
BA> So here we are, right back at the same tiring materials vs.
BA> management theme again. I've just about given up wondering why
BA> people, especially most growers, simply can never figure that one
Most people weren't trained to figure anything out, they were trained
to read in order to buy products, and to hope... rather than
construct. They need help. And when they know and recognize valid help
when they see it, the right things get done.
I know a chemical engineer that grew 70 hec of organic pineapple
secretly and simply substituted little bottles of "organic" inputs for
little bottles of conventional inputs. His costs were about the same
but his quality was low. (We talked at the tail end of the crop and
he'd done something uncertifiable anyway). He designed an ingenious
organic phosphorus delivery system and got size, but failed to deliver
enough potassium and had low flavor.
BA> I've seen products of this sort that are 98% water, selling for over
BA> US$200 per gallon (3.8 litres). Alternative farmers, especially if they
BA> read Acres USA, line up to buy this junk, and somehow continue to
BA> believe the peddlar when he attributes lack of results to an
BA> unspecified error by the farmer, instead of to a fundmental flaw with
BA> the entire concept. Maybe they just didn't believe hard enough....
A book was cited on one page. A search on the author showed that the
book had been self published.
BA> You wonder why alternative agriculture is the object of disrespect
BA> and derision in many circles? Look no further than all this
BA> fraudulent garbage that gets sold to gullible growers who actually
BA> believe the peddlar's pitch that it will replace 400 lbs of
BA> 19-19-19 per acre.
It's a scam. I know doctors that do it to ignorant patients,
prescribing costly, little known antibiotics that are no more
effective that readily available ones and often not the best anyway.
BA> These guys are long on anecdotes and short on real research.
They throw around a lot of terms, assuming no one will get down to to
the root of it.
BA> They claim the universities have sold out and won't support their
The cost of the research must be covered. It doesn't matter who does
it, as long as the results can be repeated (verified).
BA> Yet not long ago we had a report on this list about serious
BA> university research in three states demonstrating the benefits of
BA> seaweed in beef production. Some universities *do* test these
BA> products, and almost always they show absolutely no difference
BA> compared to the control. Those results don't fit well in
BA> promotional literature, but they're a pretty good description of
BA> the situation in general.
But seaweed is not suitable for the purpose (commerce) of many
players. It's too simple.
BA> I've had the chance to use some of these products for FREE, and didn't
BA> because it wasn't worth the time or expense to apply them.
They don't fit my idea of biological organism based agriculture.
BA> If anyone knows of a product of this type with a *proven* performance
BA> record that actually can cover the cost of the product, I'd be happy to
BA> hear about it. Until then I'll continue to regard the entire product
BA> class as deceptive, fraudulent, exploitative garbage.
I still need to disinfect our pineapple before sealing the cut stem
Thanks for the comments. You've confirmed the general impression I had
but I didn't want to jump to conclusions or be unfair.
I don't buy these things myself.
The iodine thing may be another matter however. I told the guy three
things had to be in place: 1).- It's being effective. 2).- It's being
an approved treatment for the crop in question and 3).- The cost.
It's being a supposedly organic product was a plus in terms of my
interest, since all of our projects are either organic or going toward
it. And we do need to disinfect our fruit before sealing the wound.
The micro-nutrient thing can get somewhat esoteric itself, but I have
to assume there is something to it. The research is there, it's just
not well known. I tend to flag the posts in which you get into that.
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