Does Compost Tea Improve Pasture?

Compost tea is kind of like the tea we drink. It's a liquid extract of compost produced by steeping finished compost in water in order to extract beneficial microorganisms and compounds. It is made in a variety of ways, including with or without aeration, and with or without adding supplemental nutrient sources. The theory is that compost tea can add precisely what a soil is lacking and it is supposed to be a speedy, cost-effective way of improving soil health and plant growth. But does it work? And is it better than simply spreading compost, which can be difficult to do at a large scale, or using cover crops, that come with their own costs and benefits? Those are the questions that farmer and retired chemist Jim Tarnowski set out to answer with his North Central Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) project. It's a complex topic with lots of variables. So we'll start with getting to know more about compost tea and it's use in this project as described by Jim in his final report to SARE. These are Jim's words. We've just excerpted the report so that we can present it as a series of articles. The Farms Four different Indiana farms, all part of the Wabash River Drainage Basin, investigated the use and effectiveness of aerobic compost tea for soil health restoration. Each farm i

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4 thoughts on “Does Compost Tea Improve Pasture?

  1. Has anyone been successful teaching cattle to eat cocklebur and hounds tongue or bad idea? Thanks

  2. Kathy and Jim,
    I noticed in your tank mix for the compost tea did not contain a carbon source. In most of the literature I have read the best results with putting on teas was when a sugar source was also applied with the tea. Molasses to cane sugar have been used most often in the mixes I have read about. The beneficial soil bugs not only need energy but also need a source of micro trace minerals such as Sea Minerals or other source of sea solids in proper proportion. I have seen many studies done over the years and a lot of them limit there scope to the point of not looking at the total system in the above study you are throwing beneficial bacteria and fungi at the soil with no extra food and nutrient source. They will over time pick and grow but not as fast or as energetically as they could if you offer them a more complete diet.

  3. Kathy/Jim-

    Although I grew up within 7 miles or so of the Wabash river, I had never seen a watershed map of Indiana. I was surprised to find out how much of Indiana is in the Wabash watershed…

  4. Jim, this is a great article and I look forward to your whole series.
    We make compost that we apply to our irrigated pastures and we too have soils that are bacteria dominated. Could you possibly direct me to a resource that describes how to make fungal dominated aerobic compost on a medium to large scale, please? We make the compost windrows with a manure spreader and a skid steer loader.
    Thanks, Dave

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