The two most helpful suggestions I have for the forum at large is to consider breaking out some discussions into new topics, and to trial everything. Don’t be afraid to let art win out over science. Your own senses and discernment have value. Personally I’m fond of well laid out systems such as DWN BYOC, EarthBoxes, and square foot gardening (to name a few). Mostly because I trialed them, and continue to trial varieties, fertilizers, growing mediums, etc.
What I give this forum (and others) credit for is as a clearing house for empirical data (that’s what other folks have trialed and concluded). Most of us can sort through the mis-applied science and even counter with our own experiences. I would never purchase/plant a standalone mycorrhizae product myself, but I wouldn’t be surprised if someone came forward and sang its praises. I don’t inoculate beans and peas either, but understand it to be a tool on our belt. Most of the better organic fertilizers come with some form of mycorrhizae, so I can’t rule out the usefulness. Again, purely empirical data based on the synergy of an excellent fertilizer.
MC that sounds musical, but for me, not very informative of what you are specifically suggesting we should do to improve our (your?) forum experience.
You don’t need to participate in a discussion of interpretations of “the science” but I enjoy doing so. I was actually very interested to learn that snow peas in Alaska benefit from inoculation. I enjoyed the challenge of trying to find relevant research to try to evaluate the usefulness of a common product in a case where anecdotes offer very little clarity.
I also enjoy hearing of folks personal gardening experiences although I wouldn’t describe that info source as “empirical data”. It is sometimes extremely useful nevertheless and, I agree, probably the most important virtue of this forum.
This forum doesn’t have limitations of space and I see no reason to put a value any particular form of discussion here over another. When folks aren’t interested the thread dies.
Perhaps what you are trying to say is that you don’t like people’s personal experiences being invalidated by a barrage of research links, which I is a fair point (even when worded directly). However, I prefer to er on the side of trying to get facts straight. I think that is also a quest of a lot of other members here.
This year I didn’t use mycorrhizae with my tomatoes and peppers, and they grew fairly well, although i had a ton of fungal diseases this year. The last few days I have been removing tomato plants and found it a lot easier to pull out the roots when not using mycorrhizae. Last year 20 and 30 gallon pots the whole thing came out. It was a pia! This year without mycorrhizae the roots came right out easy. It made cleanup very fast. Last year I lost a lot of soil I could not reuse in containers as I had to pound the roots to remove all the soil, And what soil remained was filled with feeder roots. Often it is suggested to remove old tomato roots to avoid harboring fungal pests. It was impossible to do so using mycorrhizae. So it’s a mixed bag no matter what you do. I find no point in going back and forth. I pointed to about 300 studies that show it is best to add mycorrhizae. More may be there, I got tired of looking through them. The University of Alaska stuff was easy to point to, but numerous studies show benefits. At one time mycorrhizae was only available commercially. Only recently is the proper type available for blueberries for the home gardener.
For Alan or Scott’s orchards I would not add mycorrhizae. They have been growing trees there for years, and the area is probably loaded with the correct mycorrhizae. Now here on the east side of Michigan, even wild blueberries do not grow. The soil is basic. So no doubt I bet zero blueberry mycorrhizae are in the area, so best to add it.
It seems sometimes I accidentally discover something that works, that is always interesting. Like this year I noticed my tomatoes grew better in last years soil versus this year’s soil. It was not the mycorrhizae though. As the roots to all were lean this year. I think it is the fact that various organic matter in my soil mixes had a chance to breakdown. This suggests to prepare and season potting soil well in advance of planting. So I’m prepping my containers now for next year. I will store them ready to go. This year I made my soil mixes up in the spring. I’m making them now for next year this time. It may not make much of a difference though. I think I will keep them moist all winter, and hope some breakdown occurs.
As far as using for new trees, or helping them to develop roots I don’t have specific links to fruit trees, but much research shows that inoculation works, and the links to various aspects of inoculation were given. Plants are more similar than we think. I don’t see it as a stretch that if peas benefit from inoculation that trees would not. Now that would be a bad assumption. We can certainly assume that mycorrhizae inoculation will cause no harm, and at such low prices is worth experimentation.
Here is one study that shows inoculation can help prevent disease caused by 'Candidatus Phytoplasma prunorum in plum trees.
I’m going to hold firm to the term “empirical data” because it accurately describes the process of trials in the garden. We’re not enriching plutonium or growing potatoes on Mars (sorry for the movie spoiler). It’s just a hobby for me.
Interestingly enough (or not), I’m seeing less nematode pressure after trialing organic fertilizers with mycorrhiza. Starting with a trial and observing the results, and then back-filling the science with a google search on “mycorrhiza nematode interaction”, has a lot of value, even if inconclusive. If I started out with a myth-buster study or report and chose not to trial these products based on someone’s snake oil conclusion, I wouldn’t know the value nor reap the rewards. Most research papers take a very narrow, short term view.
Note: Coming full circle here, some elements added to the growing medium may not feed plant roots directly, but feed the soil microherd (such as mycorrhiza) that in turn feed plant roots. This is central to organic vs conventional growing, and water soluble vs water insoluble fertilizer approaches.
Actually conventional growing often involves feeding the soil, it is when organic garden writers talk about conventional growing that conventional is portrayed as all about strip-mining the soil
There is some truth in the generalization and organic growers certainly tend to be more dedicated to maintaining a high level of OM, the main aspect of a thriving micro-flora and fauna.
I am interested in research about such products as “myco boosters” because I would like to see the manufacturers of products proven not useful to go out of business and maybe do something useful for a living.
Some products can be evaluated by comparing results from one year to another, up to a point. but mychorizal inoculants are not among them, IMO, unless you are using some kind of control to compare results on the same season in similar soil. When you are including them with fertilizer, your observations are not very useful in terms of trying to establish cause and affect.
As I said earlier, there is plenty of research where a combination of fertilizer and mycos create a positive growth response in trees, just not with the mycos alone.
Snake oil is an ineffective product being sold to the gullible as something that it is not. This forum should be a venue that helps members avoid unnecessary expenses. Personally, I’m also interested in taking a small stand against promotional BS that dominates our culture and rewards con-artists.
Incidentally, the studies that Drew is providing showing the benefits of mycos is not at all about such products as far as I can see. It is about the benefits of naturally occurring myco relationships involving natural inoculation which is where all such relationships begin- without human intervention.
Well your not looking. You see only what you wish to. Everyone uses a product of laboratory production. I do wish more detail was there, some do not mention what fungi they are using, so it would be hard to find in a product we can buy. (Most fungal products list what spores are included. So all i need is a name.) Some do though.Here is a quote from one study, so again you are incorrect, products most certainly are mentioned July 2001, we potted shrub liners in 1-gallon containers with different potting mixes. One potting mix was augmented with “Myke Pro Endo
One of the often discussed benefits of using roundup (no till) to grow corn instead of plowing is that the undisturbed soil reduces the digestion of organic matter in the soil that plowing accelerates, so fields managed without plowing sustain much higher levels of organic matter making the crops more drought tolerant, etc.
Trade magazines like Good Fruit Grower often have articles touting the benefits of practices that increase organic matter in the soil which I won’t bother itemizing here. Sometimes it’s about cover crops or letting weeds grow in middles from mid-summer on.
Standard agricultural soils tests wouldn’t even list organic matter content if it wasn’t a subject of concern to all growers.
I wasn’t saying chemical fertilizers feed the soil, but back in my all “organic” days an older student at my hort school who didn’t buy into my spiel about how one is strip mining soil with applications of synthetic N without organic matter supplement, made an interesting point.
Some of the carbohydrate of plants is in their roots, so if you use synthetic N to increase plant growth some of that increased growth winds up as organic matter in the soil. In no-till agriculture, further benefit is achieved by leaving all the stubble of the preceding crop on the surface where it breaks down more gradually and nourishes a wide range of organisms. The truism is that you generally get more benefit from organic matter applied to the surface than incorporated into to soil.
But that’s just nerd stuff. You are right that conventional farmers often practice agriculture that leads to “dead” (less full of life, anyway) soil, especially annual crops, but I think its the lack of replacing OM that you remove, both in the crops and by way of plowing that has much more to do with it than the direct use of synthetic materials.
Technically, I believe you can be a certified organic producer and do a poor job of feeding your soil just as you can grow conventionally and keep your soil teeming with life.
Whoops, had to edit that, Drew you are right, the Polish experiment is exactly the kind of thing I was asking you to produce and it is interesting. I thank you for providing it and I think it indicates that there is a possibility there will be products in the future that will have special benefits for fruit tree growers.
When they become available, I expect commercial growers to be the first to utilize them.
You made it very hard for me to find what I was looking for as that was the first thing that I looked at that fell into that category.
The quote you included at the end of your assertion that I was again wrong is about potting mix from my reading. I’m not sure I’m the one who is only finding what they are looking for but that is a fairly universal human trait.
I used a myco product when first planting fruit trees and blueberries in my former forest sand about ten years ago. Later I read that it doesn’t really help, so didn’t use it on later plantings. I couldn’t detect any difference. Wood mulch really perked up the blueberries, though.
Since there has been a lot of discussion about research I’d like to mention, in my view research can be highly suspect unless it is peer reviewed and published in a real journal (not a “pay to play” journal).
Along those lines, I think everyone would acknowledge even real research takes a long time to “settle the matter”. Even so, while the scientific method is not perfect, it’s overall the most trustworthy method in the road to determining truth in matters like these. It can be difficult to sift through the studies to determine if the scientific method has actually been applied objectively. That’s the beauty of peer reviewed research. If the peers are true peers (experts in the same field, not just people with letters behind their names) they are in a unique position to spot the fallacies in the particular research and are typically the harshest critics (or should be, if the process is working like it’s supposed to).
That’s why some research throws up red flags. If it isn’t peer reviewed or published in a real journal, the question becomes, “Was the research so poorly done the author couldn’t get it peer reviewed or published?” Of course some research may be so inconsequential a real journal won’t publish it, but published, peer reviewed research used to be the standard for someone gaining and keeping a professorship at a university.
In terms of fruit, I pay a lot of attention to anecdotal observations people share on this forum and have benefited greatly by them. But, when available, IMO high quality, statistically significant research trumps anecdotal observations because by it’s nature, true research isolates/accounts for more variables. The beauty of anecdotal observations, btw, is that in so many cases high quality research is not available, so mere observations (or extrapolations) can fill in gaps for the present.
Even good research can leave the issue in a state of flux, if there is conflicting good research. It’s not a perfect system, but it’s the best we’ve got.
I know this is needless information for most folks, but just mentioning it as a reminder. Some people may disagree altogether with the philosophy I outlined above, and that’s OK too.
Here’s how an agricultural researcher might attempt to determine if some additive such as mycorrhiza fungi was cost effective for growers in his area.
The research would typically be conducted 3 yrs
at 2 or more locations say previously forested vs grassland
with 2 levels of myc, none and recommended rate,
and about 10 levels of fertilizer treatments that might be standards for that area
with 4 replications of each treatment combination
This means there are 2x2x10x4 = 160 plots each yr. For tree crops a plot might be 4 adjacent trees for a total of 640 trees to measure and harvest each yr.
The resulting data could then be statistically analyzed to determine effectiveness of the myc treatment and whether the effectiveness varied across locations or yrs. One could also determine the interactions between fertility treatments and myc.
That’s your typical peer reviewed research approach. You can compared that however you want to what a home grower might do.
I’m not an organic grower, but I have a lot of respect for Michael Phillips who is. He is an advocate for dipping the roots of apple trees in a mycorrhizae gel before planting. I have never tried it, so I don’t know if it works.
I do know that a lot of fruit trees grown by large commercial nurseries are grown on fumigated soil. Its also common practice for large commercial apple growers to fumigate the land before planting a new orchard, especially if the land was previously planted in fruit trees. These fumigants are designed to kill just about everything including mycorrhizae. After fumigating the land and planting trees that were grown on fumigated soil, I would expect to find little natural mycorrhizae in the orchard. However, I am not able to locate any research from any agricultural college in a major fruit growing region that suggest the addition of mycorrhizae.
Since a high density orchard represents such a huge investment, I would expect the small additional cost of dipping the roots in mycorrhizae would be a standard practice if it produced any financial benefit for the grower. Consider the fact that the establishment cost for a new 100 acre apple orchard is over a million dollars. With a million dollars at risk, I can not imagine why any apple grower would fail to make the trivial investment in mycorrhizae , unless they were 100% confident that it produced no benefit.
But what if the mycorrhizae had a negative effect on tree growth and yield? The only way you could tell is by doing an experiment like I outlined above only substitute fumigated vs non fumigated for forested vs grassland. Then throw in replant resistant vs non resistant rootstocks. People are kidding themselves if they think they can come up with a reliable answer by doing anything less. In fact one often does an experiment as outlined and still can’t show a statistically significant difference. Or the results are confusing. Happened to me many times.
I don’t doubt the value of controlled field trials combined with statistical analysis. Unfortunately that type of research takes a lot of time and a lot of money. Before it could be conducted, published and peer reviewed, some of us will be too old to grow fruit trees!
I have found that the “smart money” is normally right. Without valid research data, my gut tells me to follow the smart money. I consider the folks that are willing to risk millions of dollars on new orchards to be the smart money.
I agree with that 100%. And by and large they don’t use many if any of the dozens if not hundreds of similar products. The big commercial growers rely on highly paid, science based consultants and university research much of it grower funded.
Until there is definitive research there is also the strength of logic. If a commercial grower attempted to run with Michael Phillips theory and one year used it on a thousand trees on,say, M9 - something that he is very familiar with the normal vigor of in his soil, and the formula seemed to work, word would likely get around very quickly. Any clear acceleration to yield is so important to commercial growers. These products have been around a long time and I don’t see this happening.
Michael Phillips is not exactly a typical commercial grower and IMO tends to put his philosophy above deductive reasoning, as he makes more of his living from that (his philosophy) than his ability to efficiently produce fruit.