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Is Compost Tea Good for Soil Health?

By   /  January 25, 2021  /  3 Comments

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This article is a condensed version of a series of a two article series from January of 2016. (Here
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About the author

Publisher, Editor and Author

Kathy worked with the Bureau of Land Management for 12 years before founding Livestock for Landscapes in 2004. Her twelve years at the agency allowed her to pursue her goal of helping communities find ways to live profitably AND sustainably in their environment. She has been researching and working with livestock as a land management tool for over a decade. When she's not helping farmers, ranchers and land managers on-site, she writes articles, and books, and edits videos to help others turn their livestock into landscape managers.

3 Comments

  1. Ivan Pavlov says:

    Very interesting. A few thoughts from me as a not-yet-practicing beginner:
    1) 20 gallons per acre ~= 4 teaspoons per square meter (1 teaspoon every 3 square feet). Seems very little especially for a soil “drench”. IF healthy, diverse soil microbiology really DOES make a great difference to soil health and therefore productivity (which seems to be the case), and IF good quality compost DOES have these microorganisms present (which seems to be the case), and IF then brewing highly aerated compost tea DOES increase the numbers/concentration of these organisms (is this the case?), then it should follow that IF a sufficient critical mass of these organisms are applied to the soil in a manner that ensures they actually make their way into the soil AND TAKE HOLD, then compost tea *should* make a noticeable, measurable improvement to a pasture/cropland.

    Most compost tea recipes say 1-2 cups of compost per 5 gallons ~= 1 part compost yields 40-80 times its volume in compost tea. So one ton/cubic yard of high quality aerated compost (~$200?) would yield 40-80 tons of tea, enough for 500-1000 (!) acres at the 20 gallon/acre rate in the study above.

    My gut feel is that perhaps 20 gallons/acre is simply too little volume for these organisms to penetrate sufficiently into the soil and take hold and then multiply. A much stronger application, perhaps 10-100x the above concentration, might yield fundamentally different results. As these microorganisms are water-bound, such a lite drizzle basically leaves them on the very top of the soil, if they even make it that far and don’t get stuck on the plants.

    What do you think?? Let me know! ๐Ÿ™‚
    -Ivan

    • Kathy Voth says:

      Well, come back next week Ivan and we’ll answer some of your ifs. We’ll start with looking at whether or not you need to add more micro-organisms and move on from there

      Kathy

      P.S. Is Ivan Pavlov a nom de plume or your real name? Because it’s a great, and very famous name in my world! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Tom Krawiec says:

      I totally agree Ivan, it should work. However, it doesn’t in practice. For biology to thrive there must be a suitable home first. There must be a roof (ground cover), air to breath (good soil aggregation), and food to eat (root exudates). Until these three features are met, biology will not survive no matter how many you put in the soil.
      Each time a trial does not produce the theoretical results wanted, someone is saying ‘you didn’t do it right’. I have been unable to find any research that proves compost tea does what the experts say it does. There are some cases where production improvements have been achieved, but each case has also been in conjunction with a management change like cover cropping or improved grazing practices. These management changes produce improvements regardless of any amendment.

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