Grassland Treated With Compost Tea

These are examples of biologic farming, from the Soil Food Web Institute and the Rodale Institute.

Soil Foodweb is an international soil biology group providing laboratory soil testing and soil biology consultancy services.  It was founded by Dr Elaine Ingham, a leading international soil microbiologist.  The systems developed by Dr Ingham have been designed to analyze the microbiology present in soil samples and to develop appropriate responses to achieve desired levels and balances of soil microbiology.

The Rodale Institute has been a thought leader in organic farming since 1947, when  J.I. Rodale wrote on a chalkboard “Healthy Soil = Healthy Food = Healthy People.” This Pennsylvania non-profit uses long-term, side-by-side research trial model to compare organic and conventional agriculture.  Dr. Ingham was the Chief Scientist for Rodale Institute from 2011 to 2013.

Study Description

Both of these are examples of grass and improvements in soil health using robust compost which hit the Soil Food Web criteria for soil microbe biome components along three measures: 

  • Amount of Life
  • Seven Types of Life
  • Wild-Sourced Biodiversity within Each Life Form

SymSoil® RC achieves the same biological measures and criteria and felt these were relevant case studies in biological farming. SymSoil manufactures and sells Robust Compost, offers on-farm composting in Solano, Napa, Sonoma and Yolo counties of California  and offers biological soil assessments through our lab in Fairfield, California.    One cubic yard of SymSoil® RC, in a GEOTea 250 brewer can make over 6,000 gallons of Compost Extract or Actively Aerated Compost Tea (AACT).

This picture is from a trial which compared sod treated with compost tea, to sod treated with chemical fertilizer.  The trial was done by Rodale during the period when Dr. Ingham was the Chief Scientific Officer. 

There are multiple brands of compost tea brewers, which all use a combination of water movement and air bubbles to move the soil microbe biome from the solid transport material (AKA robust compost) into water. 

This liquid can be delivered through irrigation systems or as a foliar spray. With Actively Aerated Compost Tea (AACT), the brewing is longer and food is added to stimulate the growth of the biology. Brewing times to compost extract (a type of compost tea) are much shorter, with food to stimulate the microbes is delivered to the soil either by the farmer or by the extrudates of the plants. 

This grassland picture shows two pastures in Lucerne France.  This photo is one of the most widely used examples of the Soil Food Web.

This particular rancher was quite frustrated before engaging with biologic farming.  He had insect pathogens and used insecticides regularly.  His fields were overgrazed, as the cows in the process of eating grass blades were pulling out the entire plant, including its roots.  As a result, he was replanting multiple fields each Fall.  The fields were nitrogen depleted, lacking clover and nitrogen fixing bacteria, so in addition to spending money on reseeding and pesticides, he was buying and using chemical fertilizers.

With compost tea applications, his farm changed significantly: it was literally became a different color. 

The treated grasses developed deeper roots.  The cows stopped pulled out the full plant, and with the roots remaining in the ground, re-sowing costs dropped 90%.  His fertilizer use dropped 50% the first year, another 50% the second year and, in the third year,  he stopped using chemical fertilizers completely.

In a measure of soil health, the Mycorrhizal fungi counts increased to 21 times the original quantity.  A measure of plant health is Brix, a measure of carbohydrates in plant sap.  The Brix of the rancher’s grass went from 2 or less, to the range of 11 to 13, depending upon the location.