Product Labeling Gripe

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Orchid Iconoclast
Staff member
Supporting Member
Jun 9, 2006
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Oak Island NC
I am a bit surprised - yet again - at the nonchalant way that some vendors handle the labeling of their products.

I have often expressed my dismay at the way RepotMe marketed their "Feed Me" brand of liquid fertilizer. It was nothing more than the MSU powder dissolved in water, yet the label indicated it was the same formula as the powder used. As they recommended one ounce per gallon for 125 ppm N, that means it was just one pound of MSU powder dissolved in a gallon of water, making the solution something along the lines of 1.5-0.3-1.8, which would be labeled as a 1-0-1 formula. Not labeling as such was both deceitful and illegal. Apparently they either caught on, or a regulatory agency got to them, because they don't appear to be selling it any more.

Now - much to my surprise - I find that Orchids Limited's Green Jungle Orchid Food seems to fall into that same arena.

It is labeled as a 1-0-1, and according to the very limited information on the label, is derived from potassium nitrate. Potassium nitrate, KNO3, is 38.7 weight percent K and 13.9% N, so in a weight ratio, the ELEMENTAL formula would be 1-0-2.79. But, in fertilizers, the K is expressed as K2O, which is 83%K, meaning that the label should be 2.79/0.83=3.36, making it not a 1-0-1 formula, but 1-0-3.36, legally labeled as 1-0-3. That may seem like a minor discrepancy, but for an equal nitrogen level, that's more than triple the potassium, and that can have a negative impact on your plants.

It might just be a mistaken assumption that since there is one "N" and one "K" in the molecule, it's a 1-0-1, but still...
It gets worse than that! The seaweed fertiliser with urea I bought to try doesn't have the NPK listed on it's packaging anywhere! And no mention of urea, nitrate etc. That info is only online!
Right you are Ray. That's exactly why I stopped using any fertilizer
that isn't K-Lite. False information isn't just fertilizers either. Just
read the ingredients on just about anything you eat.
Yeah, this is why I don't like to buy liquid fertilizers. I would rather buy the dry stuff, do the math myself, and then make my own concentrate. Also more cost-effective.

By the way Ray, thanks for your awesome online calculator. I used it for several years before finally making my own spreadsheet (which allowed me to add additional bells and whistles).

@abax - I have also taken to reading the ingredient list on the back of nearly everything I buy. It is not always the case, but cheaper food is generally cheaper for a reason...
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I bring some MSU fertilizer to sell at shows, but I do it as dry powder (vacuum packed!) and have just copied the label on the bag, basically. If they did the math wrong, I'm not the one to figure it out...
I notice most organic (ie seaweed etc) fertilizers dont list NPK. I assume its because there's so little in the mix?

Hmn... interesting point. I had always just assumed that a lot of these weren't labeled since naturally derived sources were variable.
Some of it depends upon how it is to be sold and how it's worded.

KelpMax contains a small amount of NPK, and if I sold it as a fertilizer, I would 1) have to list them, and 2) guarantee their concentrations.

Likewise, KelpMax is registered as a "plant growth stimulant" containing kelp extract, so I can sell it as a plant and soil additive, which is regulated at the state level. If I was to list the hormones, I'd have to guarantee their levels, and worse; I'd have to register my business and the product with the EPA and submit efficacy, safety, and environmental impact testing, as the hormones are "plant growth regulators" that fall under the auspices of FIFRA.
According to Jerry Fischer of Orchids Limited, Green Jungle is a proprietary, specially formulated complete fertilizer to be used with mostly pure water, so it contains N, P, K, Ca, Mg, all trace elements, and a few other constituents.The labeling on the bottle regarding contents is incomplete for the following reason.

Fertilizer labeling laws are different for powdered fertilizer and liquid fertilizer depending on state or federal requirements. In Minnesota, liquid fertilizer is treated differently than powdered or granular fertilizer. When powdered/granular fertilizer is sold in a container, the N-P-K numbers give the percentage concentrations in the container.

However, liquid fertilizer in Minnesota requires only a listing of full percentages in solution. Anything less than 1% is listed as zero. Anything between 1 and 2% is still listed as 1%. Evidently the state believes that anything less than a full percent is not necessary to track and is possibly not that detrimental to the environment. Since only N and K are present beyond the 1% threshold in Green Jungle, only they appear on the labeling. All the other constituents are present below the 1% threshold, so P is listed as 0%.
Thanks for digging into that, Terry.

I believe the "whole number" is pretty standard - K-Lite, for example is 12.9% N, so is labeled as a 12-x-x.

My only thoughts on Green Jungle is that the sellers apparently want us to trust them on the contents, which - despite the obviously great job they do with their own plants - just doesn't sit all that well with an inquisitive guy like me, and that if only the N and K are greater than 1%, why should I buy all that water?!?!
Jerry did a lot of foreign travel, sample collection, and intense work with University of Minnesota PhD plant biologists to work out the formula for Green Jungle over a period of years. Some premium needs to be paid for this work and expertise. I want Orchids Limited to survive and thrive and I understand why they would keep Green Jungle proprietary and charge a premium price. Income must come from someplace! They are not looking to take over the orchid fertilizer world. It is a niche product for a discriminating orchid grower with enough resources. I think KelpMax and Synergro are in that same category! We need some orchid growers, breeders, and product suppliers to keep a focus on premium products and not participate in a race to the bottom in terms of cost and quality.
Homeopathy and 'tonic' are words that come to mind when the contents of plant fertilizers/supplements are not fully disclosed.
Legislation isn't the only reason to request full disclosure of contents.

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