Compost tea is used for two reasons: To inoculate microbial life into the soil or onto the foliage of plants, and to add soluble nutrients to the foliage or to the soil to feed the organisms and the plants present. The use of compost tea is suggested any time the organisms in the soil or on the plants are not at optimum levels. Chemical-based pesticides, fumigants, herbicides and some synthetic fertilizers kill a range of the beneficial microorganisms that encourage plant growth, while compost teas improve the life in the soil and on plant surfaces. High quality compost tea of will inoculate the leaf surface and soil with beneficial microorganisms, instead of destroying them.
What Is Compost Tea?
Compost tea is a liquid produced by leaching soluble nutrients and extracting bacteria, fungi, protozoa and nematodes from compost. The brewing process is performed at constant temperature, although the growth of the organisms may elevate temperature as a result of their reproductive heat produced.
Tea production is a brewing process, and as easy as making beer or wine. But we all know that wine or beer brewing isn’t that easy. Brewing compost tea can be fraught with problems. But if you think about what you are doing, and pick out the right tea-making machine, making compost tea that will help your plants is easy as flipping a light switch. What is your purpose in making tea? If you want to inoculate a highly beneficial group of bacteria and fungi, protozoa and possibly nematodes, buy good compost that has these organisms, and make Actively Aerated Compost Tea. There are a number of excellent tea makers on the market (see How to make AACT).
Benefits of using of compost tea containing the WHOLE foodweb include:
- Improve plant growth as a result of protecting plant surfaces with beneficial organisms which occupy infection sites and prevent disease-causing organisms from finding the plant,
- Improve plant growth as a result of improving nutrient retention in the soil, and therefore reduce fertilizer use, and loss of nutrients into ground- and surface waters
- Improve plant nutrition by increasing nutrient availability in the root system as predator-prey interactions increase plant available nutrients in exactly the right place, time and amounts that the plant needs,
- Reduce the negative impacts of chemical-based pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers on beneficial microorganisms in the ecosystem
- Improve uptake of nutrients by increasing foliar uptake as beneficial microorganisms increase the time stomates stay open, while at the same time reducing evaporative loss from the leaf surface,
- Reduce water loss, improve water-holding in the soil, and thus reduce water use in your system,
- Improve tillage by building better soil structure. Only the biology builds soil structure, and ALL the groups in the foodweb are required to be successful. You can’t have just bacteria, you must have fungi, protozoa, nematodes and microarthropods as well! Please be aware that plate count methods don’t tell you about the whole foodweb.