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.
In episode one of a ten-episode series on compost teas, host Troy Hinke first lays the foundations of compost tea—what it is compost tea and what is not compost tea.
What is Compost Tea? (03:47)
In this series, the compost tea that Troy refers to is the actively aerated compost tea. Actively aerated compost tea (or just compost tea) is a liquid form of compost that provides soils and plants with beneficial biology, which works to provide nutrients and disease suppression.
Compost tea uses finished compost, not necessarily manure or forest soil, but finished compost. Compost tea is aerobic during the brewing process, where dissolved oxygen within the water remains higher than 6%.
The Concept Behind Compost Tea (04:39)
The concept behind compost tea is to make a biological concentrate of microorganisms by extracting microorganisms from the surface of the organic matter in the compost and adding microbial foods like humic acid and fish hydrolysate to help these microorganisms to reproduce and gain in populations.
“The most nutrients in the world in the soil are held within microorganisms.”Troy Hinke
Compost Tea vs. Compost Extract (05:38)
Extract is similar to compost tea in that it provides a liquid compost inoculant, except that foods are not added to increase the reproduction of those microorganisms.
What is NOT Compost Tea? (06:03)
The most common misunderstanding or misconception that I hear is that people think that what I call leachate is compost tea. When you have a compost pile or a worm bin that water passes through from the top to the bottom and comes out the bottom end, that is called a leachate.
Because it’s in the middle of the composting process, there may be anaerobic bacteria breeding in there. If those anaerobic bacteria are collected in the water, they could have the potential of breeding and producing phenols or alcohols and other substances that will have negative effects on plants.
Compost Tea: An Inoculant (07:52)
When thinking about the advantages of using compost tea, remember that compost tea is an inoculant that adds microorganisms that provide nutrient cycling and help build soil structure. Bacteria and fungi help to provide glues that build structure within the soil that make pores and aggregates that will help improve water retention and airflow within the soil.
Compost Tea is Not a Panacea (08:36)
Compost tea is not a cure-all that magically solves all soils’ problems. It is not a replacement for fertilizers and weed control. Compost tea is meant to be used in conjunction with compost, cover crops, soil amendments, and other sound soil management practices as part of an overall soil health program.
Compost Tea Might be More Efficient (09:23)
In some situations, compost tea might be more efficient to use. In the case of a hundred-acre field with only one pile of finished compost, the compost would not be enough to make a difference on the entirety of the field.
On the other hand, a small amount of that pile of finished compost can be used to brew compost tea and grant the same biological benefits as regular compost would—with the exception of not getting good organic matter spread onto the soil surface.
In Summary (09:55)
1. Compost tea uses finished compost.
2. Brewing compost tea requires oxygen to stay aerobic.
3. Compost tea uses microbial food to increase microbial populations.
4. Biology makes the difference between compost and compost tea.
5. Leachate is not compost tea.