Our Interview With Dr. Stephen Ford
Dr. Stephen Ford is a plant pathologist in New Zealand and is one of the brilliant minds behind Triffid (our microbial synergist) and Vaccinate (a foliar spray that boosts your plants’ immune systems) Both products are totally organic and they get results, as you can see from the photograph. Dr. Ford helped to create Triffid and Vaccinate thanks to his passion for plant pathology as well as the maintenance of a healthy planet.
Q: For the laymen out there, what is a plant pathologist and what are your everyday duties and activities?
A: Plants are the foundation of life on the planet. Plant pathology is the study of what causes disease and how a pathogen attacks plants at a cellular and molecular and tissue level. We also study how a plant responds to the pathogen and the disease that that pathogen is causing. Pathology is not a pure discipline, its multifaceted. We can study botany, horticulture, microbiology, bacteriology, or mycology just to mention a few.
As for myself, I’m a fungal “superfreak.” My specialist area is called mycology, and to a lesser extent I spend time on bacteria in our bacteriology laboratory. That’s pretty much what plant pathologists do and what we do to study disease.
Q: How does one become a plant pathologist? (Education, Work, etc)
A: It’s generally lots and lots of studying at university. Most pathologists will study horticulture and pick up plant pathology as their major. In fact, you’ll find that plant pathologists who major in a specific field at university are in school longer than a doctor of medicine, because plant pathology is a multi-disciplined profession and generally we’re treating not just individuals, but whole populations of organisms.
Q: So how many years of advanced schooling does it take?
A: I was at university studying horticulture and plant pathology for 7 years, and then I did my specific field in mycology for 3. So I was at university for 10 years. And then we’ve got a period of time where we’re mentored under guidance similar to what doctors experience at a teaching hospital.
Q: When did you first start to collect thoughts and inspiration for Triffid and Vaccinate?
A: About 12 years ago was when research primarily started. It came from watching the amount of pesticides that were going into the food chain as a result of pesticide resistance. Some of the scary things, which I’d like to talk to you about, can be understood if we have a look at something called the “evolution of resistance.” As an example of the evolution of resistance, let’s have a look at antibiotics. Antibiotics can go from being very, very effective at controlling bacteria to not working so well, and eventually, not working at all. The bacteria become quite resistant. I think most people are aware of the problems the antibiotic industry faces with the overuse of antibiotics.
But if we look at pesticides as far as controlling insects, for example, I’ll give you a figure that came out of the World Health Organization: from 1940 to 1984, crop loss from pest damage increased from 7% to 13% while pesticide use increased 12 times during that period. So, pesiticide use is not really a model that’s working for the planet or even the multinationals that are producing these toxic compounds that we’re putting into the food chain. It’s not a sustainable model in any way, shape or form. Financially for the multinationals or for the planet.
So, we had to find a better way. Another very, very scary thing has revealed itself thanks to epigenetics, which can be explained with a human analogy. Let’s say your grandmother was exposed to an environmental toxin during gestation when she was pregnant. You could develop a disease because of this and could even pass the traits along to YOUR great-grandchildren. Michael K. Skinner recently published “The Ghost in our Genes,” which looks at epigenetics and environmental toxins and how they can cause disease. [Epigenetics] is a relatively new science but a very robust science that says exposure to a lot of these pesticides that we’re putting into the food chain is actively changing our genetics. We’re reprogramming our genetics and exposing ourselves to disease. That exposure is then passed on to the next 4 generations.
So, considering the combination of the evolution of resistance and epigenetics, we can see that these toxins in the environment are actively reprogramming our genetics, predisposing future generations to pain and needless suffering. We decided at Crop Solutions that things had to change. We simply had to find a better way.
Q: And so you came up with Triffid and Vaccinate. What makes them superior to other lawn and garden products?
A: More than anything else, this is a completely new science. Nothing like this has been attempted before. Rather than applying pesticides or fertilizer, you’re actually applying a product to the plant that drives the plant’s resistance. It’s a very proactive way of managing disease problems, and generally you’re doing it with food-grade molecules, which are very, very safe and family-friendly.
Look for more additional posts from our interview with Dr. Ford in the future. In the meantime, head to wetandforget.com and check out our photo galleries. You’ll be amazed at the remarkable ways Triffid and Vaccinate can make your lawn and garden more vibrant, healthy and beautiful.