What’s Brewing is a podcast all about compost tea hosted by Troy Hinke.
Troy Hinke served as Rodale’s Compost Research Specialist alongside the founder of Soil Foodweb Inc., Dr. Elaine Ingham. Troy now runs Living Roots Compost Tea, where he offers several services including consultations, compost sprays, and compost brewing, among others.
Episode eight of a 10-episode series on compost teas, host Troy Hinke talks about the why behind compost tea—all the benefits and advantages a brew can bring to our plants.
Why Should We Use Compost Tea? (01:02)
Through the use of compost and compost teas, we are mimicking how nature provides life, nutrients, and fertility to plants and soils. Just like how nature doesn’t provide chemicals to provide the needs of plants, we’re providing microorganisms that break down organic matter to make nutrients and minerals available to plants.
One of the main benefits of using compost tea instead of compost is we’re using less material made in less time. Say you’re working a 100-acre plot of land. You can effectively get good biology out onto the land with one or two tons of compost, but it can take a lot of time and energy to spread all that compost.
But if you mainly need to get beneficial biology out onto the land, you can use a lot less compost—just the size of a basketball—in compost tea and effectively get the same amount of microorganisms onto the same amount of land with significantly less compost.
Compost tea also allows for foliar application, which may be more convenient that piling compost onto the soil. You can also use compost tea to replace the chemicals used in hydroponic systems.
Using compost tea on vegetables can also help increase yields, make plants healthier and more disease-resistant, and can also make crops more nutrient-dense.
Better Biology, Better Soil (04:08)
Excellent soil biology will work to create soil structure through aggregating the soil, which then expands its water and air holding capacity. This means less topsoil loss due to erosion and less irrigation needed by the plants.
How Livestock Producers Benefit from Good Soil Biology (04:57)
If you’ve got good biology on pastureland, it will provide healthier, more nutritious forage for livestock. This means beneficial biology in the soil brings about healthy forage, which makes livestock healthier, which means healthier food for humans. Everyone’s going to benefit from good soil biology!
Advantages of Using Compost Tea Over Synthetic Fertilizers (05:40)
Compost tea can be called slow-release fertilizers, where nutrients and minerals are continuously provided over time. Using compost tea inoculates the soil with biology that will stay in the soil and break down organic matter to feed plants over a longer period.
On the other hand, when synthetic fertilizers are applied to plants and soils, those nutrients are only available for a short amount of time from when they were applied. Because they don’t stay long in the soil, and only so much can a plant take up at any given time, the rest is leached into the water table, eventually making their way into streams, rivers, and oceans.
If you’ve ever heard of the toxic algal blooms in the great lakes of the United States or the Gulf of Mexico, those are caused by nitrogen and phosphorus from chemical fertilizers from farm and landscape use. These chemicals feed algae, which then grow to extreme sizes, which then deplete the waters of oxygen, effectively killing all kinds of aquatic life.
“An analogy of using compost tea versus chemical fertilizers would be like having a bunch of pizza delivered to your door versus having all the ingredients plus a chef on hand at all times.”Troy Hinke
A Quick Overview (11:42)
The main advantage of using compost tea is efficiency in time and materials. It’s much easier to spray 10 to 20 gallons of compost tea per acre than it is to spread even a small amount of compost per acre.
For anyone using chemicals, compost tea and other biological amendments will give you vast financial savings over the cost of synthetic fertilizers that you’d be using year after year. On top of that, most growers will also see a savings in their water usage through the creation of proper soil structure by the biology in compost tea.
Lastly, chemical fertilizers use ingredients originally meant for bombs to kill people to grow plants while compost tea uses life to grow life.