Ineffective fertilizers are snake oil

What is ‘snake oil’?

The Oxford dictionary defines snake oil as “a product of little real worth or value that is promoted as the solution to a problem.” Wikipedia says it is a “term used to describe deceptive marketing, health care fraud, or a scam.”

The term is most commonly used in the agriculture space as a derogatory for biocontrol or biostimulant products that are unfamiliar or not yet in widespread use.

In my conversation with Pam Marrone she made a comment to the effect “If fertilizers and pesticides were held to the same performance standards as biocontrols and biostimulants before being registered, many of them would fail.”

Richard Mulvaney and colleagues have reported the reduced yield and quality from fertilization with potassium chloride, the most widely used commercial source of potash. The industry response has been a deafening silence.

Does a prevailing lack of yield response not make potassium chloride fertilization fit the definition of ‘snake oil’?

Just because an application has become ‘standard practice’ does not mean it brings benefit to the farmer. It may be bringing benefits mostly to those who farm the farmers.