Earlier this year pathologists M. Garbelotto and D. Schmidt from the University of California at Berkeley published a paper in California Agriculture (a journal published by the University of California) in which they claim to have tested my holistic methods, and found that the application of “azomite soil amendment and bark lime wash was always ineffective, and did not reduce either growth or infection rates” of Phytophthora ramorum. Conversely, they report that “phosphonate treatments, legally registered in California to control sudden oak death, were effective in slowing both infection and growth rates”. They pretty much make it seem like it’s an open and shut case. But wait, there’s more.
Venturing into territory I’ve never seen touched in a research paper before, the authors then pass judgment on the aesthetic nature and even the legality of my methods. Here is what they say:
“Besides this lack of efficacy, we found that the sheer amount of material needed to treat each tree with azomite and lime wash was cumbersome and aesthetically unpleasant due to the large amounts of azomite on the ground around treated trees. Although this treatment is being touted as a holistic fertilizing approach aimed at enhancing the overall health of the tree, it is often and illegally prescribed to directly control sudden oak death. While true fertilization treatments do not require a registration, those used to directly control a disease do; as such, the azomite and lime wash treatments appear to be in a legal “grey zone.””
Sounds more like an indictment than a study of my methods.
So I have just one question, who of you reading this feel such claims can be justified based on a field study of just five trees? Yep, you heard me correct, just five trees!
I’m sorry, I actually have a whole lot of questions.
I state explicitly that my toxin-free holistic approach is not intended to be fungicidal in nature, so why was it tested as a fungicide, against a toxic fungicide?
Given that I developed the holistic methods involving AZOMITE® and lime wash, why was I not consulted on this study? How can I be certain that my methods were implemented properly? Were the trees cleared of brush and the trunks powerwashed to remove mosses and lichens? Did any buried root crowns get excavated? What were the application rates? Were the applications repeated (as recommended)? Was organic compost and/or mulch added? (The methods reported in the paper indicate that the answers are “no” to most of these questions.)
My methods are recommended to be used over a period of at least three years. Why was the study terminated at 18 months?
Where exactly are the experimental trees? How were they selected? What was done to guard against investigator bias? What information was recorded for each tree? Was any information collected on the soils? Can the trees be visited and inspected?
Readers should keep in mind that the tests in the field study are on the susceptibility of branches to SOD infection, when in fact the SOD infections are rarely in the branches of coast live oaks. Rather the infections occur mainly in the lower trunks and root crowns.
I consider as nonsense the claims of inefficacy and illegality of my holistic methodology, and unless the above questions can be properly addressed, the claims will remain as nonsense. Based on their reported methods and sample sizes it can already be said that the authors did not fairly test the holistic methodology. I honestly can’t believe how this paper made it through peer-review. Maybe they should have asked me to review the paper ☺. Despite the improbability, it really would have been the most professional thing to do.
For folks that are interested in seeing results on the efficacy of holistic methods involving a more respectable sample size (150+ trees), please look at my recent paper available online here.
One last point – I’ll leave it to the readers to decide on the aesthetics of the two methods. These are two photos of the different methods published with the article. The toxic phosphonate treatment is on the left, the holistic (partial) treatment is on the right. Some folks do find the white trunks unappealing, which is why we sometimes apply a tint that can mask the white. Also, note the healthy canopy of the tree on the right.