Is Compost Tea a Good Way to Add Nutrients and Microbes to Soil?

Last week's article on the results of on-farm research about the value of compost tea raised some questions from readers. To answer them, I've brought in Robert Pavlis. Robert has a background in chemistry and biochemistry, is a Master Gardener, and author of the book, Soil Science for Gardeners, an easy-to-read, practical guide to the science behind a healthy soil ecosystem and thriving plants. The book debunks common myths, explains soil science basics, and provides the reader with the knowledge to create a personalized soil fertility improvement program for better plants. Robert and I are similar in that we both translate science into practices our readers can use. He has done some good work gathering information about compost tea and he answers some important questions for us here: Does Compost Tea increase nutrients? To clarify the question, it should be stated more clearly as; "Does compost tea add more nutrients than compost alone?" There is no doubt that compost tea adds nutrients. But does the process of making tea increase the level of nutrients compared to just using compost without brewing? If they both add the same amount of nutrients–why bother making tea? If you think about it for two seconds you will realize that this is a silly notion. Think about what you are doing in making tea. You take a

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2 thoughts on “Is Compost Tea a Good Way to Add Nutrients and Microbes to Soil?

  1. Thank you for the article. I don’t make compost tea, but use lots of compost. I wonder, however, if there is another factor to consider: personal experiences. If a person uses compost tea and sees the results desired, perhaps there is something unique about that person’s soil, weather patterns, compost preparation, skills in application, observations of the crop, etc. So . . . I don’t make compost tea, but “if it works for you, use it.”

    1. I think there are a variety of reasons a person might see the results desired. First, someone going to all this trouble is likely to do other beneficial practices that are providing good results and so their observations are confounded. Second, long, and recent experience demonstrate that people are good at seeing what they want to see, no matter what information they are presented. In fact, research demonstrates that presenting them contrary facts can actually make them dig in further and be less likely to change.

      And of course, there is always the possibility that I’m wrong and someone will bring me some peer-reviewed published research that demonstrates something different than what this article says. And in that case, I’ll be back right away with an update.

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