[Compostteas] Subject: Bacterial tea versus Compost Tea?

Soilfoodweb at aol.com Soilfoodweb at aol.com
Mon Jun 17 02:31:01 EDT 2002

Here's a question for discussion - 

Do you think that a strictly bacterial tea can actually be called compost 

Compost as defined by the NOSB for example, should have the full set of 
bacteria, fungi, protozoa and nematodes.  Compost contains all those organism 
groups.  If a tea made from compost does not extract the set of organisms 
present in compost, then should that tea be called a compost tea?

Based on data SFI collected from quite a few tea assays with all the compost 
tea machines on the market that I am aware of, both the SoilSoup and the 
larger volume Growing Solutions machines make strictly bacterial tea.  The 
fungal biomass in those teas is either nonexistent, extremely low, or lower 
than the minimum level SFI has established as being needed to provide disease 
suppression THROUGH OUT the growing season.  

They provide "step one" in what I like to call a twelve step program -- sort 
of like getting alcoholics to get off alcohol addiction, we need to get 
people off pesticides.  

To get completely off pesticides, you have to get ALL the organism groups 
back.  A complete compost tea can do this for you.  

Soil Soup machines give you step one, maybe a little of step two.  With 
SoilSoup and the larger GSI machines, you need to find a way to get the rest 
of the food web back into the soil or on your foliage to get full protection. 

You can't get the benefits I talk about with life in the soil unless you get 
ALL the organism groups living and happy once again.  For example, you need:
 - Bacterial biomass, and full species diversity, is just step one.
 - Fungi have to be brought back to normal, active levels. 
 - Protozoa - all three groups in the right numbers and activity - have to be 
brought back.  
 - Then nematodes, all three to four groups of beneficial nematodes.
 - Mycorrhizal fungi have to be brought back into the root systems - and they 
need to be matched to the plant you are trying to grow.  
 - Then, these organisms have to set up condominiums, and neighborhoods, and 
super highways in the soil.  They have to interact, perform their synergistic 
functions in the presence of the plant.  

Can having just bacteria help?  Sure!  They get you started on the right 
path.  But the rest of the food web is necessary to get the full benefit 
possible from the life in the soil.  

So, tea from machines that CAN NOT give the full set of organisms should not 
be called compost tea machines.  They are perhaps bacterial tea makers, and 
should be labeled as that.  

If a tea made from a machine has only bacteria in it, does that make the tea 
machine a bacterial-tea maker?  

Not if it CAN give compost tea (i.e., it can routinely extract the full set 
of organisms in compost).  For example, while the larger GSI machines do not 
extract a full set of organisms, the Hendrikus Schraven GSI 25 gallon machine 
(www.hendrikusorganics.com) can routinely extract these organisms groups.  I 
see this type of acceptable extraction ONLY from people buying their machines 
from Hendrikus Schraven, however, so I suspect it is something that Hendrikus 
tells people about the machines, which other distributors selling GSI 
machines do not know.  

So the 25 gal machine can be considered a compost tea machine.  But I have 
seen no data to suggest that the larger volume machines made by GSI can 
extract adequate levels of any organism group besides bacteria.  

Elaine Ingham
President, Soil Foodweb Inc.
Affiliate faculty, Southern Cross University, NSW
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