Sunday, 15 November 2009

The Soil Food Web and Compost Teas



Just attended a facinating seminar on Compost Teas given by Dr Elaine R Ingham at Laverstoke Park.

The Soil Food Web is a diverse community of microscopic organism which live in the soil. There are hundreds of thousands of species and this biology is an integral part of a healthy ecosystem. These soil dwellers are performing important tasks that allow plants to thrive and grow. As they eat, grow and move through the soil, these organisms make it possible to have clean water, clean air, healthy plants and moderate water flow.

Not suprisingly pestacides and hebisides kill off this natural biological system. Organic farmers use composts and compost teas to help the biology recover and also as an effective treatment for disease control.

Compost teas  are made by aerobically brewing compost in a tank of water (a bit like a jacuzzi) typically for 24 hours. This allows the living organsim on the compost, including bacteria, fungi and nematodes to be released into the water which is then sprayed on the vines. Food such as Humic Acid or Fish Hydrolysate is often added to promote growth of the organisms. Kelp helps as a micronutrient and Trichoderma spores can be added to treat mildew but the downside is that it takes out Mycorrhizal Funghi (see earlier blog "Friendly Fungi").

It all sounds quite complicated but hopefully the guys at Laverstoke will be giving me some expert advice. Anyway, I'm convinced its the way to go for the vineyard. No copper or sulphur next year!

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