Coverage rates for compost teas.

Discussion in 'Organic Lawn Care' started by Organic a go go, Dec 19, 2007.

  1. Organic a go go

    Organic a go go LawnSite Member
    Messages: 211

    Question for you guys that have been using compost teas on lawns, well
    couple of questions.

    1. Are you aiming for full lawn coverage when you spray like you would with an app of foliar fert or does it inoculate the soil just the same regardless of how even/uneven the coverage is.

    2. Do you have to keep the teas oxygenated right up until you use it to keep the smell down or does it have some shelf life?
  2. phasthound

    phasthound LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 5,165

    I use a 4:1 ratio of water:tea and apply to the entire lawn at about 20 gal/acre.

    I have not continued oxygenation after brewing as I apply within 8 hours. I may change that over the winter.

    If your tea smells bad, you have a problem.
  3. ICT Bill

    ICT Bill LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,115

    Most guys just spray like mad across the yard, its completely non toxic so they don't care if the dog is out or not. Coverage is from 1/2 gallon to 2 gallons per 1000 square feet depending on your spray rigs specs.

    The thing to remember is that the water is just a carrier for the biology so you can spray at really any rate you want as long as the biology is getting down.

    The compost tea is brewed and put into the tank truck or hydroseeder and shipped to site to be sprayed. Some rigs have aerators in the truck some don't, the tea will last about 8 hours without aerators.
    Some claim that they can keep compost tea "alive" for 4 or 5 days but I've never seen the data on whats in the tea after 4 days, probably just one species that has taken over the whole brew

    We make an Instant compost tea where you just add water from any municipal water source, add the instant compost tea and go spray. no brewing

    The smell question is an interesting one. Compost tea brewing is done differently by different people and for different reasons. Some add ingredients at the end to enhance the spray or to encourgae certain bacterial or fungal growth in the soil or in the tea.
    If you just brew up compost and do not add anything you will have a dark rich water with a slightly earthy smell, it smells like good fertile soil. If you add things like fish or kelp often it will smell just like fish or sea weed.
    Ours has a slight odor to it because we have cold processed fish and kelp in it
  4. Organic a go go

    Organic a go go LawnSite Member
    Messages: 211

    Thanks for the answers.

    I've encountered any number of people passing themselves off as "master composters" that swear adding fish, kelp, or even molasses greatly increases the chances that you'll be brewing up a big batch of harmful pathogens in your tea as well. I'd be curious to hear your opinion on this as well as I have no doubt that you're spraying with a very high degree of confidence in your product.
  5. ICT Bill

    ICT Bill LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,115

    Go Go
    You touch on several subjects at once
    Depending on the compost source you have to be careful brewing compost teas. Manure based compost MAY have Ecoli in it so if you brew up a big batch you are also going to get a big batch of ecoli, not good for anyone involved.
    Some of the most fungal teas are made from composted wood and these do not have manure products in them so no worries, well some add composted manure for a little N. Find a tree company that does their own composting and knows how to monitor piles.

    Master composters may in fact be "master composters" if they are ask them for a biology profile of their product. There are companies out there (www.soilfoodweb) that analyize compost and will give you a report on the content like how many: Bacteria, fungi, protozoa, nematodes, PH, heavy metals (in the case of biosolids),etc. It may even be law in some states that they have to analyize there product
    Ask for the data, if they say HUH? go somewhere else.

    Kelp, Molasses, fish, humates, folic acid, vitamin C, corn sugars, alfalfa meal, soy bean meal, etc are all added for different reasons.
    If I want to increase the bacterial activity in a brew add molasses, fungi - Humates, if I want some complex N add fish

    Our product contains: Cold processed fish, Kelp, Molasses, complex corn sugars, humate, folic acid, plant growth promoting rhizobacteria, mycorrhizae fungi, a broad range of soil bacteria and fungi. There is more but I won't list it all
  6. mdlwn1

    mdlwn1 LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,443

    Do you have a web site so I can look into your product?
  7. Kiril

    Kiril LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 18,335

    I'll add if disease suppression is your goal, your dilution ratio (tea:water) will decrease. While the verdict is still out on how effective compost teas are for disease control, based on the studies I have reviewed, a lower dilution ratio and increased application frequency got better results.
  8. MaineFert

    MaineFert LawnSite Member
    from Maine
    Messages: 115

    A golf course superintendent up this way uses compost teas on his greens for disease suppression. Like you all have mentioned there is no "exact proof" that it is effective, besides the fact that he has had very few disease issues, and as a result reduces his need for fungicide applications.

    I may be way off here, but I think what happens is the compost tea bacteria feed on the pathogens, but the teas are only "alive" for a few days. I don't know his formulation, or odor concerns unfortunately.

    I am relatively new with the compost tea methods, so this thread has been extremely informative and I look forward to learning more.

    Nutrients PLUS
  9. Organic a go go

    Organic a go go LawnSite Member
    Messages: 211

    "MaineFert: I am relatively new with the compost tea methods, so this thread has been extremely informative and I look forward to learning more"

    That goes double for me. Can't tell you how refreshing it is to just get a free exchange of information without some curmudgeon stirring up a big
    hullybulloo over different techniques and methods. Crazy me, I thought it was just enough to express an interest in not using chems but some folks out there are unbelievably territorial about their approach to composting.

    BTW Bill if you're inclined to share that website I'd be interested as

  10. tadhussey

    tadhussey LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 294

    Wow, a lot of different topics were brought up in this thread. Lots of good info. too! Here's my contribution:

    1. You would want full lawn coverage when you spray. Typical rates are 20 gal./acre for soil drench or turf and 5 gal./acre for foliar applications (under 6ft in height). Bill is correct that the water is just a carrier, so it doesn't matter how much water you add to the mix when you go to spray, the imporatant thing is the biology. These rates assume that your tea has all the necessary organisms and diversity. Your rates may fluctuate depending on the quality of your tea.

    2. You need to keep the oxygen levels in the tea above 6ppm to select for the aerobic organisms that you want. Oxygen levels will drop based on the nutrients you've added to feed the organisms in the tea. It is preferable to keep some level of aearation right up until you apply. Typically, you have about 4 hours (based on the testing we've done with SFI) after turning off the motor before you see significant organisms loss. That being said, I know that keeping some level of aeration in your spray rig (that's what we do), allows you to extend that period of time. Additionally, it seems that the agitation from driving (assuming your tank is not completely full and there's air in the top) also helps in keeping the tea aerobic. What we do is add our humic at the beginning of the brewing cycle to select for fungal growth, but don't add kelp or fish emulsion until right before application. Prior to the kelp or fish additions, you really shouldn't have any smell to your tea, beyond maybe a slight earthy smell. It will really depend on your nutrient source.

    3. Spraying creates other issues for many businesses looking to make the switch to organics. When spraying compost tea, you need to use water that has no chlorine or chloramines in it. This usually requires some prep work. Also, your spray rig needs to be gentle on the organisms as they pass through it and out onto the turf. That means no impellor pumps or 90 degree angles in your spray nozzle. UV exposure can be an issue depending on the size of your droplets.

    4. Most people make brew their compost teas because of the fact that compost tea doesn't have much of a shelf life. I've looked at instant compost teas (not Bill's company), and haven't seen much going on microscopically. Since compost tea uses a "shotgun" approach to species diversity and quantity, you can't select a few or even a hundred different species of bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and nematodes and even come close to the diversity in a well brewed compost tea. I would love to see Bill's product, because he does seem very knowledgeable. Send me a PM of your website, or even better a small sample that I could look at under a microscope. I'm not saying that "instant" compost teas don't have a niche or provide benefit, but I do think they are something entirely different from brewed compost teas in terms of their microbial content. If instant compost teas ever became equal to brewed teas, and were at a decent price, no one would bother with the brewing process (it is a bit of work to brew and clean). If you don't have the time or experience to brew your own tea, instant teas would give you some microbial benefit for much less work on your part as the consumer.

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