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Inoculants (Skipping the Compost in Compost Tea)

Inoculants (Skipping the Compost in Compost Tea)
August 09, 2018 10:13AM
Ever Since we started brewing compost tea on the farm it has been a real pleasure to watch how different brews can be from batch to batch based on ingredients of food, PH adjustment, time of brew, and sources of compost, be it worm or waste.

...then comes the application....
go 100ft, clogged nozzles, clean, 100ft, clogged nozzles, clean, on and on we go.

The whole process is a lot of work. We are brewing 900 gallons at a time and takes about 5 hours to apply using 2 turbo mist tower sprayers (foliar sprays).

Is there a better way to filter/screen the tea going from brewer to sprayer?

And after all this Im still unsure what exactly is in the brew. It would be great to start with an inoculant you know is beneficial to that time of the growing season

So my question is, can we skip the compost part of the compost tea? Are we able to take an innoculant that we know we want for certain diseases and grow it? Double Nickel/Serenade/Blossom Protect/Regalia/etc. as we all know these products are mucho dinero so if its possible to multiply these it would be much more cost effective.

What would the rate be?
Innoculant: food (what food?): Water Volume: PH

In the end you would have a population of microbiology that you intended and a clean product that dances through the sprayer and into the orchard.

I may be shooting for the stars here, but any opinions or constructive criticism will be taken


Re: Inoculants (Skipping the Compost in Compost Tea)
August 10, 2018 06:16AM
The reason DN/Serenade/Blossom Protect/Etc are $$ is that the companies have developed methods of propagating stable mixtures of those compounds. To re-create that would require a microbiology lab to know what you are growing, to isolate it, propagate it further, and the re-create the final mixture. Apart from the legal questions, it would be enormously expensive and time consuming. So, this is where focusing on a nondescript (there may be some folks out there isolating and identifying specific organisms, but I suspect its very few, if any at all) mixture of nature derived IMOs has gained interest. Now the concern, and my big question, is that when we capture natural IMOs and propagate that in a compost pile, what do we have? Are propagating bad microorganisms as well. The answer is probably to some degree. We know there are plenty of pathogens in nature that can damage fruit trees if given the chance. I don't believe this is such a bad risk, but also feel we are flying blind in a sense and hoping that the good outweighs the bad. There are some fairly simple techniques where one with a trained eye and microscope can segregate the good ones from the bad ones and at least get a sense of proportionality. But re-creating those proprietary products - highly doubtful at a farm level. The end goal is to fight truly pathogenic diseases and induce ISR/ASR pathways in the plant through competitive colonization without doing harm (we need a holistic farmers Hippocratic oath, methinks).

As far as filtering/screening - if you are using a standard sprayer with standard TeeJet nozzles (ones with a small orifice) that in order to filter adequately, you're actually going to be filtering out the good stuff. Remember that all the larger particles are largely carbon and other organic bits that are what retain/hold on to the good stuff (pardon, the generalizations). Instead, I think this is a question of sprayer type and nozzle size. I have always preferred an AgTec sprayer because it uses a large orifice delivery system with deflector plates to atomize the spray stream. You can also buy larger orifice TeeJet nozzles, but even those have limitations in terms of particle size. Or use a handgun with large nozzle tips.

I prefer to simply filter out the large bits and leave a fair amount of larger sediment (organic matter) in the mixture, and adjust the delivery system appropriately.

Lastly, Regalia is just plant extract of Japanese Knotweed, not a true biological per se - though I know there is some biology involved. This is probably easier than IMOs for accuracy, and you can harvest the roots (or tops - or the whole thing), decoct it, and then add back into the spray water at a certain concentration. What concentration though? Regalia is only 5% Reynoutria sachaliensis and 95% other stuff (inerts). What are the inerts and how do the impact the effectiveness of the 5%? This is always the big question and the companies always retain proprietary rights to the inerts - which in the case of big ag chemicals are usually the more harmful ingredients. But they are the ones that activate, stick, penetrate, etc. the product and get it to do what it needs to do. An AEA product - Rejuvenate - is largely Humic and Fulvic acids with the largest portion of the product being simple molasses. And while recreatiing Rejuvenate is probably not easy, it seems like a no brainer to create a relatively close analog by using rich compost + molasses. Add in your IMO mix (or even brand biological like Spectrum) and voila away you go. For Regalia, I am not sure what the inert ingredients are, but making the base compound seems pretty straightforward.

Anyway, my points are that 1) making homemade stuff is great, but without a lab you really don't know what you have specifically, in terms of biology. You're trusting in Mother Nature and hoping for the best. I plan on training myself this winter to identify good/bad organisms under a 'scope - without knowing the specific organisms. And 2) instead of filtering out the good stuff, adjust your delivery system to accommodate the material.

Mike Biltonen, Know Your Roots
Zone 5b in New York
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