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

    Nevermind. You're already in my bookmarks. Took me a minute
    to connect the dots.
  2. ICT Bill

    ICT Bill LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,115

    One thing that was not mentioned is the water source for compost teas. This is a big issue in urban areas where we typically do not have wells. The water companies add different things to water to keep the plumbing going well. If the water has has higher than preferred acid levels, which will eventually eat the pipes and cause leaks, they will put additives in the water to lower the PH. They also, in every case, add chlorine or chloramines to kill off any bacteria that have populated the plumbing. The closer you are to the water source the higher the chlorine levels. This just points out that there may be chemicals in the water coming out of the tap that are probably not good to brew compost tea in.
    There are several methods used to eliminate unwanted chemicals from the water source.
    Activated carbon (AC) is excellent for removing chlorine/chloramine and a whole host of other chemicals, The only drawback to using it is, AC filters are expensive and the AC eventually has to be replaced.

    Sodium Thiosulfate is a very inexpensive alternative, a 4 pounds jar of ST crystals will de-chlor over 300,000 gallons of water at a cost of less than $10.00.
    Reverse osmosis - I know very little about these units
    Ozone generators - These are typically used to strip (oxydize) the water of anything organic. They are used in high end ponds and aquariums but I don't know if they would be of any use in compost tea production

    You could just add the compost to the brewer and let the chlorine do whatever it does until it eventually is depleted. The issue with this approach is not knowing how much biology it had killed off before it has become ineffective. Not an ideal solution.

    Someone else mentioned that they use materials (humates) that are high in organic matter so that the chlorine consumes itself in a very short time period making it ineffective before the addition of the compost
  3. tadhussey

    tadhussey LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 294

    Ascorbic acid is what we use when brewing. The specific product is called Vita d chlor. I haven't heard of sodium thiosulfate. What does is break down to chemically when combined with chlorine or chloramines.

    We done testing on different water supplies and have found a significant difference in compost tea quality based on the water supply. I don't know if they'll let the link stay, but here it is:

    As for the water testing, we did not replicate the tests to substantiate our findings, but I believe they do show that differences will occur based on the type of water used. I use distilled water when I want to look at organisms under the microscope.

  4. ICT Bill

    ICT Bill LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,115

    This is from a previous post

    A little background on chlorine and chloramines
    EPA Guidelines set a maximum allowed level of Chlorine of 4ppm. Most water supplies target 2-4 ppm Chlorine. Note that 4ppm of Chlorine is actually 5.8ppm Chloramine. (The Chlorine is 69% of the chloramine molecule, ammonia is the other 31%) So, with a possible 5.8ppm Chloramine, you have 4ppm Chlorine, and 1.8ppm ammonia.

    Average readings are around 2 parts per million in municipal water supplies. The recommended rates as a dechlorinator for sodium thiosulfate (ST) in water is 1.6 to 2.6 parts to one part chlorine. So lets take the extreme and say 2 parts chlorine times 2.6 parts ST. So we are dosing at 5.6 parts ST for 2 parts chlorine.

    Our solution is 13% ST, the rest is water. The recommended dosage is 1 drop per gallon of chlorinated water at 2PPM. So each drop actually contains 13% ST and 87% water. There are approximately 90,816 drops in a gallon of water. That comes out to a dilution ratio of well over 100,000 to 1, ST per gallon of water.

    The reaction is chemical and almost immediate, if you prefer to stir ST into the water that is fine too

    Sodium Thiosulfate (Na2S2O2) reaction with chloramines in water, ST breaks the chlorine:ammonia bond. Chlorine (Cl) is reduced to harmless chloride (Cl- ) ion. The ammonia is released as NH3. So now we have 2PPM of Cl- and 0.66 PPM of NH3 in the water.

    And in the case of chlorine (not chloramine) you are left with the chloride at 2 parts per million and no ammonia. You could put 2 or 3 drops of ST per gallon but it would still have the same result of 2PPM chloride

    I have heard that Vitamin C is a good dechlorinator, is that what Ascorbic acid is?
  5. Gerry Miller

    Gerry Miller LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 504

    As I have posted earlier, lab test performed by Dr. Elaine Ingham indicate that this stuff is NOT harmless and in fact kills off fungi and lowers the bacterial count. In fact, it doesn't even eliminate all the chlorine from the water. Also, it isn't organic. Humic acid or as Tod posted, Ascorbic acid, are much, much better choices. Do I need to post those lab tests again?
  6. Gerry Miller

    Gerry Miller LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 504

    At second thought, I thought it would be helpful to see the test results from Dr. Ingham. Then make your own decisions.

    "At SFI, we tested the effect of using water that had been treated with sodium thiosulfate to remove chlorine in comparison with the chlorinated water and in comparison with water from the well.

    We made tea with purified water, pH 7, normal sets of mineral levels, nothing out-of-line. The compost had good bacterial and fungal biomass (300 micrograms bacteria and 560 micrograms fungi) but protozoa were low (less than 1000 per gram). Doesn't matter what the recipe was, and I cannot reveal that anyway.

    We split the tea into four parts. Several replicate samples of each treatment, so, 16 replicate units all exactly the same.

    To the first set of units contiaing tea made with pure water, we added more pure water.
    To the second set of units, we added exactly the same volume, but used well water.
    To the third set of units, same volume but chlorinated water
    To the fourth set, chlorinated water to which the recommended (label rate) amount of thiosulfate had been added beforehand and allowed to react for the specified amount of time.

    Let the units aerate for an hour, and then test the tea for total bacteria, total fungi, and protozoa. I am going to round the results to the closest 10.

    Variation for bacterial biomass was 190, variation for fungi was 60

    Pure water units: Bacteria were 800, fungi 300
    Well water: Bacteria 950, fungi 240
    Thiosulfate treated water: Bacteria 220, fungi 5
    Chlorinated water: Bacteria 490, fungi 70

    How would you interpret those results? Pretty straight-forward, huh?

    First, notice who grew best in the tea....... bacteria. the compost was fungal, the tea ended up bacterial. good fungal biomasss in the tea, but still...... we don't need bacterial foods added into teas, it appears.

    Second, the well water had some definate problems, wouldn't you say?

    But let me point out that 800 and 950 are not significantly different given the variation from sample to sample. There aren't any problems in the scientific methods, but there are differences from ml of tea to ml of tea. There weren't any SIGNIFICANT effects on fungal biomass in the well water treatment. But I'd say, use a different well none-the-less.

    The effect of thiosulfate on bacteria was serious. The effect of thiosulfate on fungi was devastating.

    Realize that these data include species and individuals that will not and cannot grow on lab media. thus, these data include all species of bacteria and fungi, not just the ones that can grow on plates in the lab.

    Note that the thiosulfate treatment to remove chlorine resulted in fewer organisms than were in the water that had not been treated with thiosulfate, but still had chlorine in it.

    We have repeated these trials in a number of places, with pretty much the same results.

    Addition of thiosulfate to fish tank might actually be beneficial to the fish in the tank, because the thiosulfate treatment may actually reduce disease organisms in that water even more than chlorine alone. If the sulfate doesn't hurt your fish (some fish will be hurt by the sulfate released, or some other by-product of chlorine reaction with sulfate so be careful with that), then using thiosulfate may be great.

    Thiosulfate is just not great when we are trying to make tea with that water.

    How do you know that thioslfate will do what we observe in our tests? Do your own tests. Don't expect plate counts to tell you what you need to know, however."
  7. ICT Bill

    ICT Bill LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,115

    Thanks Gerry great information
    How do you make "pure water", or maybe a better question is, what is the make up of pure water. I've just never heard the term "pure water" before.

    This fits right into what we were talking about, how do you handle water sources for compost teas from different types of water sources and what do you use to counter act any deficiencies in the water source
  8. Gerry Miller

    Gerry Miller LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 504

    How about distilled water. I distill my drinking water in my house. Takes every impurity out of the water. The scum that is left behind is alarming. But then again, that's missing the point, isn't it. The real point is that sodium thiosulfate is a poor choice for chlorine or chloramines removal.
  9. ICT Bill

    ICT Bill LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,115

    Actually the discussion is on compost teas and their application rates, as part of the discussion I was hoping to get different experiences from people on issues or non issues with their water sources.

    Is that what pure water is, distilled? I had never heard the term (pure) is why I was asking. I know some people use RO units to purify water, but I don't know much about them either

    Gerry, How much water do you think you could distill in an hour with your system? are you on a well or city water
  10. Gerry Miller

    Gerry Miller LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 504

    You've never heard of pure water from the mountains to make beer???

    I have a small home distiller that takes about 4 hours to produce one gallon. But I don't use that water for my AACT. I use my tap water, chlorinated by the City of Chicago. I use my air pump from my compost tea maker run to eliminate the chlorine naturally and it's free. After an hour, the water is degassed. Of course this doesn't work for chloramines in a water supply. But the use of humic acid, ascorbic acid will eliminate the chlorine and chloramines. The other option is to use a activated carbon water filter. This will remove the same. I use a sprinkler system to apply my AACT and since my water supply has chlorine, I add humic acid to my AACT to complex the chlorine from the water. I also use a water filter at the source of my water supply. Using these items will remove the chlorine and chloramines from any water supply.

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