Fw: [Compostteas] Re: Organic Farming and Compost Teas

Frank Teuton fteuton at sympatico.ca
Wed Oct 23 19:31:15 EDT 2002


For Allan Balliett---according to this post by Will Brinton, not only is compost tea Ingham-style to be no longer allowed for organic production of foodstuffs, all other types of compost tea are also not allowed. Whether this includes, for example, BD 500, is not clearly stated.

Allan Balliett wrote: <snip> Could we get an update on how compost tea Ingham-style played out in 
the final rules?

----- Original Message ----- 
From: William F. Brinton 
To: compostteas at lists.ibiblio.org 
Sent: Saturday, October 12, 2002 2:47 PM
Subject: [Compostteas] Re: Organic Farming and Compost Teas


Under the new USDA guidelines for compost practices, fully in effect by Oct 21, 2002, compost teas are no longer allowed or recognized as organic for foodstuffs production. Our Compost Task Forced tried to save compost teas based on a special exclusion that  would hold that unadulterated extracts from compost that previously fulfilled the NOP compost guidelines would be acceptable. However,  intense debate ensued and the end effect was USDA provisionally withdrew acceptance of all compost teas for food-stuff production (teas could be used on field forage and non edible crops) until further research is performed.  Now it is up to practitioners and scientific workers to assemble evidence and data that shows the proper and safe use of compost teas! 
Submitted by William Brinton 

PS Our new book (Brinton, Droffner and Traenkner) on compost for disease control and compost teas will be out early next year! 
  

USDA links: 

current rule : http://www.ams.usda.gov/nop/noppolicies.htm GO TO COMPOST TASK FORCE REPORT 

>> Original Task Force recommendation approved by 
National Organic Standards Board 

Compost Task Force Recommendation 
April 18, 2002 

INTRODUCTION 

Section 205.203(c) of the soil fertility and crop nutrient management 
practice standard in the USDA standard sets forth the fundamental 
requirement for processing and applying plant and animal materials. 
The section states, ?The producer must manage plant and animal 
materials to maintain or improve soil organic matter content in a 
manner that does not contribute to contamination of crops, soil, or 
water by plant nutrients, pathogenic organisms, heavy metals, or 
residues of prohibited substances?.  Subsequently, Section 
205.203(c) states that plant and animal materials include raw animal 
manure (205.203(c)(1)), compost (205.203(c)(2)), and uncomposted plant 
materials (205.203(c)(3)).  The USDA standard establishes that raw 
animal manure and uncomposted plant materials are distinct materials 
that, when combined and processed, yield compost.  The standard also 
contains management restrictions for crops on which raw manure has 
been applied and specifies the conditions that must be maintained to 
process compost.  Other than the common requirement that all 
production practices used in organic production must maintain or 
improve the natural resources of the operation, including soil and 
water quality, there are no processing or application restrictions or 
conditions for using composted or uncomposted plant materials that are 
not mixed with animal materials. 

At its Washington, DC meeting in October 2001, the National Organic 
Standards Board (NOSB) reviewed the provisions in the USDA standard 
for processing and applying plant and animal materials.  While 
supportive of the fundamental requirement established in Section 
205.203(c), the NOSB expressed concern that the provisions in Section 
205.203(c)(1)-(3) could excessively restrict the processing and 
application of beneficial plant and animal materials.  The NOSB 
identified specific weaknesses in this part of the practice standard, 
including: 

*The C:N ratio range for compost is too narrow. Quality compost can be 
 made with C:N ratios from as low as 15:1 and up to 60:1. 

*The requirement for turning compost in a windrow system five times is too prescriptive. 

*The terms in-vessel, static aerated, windrow, and raw 
manure are not defined. 

*Compost tea is not addressed 

*Vermicompost products are not addressed 

*Manures that have been heat treated to eliminate pathogenic organisms 
 without composting are not addressed. 

The NOSB concluded that the USDA standard should be clarified to 
accommodate a broader range of plant and animal materials and related 
processing practices than specified in Section 205.203(c)(1)-(3).  The 
intent of the crop nutrient and soil fertility management practice 
standard should be to identify fundamental management parameters and 
to establish threshold requirements for complying with those 
parameters.  Site-specific variation in feedstock materials, 
management practices, and production requirements dictate that organic 
producers exercise flexibility in managing plant and animal materials 
on their operations. The NOSB established the Compost Task Force to 
clarify the parameters and requirements in the USDA standard for 
processing and applying plant and animal materials in organic crop 
production. 

The Task Force concurs with the NOSB that many certified organic 
farmers use plant and animal materials that are not adequately defined 
or described in Section 205.203(c)(1) - (3). Examples of materials 
that are incompletely addressed in the USDA standard are compost and 
its liquid extract compost tea, vermiculture products, and processed 
manure products.  The Task Force is especially concerned that many 
producers process compost by selecting and managing plant and animal 
materials differently than the specifications established in Section 
205.203(c)(2)(i)-(iii). This recommendation provides producers and 
certifying agents with a more comprehensive description of the plant 
and animal materials allowed in organic crop production and the 
conditions under which they must be processed.  Since it is 
impractical to describe every combination of plant and animal material 
and establish how it must be processed, this recommendation should 
serve as guidance for producers and certifying agents.  Full 
compliance with the provisions of Section 205.203(c) must be 
documented in the producer?s organic system plan. 
  
The Task Force endorses the fundamental requirement in Section 
205.203(c) that all plant and animal materials used in organic crop 
production must be managed to ?maintain or improve soil organic 
matter content in a manner that does not contribute to contamination 
of crops, soil, or water by plant nutrients, pathogenic organisms, 
heavy metals, or residues of prohibited substances?.  The Task 
Force interprets the subsequent provision that ?Animal and plant 
materials include? not to be restrictive but rather as allowing 
examples of such materials other than those specifically provided for 
in Section 205.203(c)(i)-(iii).  This recommendation includes 
descriptions and conditions for four such allowed plant and animal 
materials: compost, compost tea, vermicompost products, and processed 
manures. The Task Force recommends that producers and certifying 
agents use the parameters established in Section 205.203(c) and the 
management practices outlined in this recommendation for specific 
plant and animal materials to evaluate compliance on a site-specific 
basis.  The Task Force is not recommending changes to the practice 
standard provisions for processing or applying raw manure or 
uncomposted plant materials. 

1. Compost 

Definition: 

Compost: Organic matter of plant and/or animal origin managed to 
promote aerobic decomposition and an increase in temperature to 
enhance its physical and nutritive properties as a soil amendment 
while minimizing pathogenic organisms.  Compost must achieve a minimum 
temperature of at least 131ºF (55 C)and remain there for a minimum of 
3 days. 

Producing compost that improves soil organic matter while not 
contributing to contamination of crops, soil, or water by plant 
nutrients, pathogenic and parasitic organisms, heavy metals or 
residues of prohibited substances requires careful management.  The 
fundamental conditions for composting are: 1) Compost shall 
incorporate only allowed feedstock materials, except for incidental 
residues that will not lead to contamination; 2) Compost shall undergo 
an increase in temperature for a period of time to a level that 
minimizes pathogenic organisms; 3) Compost shall release H20 and CO2 
with a resultant loss of volume and weight; 4) Compost shall undergo a 
decrease in carbon to nitrogen ratio and an increase in nutrient 
stability. 

The primary feedstock materials for making compost are organic matter 
of plant and animal origin.  The USDA standard defines organic matter 
as ?the remains, residues, or waste products of any organism.? 
Organic matter of plant and animal origin includes crop residues, 
non-crop plant material such as leaves and food waste, and manure and 
other residues from animal bodies including soil invertebrates. 
Compost may be produced from a single material of plant or animal 
origin or from the combination of multiple materials.  The producer 
may add a natural nonagricultural material or a synthetic material 
allowed in organic crop production to compost for a specific 
management purpose such as improved porosity.  When sourcing feedstock 
materials, the producer must consider their origin and comply with the 
requirement to prevent contact between organically managed crops and 
prohibited substances. 

Composting requires that the producer combine and manage feedstock 
materials to achieve a documented increase in temperature.  Composting 
begins in the mesophilic range (50ºF - 105ºF) and moves into the 
thermophilic range (in excess of 105ºF) as decomposing organic matter 
of plant and animal origin releases energy as heat.  Compost must 
achieve a recognized minimum temperature of at least 131ºF (55 C) and 
remain there for a minimum interval of 3 days to minimize pathogens 
and parasites.  Compost piles must be turned or be managed in some 
other acceptable way to ensure that all of the feedstock heats to the 
minimum temperature.  Composting materials must be passively or 
actively aerated by the design of the pile or through turning. 
Physical maturation of compost transforms the feedstock materials and 
little or no trace of their original nature is distinguishable upon 
completion.  Particles in finished compost have been reduced in size 
and become consistent and soil like in their texture.  After achieving 
a minimum temperature of 131ºF for a minimum of 3 days, compost should 
cure in the mesophilic range for at least 45 days or until the 
producer can document that it is suitable for soil application. 
Compost maturity involves physical and chemical components and must 
include an appraisal of potential antagonisms between the compost and 
plant or soil health such as excessive nutrients or salts. 

A producer must document in their organic system plan all management 
provisions or practices related to the fundamental conditions for 
making compost: use of allowed feedstock materials, temperature 
elevation and maintenance, decreases in weight, volume, and carbon to 
nitrogen ratio, and increase in nutrient stability.  The certifying 
agent must concur that the provisions in the organic system plan for 
making compost will fulfill the parameters for these conditions. 
Procedures for documenting compliance include measuring temperature, 
time, moisture content, chemical composition, biological activity, and 
particle size. These measurements may include testing feedstock 
materials and compost for one or more characteristics including 
initial and final carbon to nitrogen ratios, stability (using 
ammonia/nitrate ratio, O2 demand, CO2 rate or other standard tests), 
or pathogenic organisms. 

2.  Compost and Vermicompost teas 

The use of a liquid compost extract, or ?compost tea?, raises 
special issues.  The preparation and use of compost tea and compost 
extract has been increasing in the U.S. during recent years.  Organic 
producers especially are interested in compost teas and extracts 
because the preparations reportedly provide some degree of control of 
foliar and root pathogenic organisms.  Various methods and practices 
have developed for production of the teas or extracts since the 
practice originated some years ago in Europe.  However, recent 
research at the USDA Agricultural Research Service?s labs in 
Beltsville, MD and Corvallis, OR shows that certain approaches to 
compost tea or extract preparation are conducive to growth of enteric 
bacterial pathogenic organisms, such as enterotoxigenic E. coli and 
Salmonella.  The practices and procedures that lead to pathogen growth 
in the prepared teas and extracts involve the addition of supplemental 
nutrients such as sugars, molasses or other readily available 
(soluble) carbon sources during batch production. 

The researchers did not observed growth of enteric pathogenic 
organisms when compost tea or extract was prepared only with water and 
high quality compost.  By high quality compost, they mean compost that 
has met criteria for destroying pathogenic organisms, i.e., 131ºF for 
3 days, or compost that has less than 3 MPN salmonella per 4 grams 
compost (dry weight) and less than 1000 MPN fecal coliforms.  The 
critical determinant regarding pathogen growth in compost teas and 
extracts is the addition of the carbon sources like sugars, molasses, 
or yeast or malt extracts during the ?brewing? phase. 

Recommendation: Compost teas if used in contact with crops less than 
120 days before harvest must be made from high quality compost 
described above and not prepared with addition of supplemental 
nutrients such as sugars, molasses or other readily available 
(soluble) carbon sources. 
  

3. Vermicompost materials 

Definition: 

Vermicomposts are organic matter of plant and/or animal origin, 
consisting mainly of finely-divided earthworm castings, produced 
non-thermophilically with bioxidation and stabilization of the organic 
material, due to interactions between aerobic microorganisms and 
earthworms, as the material passes through the earthworm gut. 

Vermicomposting, while not contributing to contamination of the 
environment by heavy metals, needs careful preparation and management 
of the organic wastes. Feed stocks for vermicompost materials include 
organic matter of plant or animal origin; either a single material or 
mixture, preferably thoroughly macerated and mixed before 
processing. Pathogenic organisms are eliminated in 7-60 days, 
depending on the technology used. All vermicomposting systems depend 
upon regular additions of thin layers of organic matter at 1-3 day 
intervals to maintain aerobicity and avoid temperature increases above 
35 degrees C (95 degrees F) which will kill the earthworms. Permitted 
methods and required duration of vermicomposting include outdoor 
windrows (6-12 months), angled wedge systems (2-4 months), indoor 
container systems (2-4 months) and continuous flow reactors (30-60 
days). 

Earthworms fragment the organic wastes into finely-divided materials 
with a low C:N ratio, high microbial activity, nitrogen mostly in the 
nitrate form, and potassium and phosphorus in soluble forms. For most 
organic wastes, no traces of the raw materials are seen. Odors 
disappear within 48-72 hours of vermicomposting and the finished 
product should have an odor similar to soil. Processing must be 
maintained at 70-90% moisture content with temperatures maintained in 
the range of 18-30 degrees C (65-86 degrees F) for good 
productivity. This should be achieved by monitoring temperatures 
regularly to regulate timing of additions of wastes and adding 
moisture through fine sprays as required. 

4.  Processed manure materials 

Manures that have been treated to reduce pathogenic organisms are 
considered to be ?processed manure? materials.  Processed manure 
materials must be made from manure that has been heated to a 
temperature in excess of 150°F for one hour or more, dried to a 
moisture level of 12% or less.  Processed manure products should be 
negative for salmonella and less than 1000 MPN fecal coliform per 4 
grams (dry wt.) material.  Since processed manure materials will not 
contribute to contamination of the soil by pathogenic organisms, they 
may be managed with many of the same requirements as compost.  Like 
compost, processed manure materials do not have to be incorporated 
into the soil and therefore can be applied as a top-dress or 
side-dress. Similarly, there is no waiting period between application 
of processed manure materials and harvest of the crop. Unlike compost, 
however, these materials are highly soluble and have reduced 
biological activity. Therefore, they should not be used as a primary 
source of nutrients. 
  

CONCLUSION 

The Compost Task Force concurs with the NOSB that Sections 
205.203(c)(1) - (3) of the USDA standard do not sufficiently define 
or describe a variety of beneficial soil amendments and fertilizers 
that have long been used in organic crop production.  The Task Force 
endorses the fundamental requirement in Section 205.203(c) that all 
plant and animal materials used in organic crop production must be 
managed to ?maintain or improve soil organic matter content in a 
manner that does not contribute to contamination of crops, soil, or 
water by plant nutrients, pathogenic organisms, heavy metals, or 
residues of prohibited substances?.  The Task Force supports 
amending the soil fertility and crop nutrient management practice 
standard by incorporating a comprehensive understanding of allowed 
materials and practices.  Site-specific variation in feedstock 
materials, management practices, and production requirements dictate 
that organic producers exercise flexibility in managing plant and 
animal materials on their operations.  Pending amendment of the USDA 
standard, the Task Force recommends that producers and certifying 
agents adhere to the management practices contained in this report 
when using compost, compost tea, vermicompost materials, and processed 

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++
William F. Brinton, Jr.
Woods End Research
PO Box 297
20 Old Rome Road
Mt Vernon ME 04352 
207.293.2457 207.293.2488 fx
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
  
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