I recently noticed some cute little plastic packets of mycorrhizal inoculant in a garden supply store,
and naturally was curious to see what they contained.
The label boldly stated that the product had “Both Endo and Ecto Types - 14 in all!”, which of course,
would be a desirable thing for landscaping purposes. Some plants, such as oaks and pines, match
up with the Ecto type, while most others use Endo types. A blended inoculant increases the odds
that at least one type will be effective on any given plant.
I also looked at the guaranteed content of active ingredients. Here, the label claimed high counts of
Ecto type spores - tens of millions. As Ecto spores are dramatically smaller and far less costly than
Endo spores to produce, it is very inexpensive for a manufacturer to create impressive sounding
counts with Ecto. But, OK so far.
But then I was absolutely amazed to see how they handled the Endo spore count. The label wording
was “Contains eight types of Endomycorrhizal Fungi”. That’s it - just “contains”, with no guarantee
whatsoever of any specific number of spores!
Now, I must admit to a unfortunate degree of cynicism at times. Perhaps there really are a generous
number of expensive Endo spores in that product, but I have to picture someone in their plant mixing
a teaspoonful (level, not heaping) into an enormous vat of product, which would mean it does indeed
“contain” Endo types - perhaps one every cubic foot or so.
By way of comparison, the BioOrganics products all meet the rigid California standard, which requires
that labels clearly state the spore count per cubic centimeter. We guarantee a minimum of 50
mature, undamaged, Endo spores per cc. (Our internal quality control standard is to have double
that number, 100/cc, actually present.)
That other manufacturer is probably not breaking any laws with their clever labeling, unless they try
to sell it in California, but I feel sorry for people who buy that pricey product (almost $30 for a handful
of inoculant) and see no effects on Endo-dependent plants. And then, of course, they will say, “Tried
that mycorrhizae stuff - didn’t do anything that I could see”. (Sigh)
Guess you could call it the Roots of a problem, eh?
Read the fine print, folks.