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Compost Teas and Extracts

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Check out this article on one of the most revolutionary techniques for going organic, maintaining soil fertility and even fighting plant disease. A real soil solution! Accelerate succession and evolution and abundance follows. Demystifying compost tea and extract.

As Da Vinci once said, “Water is the driving force of all Nature”. This too is true within soil and our ability to use this universal solvent to propagate microbes on an unfathomable microscopic level is a powerful regeneration tool. It’s a tool that greatly aids in healing years or centuries of land abuse and switch the paradigm of chemical resources to the use of biological resources. Thus having appropriate quantities of humidity in the soil allows microbes to flourish and keeps nutrient cycling speeding along as photosynthesis comes to a grinding halt in the summer in places like the Mediterranean dry season. This links directly to plant health and transitions into human and animal health as well as overall ecosystem health and local climate extremes. As soil builds, as systems become more biodiverse and complex, soils build in organic matter percentage and are able to hold and infiltrate more moisture. This allows for increased plant growth and their photosynthetic process which symbiotically promotes even more microbes. This interweaving link of plants, water, animals, and soil is inextricable and our species depends on this web of life. Fortunately this can be leveraged with modern technology like compost tea and its fusion force between soil and water. In this technique water becomes the medium for delivering a diverse and complex soil food web to regenerate ecosystems. This technique of soil re-innoculation is an embodiment of the Permaculture principles labeled as accelerating succession and evolution and diversity. Several techniques can be used to proliferate microbes and spread them on varying scale from broad acre to small-scale intensive systems. Use of teas and extracts of compost speeds the healing process along and can be incorporated in earthworks strategies, tree planting, garden installations, and fertility maintenance. Compost tea is a word thrown out meaning varying things but this article is meant to dispel some of the myths and give you an easier version of it known as compost extract when contextually appropriate.

General Pattern

Compost teas and extracts involve dispersing finished compost composed of a diverse and complex soil food web of beneficial microbes into a water solution. There is often a focus on fungal rich brews as we often lack this basic building block in our present state of soils. Ideally, and when done commercially, monitoring of this microbial life is done with a microscope. Brewing size can be from 5 gallons (20 L) up to 1000 gallons (4000 L) or more depending on the scale of brewing equipment and subsequent distribution equipment. To facilitate this, a brewing process is needed to separate the microbes from the compost allowing them to be suspended in the water solution. Distribution materials range from hand systems with a bucket and a wand of willow all the way up to the same equipment and technology associated with industrial agriculture. This is something that can be done individually on the farm or like in my time in New Zealand (2006-2007) sometimes this service is available commercially. A simple phone call contracted the service and this business is a green job opportunity as we desperately need these alternatives to conventional chemical fertilizing and pest and disease control.

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