BioCycle June 2005, Vol. 46, No. 6, p. 4
BLENDING THOROUGHNESS WITH GOOD RESULTS
Coverage in this issue of BioCycle runs the full gamut – from an outdoor windrow facility that has won the hearts and minds of its Missouri neighbors to the vineyard owners in California who are wildly enthusiastic about the impact of the compost tea they are making on grape health and vineyard productivity.
Then there’s a report on a positive vs. negative aeration trial run at an agitated bay composting facility in New Hampshire, a story on a Minnesota farmer who is demonstrating how to run a hydrogen fuel cell on biogas and finally a BioCycle International article on waste managers in Japan who have raised the recycling rate in Yokohama to 80 percent.
A running theme throughout the articles in this issue is how attention to detail, commitment to quality and performance, and a thirst and willingness to continue learning have resulted in programs and systems that operate with good results. A case in point is the compost tea report starting on page 25. The first article describes how vineyards in the Napa Valley in California are helping to close the large gap between the practice and science of compost tea production and utilization. Kirk Grace, vineyard manager of Robert Sinskey Vineyards in Napa, explains in his article how he spreads solid compost at the rate of one to four tons/acre, while he applies compost tea at 10-gallons per acre. The tea applications supply his plants with nutrients that are “alive with microbes and their metabolic by-products and also help to prevent and suppress plant diseases.” Sums up Grace: “I will continue using it in my own agricultural endeavors, but without dedicated study, it will only exist as a generalist technology. I know that the potential of compost tea is great but that with more research and knowledge on this important subject, all of humanity could benefit.”
Meanwhile, as part of a study funded by the Sustainable Agricultural Research program and the Organic Farming Research Foundation, technical staff at The Rodale Institute conducted field trials in 2003 and 2004 to evaluate compost tea use. They concluded that while the potential value exists, benefits are inconsistent and “no panacea.” Further scientific research is needed to improve our understanding of the process.
Which brings us to next month’s BioCycle and a report to be published by Dr. Lynne Carpenter-Boggs of Washington State University’s Crops and Soils Science Department. A small industry is developing around compost tea, she writes, estimated to be growing at 25 percent per year. A few companies (and more market gardeners) sell off-the-shelf teas, but she cautions that “when brewing stops, the microbial community changes.” And not everyone is raving. “Right now, the industry faces a challenge by critics who point out the scarcity of convincing studies and the potential for microbiological hazards,” she emphasizes.
Fortunately, Carpenter-Boggs is a veteran of embattled research topics so “diving into a controversial study area is a familiar process.” Compost teas, she notes, are intriguing both scientifically and sociologically. As is the case with so many critical areas in our BioCycle world, solutions reflect the cooperation of scientists, industry and persistent, knowledgeable users. And as our rich history shows, this thoroughness yields good results that solidify our endeavors. in Cocomposted Yard Trimmings and Broiler Litter.