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Compost tea. Worth it?

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Would like to hear you guys input on this.

I've been reading up a lot about compost teas (AACTs) and I'm finding quite a bit of conflicting and illogical information out there. I found out that the scientific authority on the matter is a lady by the name Dr. Elaine Ingham and I found her research and material on the subject fascinating. However, I feel that there is a great divide between what she is scientifically presenting through her research and studies and what the industry is doing with that information. For example, it seems that everyone in the industry is using molasses in their compost teas, while Dr. Ingham is usually not in favor of using molasses, as that feeds the bacteria and they are the ones that mostly multiply on the molasses, while the fungi are not fed by the molasses and don't get the chance to multiply and grow. So you end up with a bacteria heavy compost tea, which is not nearly as beneficial as a compost tea heavy in fungal growth and activity. Dr. Elaine suggest using humic acid to feed the beneficial microorganisms in compost tea and not molasses. She also has videos on how to DIY some humic acid.  

Then there is another point about knowing what exactly it is that you are cultivating when brewing compost teas. I came across a professional in the cannabis industry that summed up AACTs by saying that you are either busy cultivating life or you are busy cultivating disease. If you do not have the means to check under a microscope exactly what microbial life you are cultivating with AACT's, how do you know what is going onto your plants? I found this conversation on the subject and it changed my mind about AACT's. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nF2EML4rWAg

 

The main reason why I am just as uncomfortable using aact's as these people are, is I have a been a hobbyist brewer and distiller for quite a while and have a bit of knowledge on fermentations. I have also seen fermentations go bad due to contamination from outside pathogens and microbial life and what I see people do on the internet, taking raw compost and brewing that in actively aerated water for extended periods of time allowing microbial life to grow and multiply, does not sit well with this brewer. I also see a big misconception among these people about what aerobic and anaerobic fermentations are. An anaerobic fermentation has no access to oxygen at all. Usually, the fermentation vessel for an anaerobic fermentation is capped and sealed air tight and fitted with a CO2 lock or bubbler. This allows CO2 to escape without allowing any oxygen into the fermentation vessel. If any oxygen is allowed into the fermentation vessel, it cannot be called and anaerobic fermentation. This is then called an aerobic fermentation, meaning air and oxygen is allowed to come into contact with the ferment. So running an air pump through your compost tea does not make it an aerobic fermentation, it was aerobic to start off with and it will still be an aerobic fermentation without actively aerating it, unless you seal the fermentation vessel from air. Kombucha is a perfect example of an aerobic fermentation, needing access to oxygen to grow and multiply. In contrast a sugar wash for a high alcohol ferment will require an anaerobic fermentation with no access to oxygen.

I'm now in the process of making my own fermented fertilizer to replace the function of compost teas and extracts. There have been many studies done on using Rum stillage as a natural organic fertilizer on sugar cane fields. It's full of minerals and is a really good fertilizer. It's very high in potassium, sulfates and calcium especially. But there is no microbial life in rum stillage after the distillation process is complete. Everything has been killed by the heat.

Quote

At high doses (> 250 m3/ha), the use of distillery stillage is harmful to plant growth and soil properties, but its application at lower doses (125 m3/ha) significantly improves the sprout, growth, and yield of dry land plants, due to its content of nutrients (P, N, K, and Ca)

This mineral rich stillage is though the perfect substrate to cultivate further microbial life. You just need the proper inoculant relevant to your purpose. My plan is simple. I'm going to use kombucha to inoculate and re-ferment this stillage. If my theory is sound, it should be a fertilizer bomb teeming with beneficial microbial life in high concentrate. Especially using molasses as substrate for the kombucha as that will increase lactobacilli growth instead of acetobacter growth. Should be able to use this fertilizer 1:100 dilution with water for foliar applications and 1:50 for soil.

Any thoughts?

Edited by Candyman
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Hi Candy, Dr Elaine has nice examples and facts in general. Chris Trump with his KNF also very interesting guy.
I have done many and various AACT and have only seen good things after feeding and no bad effects on plants as yet.
Keep us posted on your experiments please, I'm open to learning new techniques to improve my plants

Sent from my F5321 using Tapatalk

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Ferments are good, but I doubt it will ever get better than a fresh tea made precisely the way the grow wants it.  

Not too sure where the harm would be in creating a microbe filled amendment, and unpacking said natural amendment once used, and top dressing soil accordingly. Well this is what would make sense to myself. Or maybe throwing it in the garden, whop whop. 

If people are using teas in conjunction to a feeding programs with NUTES😎. Maybe they wouldn’t see the benefits of topdressing🤷🏼‍♂️ But they definitely should if the program can handle that release. 

Teas are usually fungi or bacteria dominant. Doesn’t mean bacteria are the bad guys, I think this is better understood with either symbiotic microbial life and well not so symbiotic. If you putting majority of the good in teas, not sure where the same amount of bad would come from without intention. And to go without noticing is also quite impossible. 

Very much believe in teas and their benefits. 

But would love to see what you come up with and how it goes ☝🏻👍🏻

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18 hours ago, ORGANinc. said:

Ferments are good, but I doubt it will ever get better than a fresh tea made precisely the way the grow wants it.  

I hear you man. On face value I agree with you, but the problem is, the "precisely" part you are mentioning in your post. Here is my opinion, as well as that of many knowledgeable people in the industry, including people that now work in the Cannabis industry that used to work with Dr. Ingham and her research. To quantity and establish exactly what you are cultivating in your compost teas, so that you can make a recipe that is "precise" in the microbial constituency for exactly what the soil and plants require, you need to at least be able to have a look through a microscope and identify the microbial life that you have cultivated. Why is this important? Well, not all microbes are equal. In fact, they are probably the most diverse makeup of organisms on the face of the earth and people start getting into cultivating microbial life without having a basic understanding of what strains of microbes, bacteria, fungi, yeast etc. they are cultivating, because just as there are many microbes that are beneficial to plant health, there are also those that are detrimental, dangerous or pathogenic.

Take for example E. Coli and Salmonella. There is a very real probability that these can be present in compost. Homemade compost from kitchen scraps can even be contaminated with other bacteria and pathogens like Listeria. Al of these microbes are serious disease causing in their nature and has no benefits to the soil or your plants. On the contrary, they can cause the soil to become disease infested and pest ridden. What people do not know, is that E. Coli, Salmonella and Listeria for example, are all types of bacteria that can easily switch between anaerobic and aerobic environments. Meaning, given the right conditions they can and will multiply and grow aerobically and anaerobically. So you cannot prevent them from multiplying and growing by the fermentation method used. Again, people are being told that active aerated compost teas cannot cultivate bad bacteria. This is straightforward false and unscientific.

Normally the levels of these bacteria, if present in compost, will never be a serious problem if you just use the compost as a soil amendment or mulch. That is because the conditions should never be favorable enough for them to thrive and dominate the other microbes present. But, with the wrong composition of microbes and organic matter in your compost, you could easily start cultivating disease and not even realize it until it might be too late.

Lastly, another important aspect to remember. When brewing microbial life, a sort of glue like substance is formed to bond microbes together. This is beneficial when using a ferment or brewed tea as a foliar application. The glue like substance make the microbes stick to the leaves and they can form barriers of protection against other harmful microbes, but the downside is that when adding your compost tea to the soil, most of the microbes will stick to the surface of the soil. They will not get down to the roots of your plants. For that purpose, you should use a compost extract that is not brewed, but rather the microbes are dislodged in the water by hand extraction and then added to the soil. Compost extraction does not cultivate microbes, so your microbial composition should be balanced and healthy for the soil and plants.

Does compost teas work? Absolutely, if done precisely right. Personally, I do not have the ability to quantify and identify the microbial life that is being cultivated and would rather opt to stay on the safe side and use alternatives.

Edited by Candyman
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I started learning about AACT mainly from this guy who made this book who is a weed grower that started contributing knowledge on Overgrow and ICmag forums in the early 2000s. And I have some experience in making and testing over the years. 

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I found that when making AACT you want to mainly make food that the fungus and bacteria in your medium can consume live or dead. I don't care too much about AACT giving fungal benefits to my soil, I can get the fungal component by using mushroom compost and other organic ammendments that fungus likes to eat. In AACT you wont be able to multiply fungal count very easily - only grow existing count to larger mass... it just seems way better for multiplying bacteria. 

Short brew seems way better than extended brew. Waiting for a large amount of foam seems like bro science and I'm happy with a thin film of activity. I like to inoculate with worm castings in a stocking. Using indigenous microbes cultured from a place in the garden or a forest floor seems more risky to me so I stick with worm castings. I add a tiny bit of black strap molasses or sometimes Biobizz grow product which is basically fermented sugar beets and molasses.

Benefits include competing for space on the plant surfaces when you foliar spray, edging out pathogens like powdery mildew. It also accelerates the speed at which the microbes break down the organic material into chelates that the roots can uptake. 

Key tips: Don't brew for too long, pH test your brew at beginning and don't let it rise too much before you use it. Ambient temperatures can speed up the process.

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Okay I see what you are saying. 

This applies to the list of disease cautioned amendments, to name some, highly controversial bat guano, all guano’s for that matter. Bone meal is another one, obviously due to our “super sustainable” approach of supporting life here on earth. Even the bones are fucked. So these are some of the organic but potentially dangerous substances, all valid points ☝🏻

People are also against using the same ingredients in their soils because of disease etc, so I definitely see your argument. 

It’s a concern and rightly so. I personally use a very simply tea recipe, and alters ever so slightly throughout the phases of growth. I amend my soil, So I rely on my teas to act as the catalyst to effectively release the much needed nutritional potential with in.

An example of my flowering tea, 5l concentrate. Will bubble 1 level tbs molasses bubble for 24h, then add a 1tsp of microbes (haven't looked at the label because @SkunkPharm gave it to me.) SOCK INGREDIENTS - 1 tsp Alfa Alfa meal, 1 tsp kelp meal, 1/2 cup blended malted barley... bubble for 24 hours more and end it off with 1/4 tsp of my Humic/fulvic/kelp micronized blend (premixed in 1/2 L of water) below - this is bundling up 100s of the micro nutrients and teaming it up with the super chelator properties of the Humic and fulvic acids, these are known as the intermediate chelators, the missing link for many nutrient uptake problems. 

I don’t plan on bubbling guano anytime soon.

13DF9B1F-10C3-4B3E-97A7-16061815E195.jpeg

Edited by ORGANinc.
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2 hours ago, ORGANinc. said:

An example of my flowering tea, 5l concentrate. Will bubble 1 level tbs molasses bubble for 24h, then add a 1tsp of microbes (haven't looked at the label because @SkunkPharm gave it to me.) SOCK INGREDIENTS - 1 tsp Alfa Alfa meal, 1 tsp kelp meal, 1/2 cup blended malted barley... bubble for 24 hours more and end it off with 1/4 tsp of my Humic/fulvic/kelp micronized blend (premixed in 1/2 L of water) below - this is bundling up 100s of the micro nutrients and teaming it up with the super chelator properties of the Humic and fulvic acids, these are known as the intermediate chelators, the missing link for many nutrient uptake problems. 

Bud, that looks like an awesome tea. I can understand why you are having good results with such recipes. An important missing ingredient in your recipe is the raw compost. That specifically is the part that gets me, but your recipe looks solid and controlled. You should not get bad brews if you keep to hygienic principles, but my eyeballs are falling out seeing what some people on the internet are bubbling up, and recommending others do so as well.

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26 minutes ago, Candyman said:

Bud, that looks like an awesome tea. I can understand why you are having good results with such recipes. An important missing ingredient in your recipe is the raw compost. That specifically is the part that gets me, but your recipe looks solid and controlled. You should not get bad brews if you keep to hygienic principles, but my eyeballs are falling out seeing what some people on the internet are bubbling up, and recommending others do so as well.

You are one hundred percent on the money with the worm casting. I use worm casting initially, and move to more simple ingredients towards the end, the barley contains 52 difference strains of fungus, all beneficial and all carrying zinc finger transcriptions that come with barley inheritance benefits 🔥🙌🏻

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Here is another usefull piece of info for anyone who cares isolating and cultivating certain strains of microbes. Kombucha contains 2 strains of nitrogen fixing bacteria. One of them is a novel strain and only found in kombucha. I have seen one or two kombucha based products for plants on the internet, but they are certainly a novelty. I feel there is rich untapped potential in kombucha for foliar application purposes. 

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Excellent topic @Candyman!

You have provided a ton of great info!

A bit much for the time I have to reply! 

While I agree that anything with some applied perfection will always be better than something you unknowingly slap together. 

But not everyone can brew the perfect tea to suit their needs... So a guestimate gamble is all we have. 

Reading the bacteria and fungi content of what you add to your teas is a good step in the knowing direction, which cuts down on some guesswork... 

But grabbing a good chunk of earth from a flourishing environment doesn't have an ingredient list... So it's hard to be scientific about it... 

I hear you, you will have a greater margin of success if you know what's going into your tea... And likewise if you don't have any idea what you are doing, the risk of adding something dodge is very high. 

 

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8 hours ago, CreX said:

I hear you, you will have a greater margin of success if you know what's going into your tea... And likewise if you don't have any idea what you are doing, the risk of adding something dodge is very high. 

Yeah, I guess that's the bottom line of what I'm trying to say. People should be more aware and take care as to what goes into their brews and ferments. If you are going to be cultivating life, you should probably get to know those life forms and their role and function in the soil food web, because that is the foundation of what living organic soil is all about.

Edited by Candyman
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20 hours ago, Candyman said:

Here is another usefull piece of info for anyone who cares isolating and cultivating certain strains of microbes. Kombucha contains 2 strains of nitrogen fixing bacteria. One of them is a novel strain and only found in kombucha. I have seen one or two kombucha based products for plants on the internet, but they are certainly a novelty. I feel there is rich untapped potential in kombucha for foliar application purposes. 

I can try test a bit of Kumbucha foliar feeding, how would you dilute and prepare the bucha before the application?

Milk kefir has beneficial microbes when added to the soil or compost.

Back in the day i brewed a bit of compost tea, but now i prefer extracts, leechates, ferments and simple seed sprout water.

Molasses is a great additive for any plant grown in soil, simply mixed in when watering it helps improve the soil life.

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1 hour ago, Dank said:

I can try test a bit of Kumbucha foliar feeding, how would you dilute and prepare the bucha before the application?

That would be great bro! If you can, use molasses instead of sugar for the brew. That will drastically up the lactobacilli count over acetobacter and gluconobacter. Using green tea up to 75% of the total tea with at least 25% minimum black tea, will also up the lactobacilli count.

I use a brew of 50/50 black/green tea and molasses. The ratio I use is 125ml molasses and 2 tea bags per liter of water. I usually make a 3l ferment. Let this ferment go for double what you would if you were to drink the stuff. I go for a 2 week ferment and this concentrated booch can be diluted 1:100 for foliar application. The idea is that this booch should be on the lactobacilli heavy count, which should help establish the ideal microbiome on the leaves of the plant. I see no harm in applying this diluted probiotic mist every third day or so on plants in vegetative stage, to keep the population and dominance of beneficial microbes going.

Some useful info from my notes:

1. Microorganisms in Kombucha
-----------------------------

SCOBY (Medusomyces gisevii) - Symbiotic Culture Of Beneficial Yeast and Bacteria

Acetic Acid Bacteria
--------------------

A. xylium, A. pasteurianus, A. aceti, and Gluconobacter oxydans
Gluconacetobacter sp. A4 - Key functional bacterial species
Acetobacter. intermedius sp. nov - Novel nitrogen fixing Acetobacter nitrogenifigens sp. nov., and the nitrogen fixing, cellulose producing Gluconacetobacter kombuchae sp. nov., from kombucha tea.
Dominant Bacteria in Kombucha - Gluconacetobacter @ 85% of Kombucha samples; Lactobacillus @ 30% of samples; Acetobacter only @ 2%

Yeasts
------

A broad spectrum of yeasts has been reported including species of:
Saccharomyces, Saccharomycodes, Schizosaccharomyces, Zygosaccharomyces, Brettanomyces/Dekkera, Candida, Torulospora, Koleckera, Pichia, Mycotorula, and Mycoderma.

Yeasts of Saccharomyces species:
Saccharomyces sp, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Saccharomyces bisporus, Saccharomycoides ludwigii, Schizosaccharomyces pombe, Zygosaccharomyces sp., Zygosaccharomyces rouxii, Zygosaccharomyces bailii

Brettanomyces:
Brettanomyces intermedius, Brettanomyces bruxellensis, B. claussenii

Predominant yeasts in most samples:
Brettanomyces, Zygosaccharomyces, and Saccharomyces spp

Ascosporogenous yeast, Zygosaccharomyces kombuchaensis sp. n.

Candida sp:
Candida famata, Candida guilliermondii, Candida obutsa, Candida stellata, Candida colleculosa, Candida kefyr, and Candida krusei.

Torula, Torulopsis, Torulaspora delbrueckii, Mycotorula, Mycoderma, Pichia, Pichia membranefaciens, Kloeckera apiculata, Kluyveromyces africanus


2. Chemical Composition of Kombucha
-----------------------------------

Organic acids
-------------

Acetic, gluconic, glucuronic, citric, L‐lactic, malic, tartaric, malonic, oxalic, succinic, pyruvic, usnic

Sugars
------

Sucrose, glucose, and fructose

Vitamins
--------

B1, B2, B6, B12 and C

Other
-----

14 amino acids, biogenic amines, purines, pigments, lipids, proteins, some hydrolytic enzymes, ethanol, antibiotically active matter, carbon dioxide, phenol, as well as some tea polyphenols, 
minerals, anions, DSL, as well as insufficiently known products of yeast and bacterial metabolites.

 

I've made kefir in the past as well, but you really need access to a good source of raw milk for it to be a proper ferment. Pasturized stuff from the store is dead and the kefir takes too long to complete the ferment which then ends up being watery and very acidic. Milk kefir should be the consistency of thick drinking yoghurt and it should ideally achieve that in 30 hours or less. Havnt gone back to kefir as I have no easy access to raw milk in the city. 

Edited by Candyman
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Thanks @Candyman that is some usefull info, right now i just make my boocha with just black tea n sugar, but wil do one of my jars the way you suggested when i top em up again.

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I  suggest maybe using a separate jar that you won't mix-up with your drinking booch and keep it away from your drinking booch, because kombucha is an open fermentation, cross contamination between the various microbes can and do happen. I've had ginger beer cross contaminate with kombucha and it grew a white scoby on top of the ginger beer.

You might want to start cultivating a scoby on molasses substrate to get the Lactobacilli to become the dominant bacteria in the booch.  Once you have a strong and active culture that reacts quickly to newly added feed, this can then be your mother culture for further ferments. If you understand the foundational basis for cultures and ferments like LAB, EM and FPE, you will understand that the main aim of these "products" are to utilize the benefits of Lactobacillus. Lactobacillus is an aerotolerant anaerobe, meaning that it is usually cultivated anaerobically to produce LAB, EM and FPE for example. The unique thing about kombucha, is that unlike LAB, EM and FPE, you do not need an anaerobic fermentation to multiply and grow the lactobacilli. Many kombucha brewers do not know this, but you can ferment plant material with kombucha and it should be much richer in nutrients and with more beneficial microbes than any FPE. 

If you have the mother kombucha culture that has been cultivated on molasses substrate and you use 25% of this as starter tea, make a fresh batch of sweet tea using molasses and green/black tea, you then add your plant material of choice. Lucerne, barley, fruit peels, whatever plant material you would like to ferment and extract. Work hygienically. You do not need to introduce any unknown microbes from the plant matter itself.  Same principle as FPE, but instead of just covering the plant matter with only molasses and doing a ferment with wild yeast and bacteria, you are going to use specifically cultivated bacteria in a much richer and denser substrate. Should be a quicker, more active and more complete ferment with better extraction and higher levels that any FPE could hope to achieve on it's own.

Edited by Candyman
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