Understanding Biological Farming: A simplified understanding of ‘compost tea’ a plant and soil probiotic

In ideal soil ecosystems, we would have dramatically different soil and certainly a dramatically different level of ‘made made’ toxins. In an ideal soil environment, we would expect our topsoil to contain 10% organic matter, and would also expect to have literally thousands of species of bacteria and hundreds of species of fungi. In most soils today, we often have a humus content of less than 1% with just a few hundred species of bacteria (including plant pathogens) and less than 100 species of fungi (including plant pathogens) this is often due to poor soil management including the use of chemical fertilisers, pesticides, fungicides and herbicides. Poor soil management is simply a matter of misunderstanding the importance of building living soils.

 

The lack of a large diversity of bacteria and fungi in our soils affects plant health and production dramatically because plants naturally have a very close symbiotic relationship with the soil biology. Plants depend on bacteria, fungi, worms, bugs, and beetles, and larger animals to help provide and digest their food for them. Plants don’t digest minerals by themselves; they either depend on a complex relationship of soil biology to provide their nutritional and health needs or they depend on often toxic ‘artificial’ soluble fertilizers and pesticides to provide for their food and health needs. The first is natural and depends on natural processes, the second is increasingly expensive, more difficult to manage and defeats natural soil fertility processes.

 

In healthy soil with good organic matter and a healthy biology, a soil food web is created. How this works is that the plants exude ‘exudates’ from their roots, these are simple sugars, proteins and carbohydrates in many different forms, which then trigger responses from the soil biology. The bacteria, protozoa, beneficial nematodes and fungi respond to these triggers to provide the plants with nutrition and to protect plants from disease. The biology holds the plant nutrients within their own bodies and their own systems as non-leachable forms and ‘trade’ them with the plants photosynthetically produced nutrients for mutual benefit. Healthy soils have many tonnes of living organisms in every acre (4000M2) of soil, these organisms work 24 hours a day 7 days a week, 365 days a year to support your productive crops without holiday pay, without superannuation, without even a wage. Lets make sure we take care and don’t kill them.

 

The first photo was taken on January 17th, 2017 before the application of compost for the banana circle. The initial soil was a very hard clay, completely transformed in less than a year. By April when the after photo was taken I had already harvested bunches of bananas in what was awful soil just a year ago. Just look at the biomass, this is plants and microbes working together to care for each other, a perfect example of mutualism!

 

Fungi have the ability to digest and ‘wick’ water and nutrients from many meters below the soil surface directly into the plant roots (reduces water needs by more than 30%). Bacteria have the ability to generate antibiotics to fight off plant pathogens and store vast amounts of nitrogen, which is made available to the plants through the actions of a healthy soil foodweb and through nutrient cycling. Both beneficial fungi and beneficial bacteria successfully fight plant disease by occupying and defending every plant surface where pathogens could otherwise attack.

 

Compost tea works as a plant and soil probiotic and is designed to re-establish and maintain a healthy soil food web in disturbed, degraded or toxified soils so that plants can enjoy living in a healthy, disease free environment. The soil biology can digest minerals and moderate soil PH to help unlock plant available nutrients from “parent material” already present in the soil and make them plant available. Compost tea works hand in hand with applications of quality compost and ensures that the diversity of organisms is maintained in our soil ecosystem.

 

Bio-vital compost and compost tea as a plant and soil probiotic accelerates soil fertility. In just 24 hours we grow hundreds of thousands of microbes into literally thousands of millions’ ready to spray out onto our degraded ground to advance our productive crops.

 

We make aerobic compost tea from aerobic compost. It is essential that we make compost tea from quality compost, rich in a high diversity of beneficial plant and soil microorganisms.

 

Properly made aerobic compost is full of millions of species of bacteria and thousands of species of fungi. We take the aerobic compost and add it to highly aerated water held at a desired temperature.

 

We then add microbial nutrients that feed microbes to give them the energy to reproduce dramatically. We maintain an aerobic environment to help select the species of microbes desired for the conditions as determined by laboratory testing, thus making a highly cultured “brew” full of beneficial fungi and bacteria ready to spray out into our soil and crops as a plant and soil probiotic.

 

The compost tea program helps make soil more productive, less toxic and more sustainable. By sustainable we mean that every year your soil will improve in health and productivity and every year you will need fewer inputs (fertilizer, pesticides, herbicides, water and energy) for greater and healthier production.

 

The benefits of the compost tea program include healthier plants, deeper root growth, less water requirements, the ability to biologically control disease and imporved soil fertility. We select for higher quality production with less energy and reduce the need to use toxins in farming. “Put the life back into the soil and the profits and enjoyment back into farming”.

 

Paul Taylor

www.trustnature.com.au

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4 thoughts on “Understanding Biological Farming: A simplified understanding of ‘compost tea’ a plant and soil probiotic

  1. Hi Paul, amazing job with the banana circle!! What sort of climate is this located in? Do you know how much rainfall you got in that 15 month period? And what was the longest dry period? Keep up the good work, and God bless you, Tim

  2. We share your mission–growing food organically. Using nature to grow healthier food and rehabilitate the soil. GroGenesis has recently introduced an organic input that has been field tested in Colombia, Bangaladesh and Cuba–https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AQsQ6xvyZEQ

  3. It certainly is an interesting subject; I have played around with compost tea for a number of years over in Ecuador and some of the results were just spectacular.

    I was experimenting with control of coffee rust, and it was very effective – not only controlled the outbreaks but increased plant vigour and flow-on effects to production are likely (will have to wait another couple of years for real results).

    I had a little winged bean planted on a fence, after 6 months it was a bit straggly and only had a single bean on it… I threw the dregs of a compost tea brew on it and within 2 weeks it had doubled in biomass, 3 weeks was flowering like crazy, and 4 weeks was covered in beans! I can’t put it down to anything other than the compost tea.

    I went for a more more DIY system using an airlift; no access to a dissolved oxygen meter in rural Ecuador, so no idea how effective the oxygenation was, I can only go by the results.

    One thing I would absolutely recommend is buying/borrowing a microscope and taking samples at different times – you can really get a good feel for how active your tea is, even if you can’t identify things specifically the more wiggly-jiggly little creatures in there the better.
    I’ve had samples that after 24 hours were fairly stagnant, and given another 12-24 hours were full of activity… it is a learning process, but the results are worth the experiments.

  4. On another note there are some studies showing the effectiveness of compost tea in bioremediation of contaminated soils… with a good mix of biology in the tea it increases the likelihood that something in there can produce the enzyme capable of breaking the contaminants down.

    I am looking into mycoremediation + compost tea for hydrocarbon contaminated material from mining (my day job while I daydream about returning to Ecuador). Interesting stuff.

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