Healthy plants require healthy soil. And a healthy soil is living soil. Yes, soil that is alive with life. Soil can only be considered truly alive when it contains microorganisms. As farmers, we work to feed our plants with nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium and other minerals.
In fact, all of these non-living elements already exist in our farm: from manure, crop residues, and rock elements. While they are there, plants cannot benefit from them, unless they are broken down into a form they can readily absorb. For example, no good farmer would fertilize his field with fresh manure. When manure is fresh, it will burn young plants, stop germination and can cause diseases to spread!
To benefit from manure, it is best to apply it after composting.
What is compost?
Composting is a process that turns wastes into wonders, through the help of micro-organisms.
When organic farms make compost, they add two thirds of organic matter to the fresh manure, they regularly turn and water their piles. This extra effort makes sure that only beneficial, aerobic microorganisms can live in the compost pile. Aerobic microorganisms are what we need as farmers to make soil healthy.
Bad microorganisms are anaerobic, and their source can be badly managed manure piles. If manure piles are mismanaged and not well aerated, they become heavy and breed the types of fungi, bacteria and nematodes that weaken your crops.
Organic farmers can successfully deal with pests and diseases by increasing the number of beneficial microorganisms in their farm. They do this, with the help of compost.
While compost adds beneficial microorganisms to your soil, it isn’t enough to fully protect your plants throughout the growing season. You can turn compost into a full plant booster, by turning it into compost tea. Organic farms will make compost tea on a regular basis.
Get to know the compost tea making process:
1- A big container, or even an old water tank can be used.
2- The aeration system typically consists of a pump, and pipes that distribute the air in the container.
3- collect your compost and bring it to your compost tea production site.
4- Use a mesh bag and add compost at a ratio of 1 to 10. 10 kg of compost is enough for a 100-litre container.
5- Once the compost is added, you will make a mixture of different foods that the microorganisms need to multiply. An unprocessed sugar is added, like molasses, creating the conditions for rapid
6- multiplication of beneficial bacteria. You also add other foods like fish oils that help the rapid growth of beneficial fungi.
7- Once all your key ingredients are added, you will leave the mix vividly aerating – so that it is fully oxygenated, from 12 to 24 hours. During this time, the microorganisms that were in the compost, find these new food sources and start to multiply.
8- Once the micro life inside the tea has reached its peak you can use the tea. If you wait too long all the foods like molasses and fish oils will be consumed, and the number of microorganisms will start to decrease, and discount your efforts.
9- Collect the tea so that it can be added to your irrigation water, and slowly make its way to your soil, supporting the area around your plant roots. 60 to 70 liters of compost tea will be enough to irrigate 1 feddan.
- The best way is to dilute the tea and use it inside a sprayer – when spraying compost tea the microorganisms stick to the leaves.
- We do this because there are naturally occurring sugars on the leaves that can give life to many bacteria and fungi that weaken your plants.
- Instead of living it up to luck, you can spray so that the beneficial microorganisms, not the bad ones, make your plants – their new home.
- Spray every 10 days therefore generating a continual presence of good microorganisms.
- Spray more often if your plants are weak. Or if your soil lacks nutrients, as the microorganisms will make them available for a good crop.
- Making compost and turning part of it into tea are the founding steps of a transition towards organic farming that harnesses locally available natural resources.
- Next time, over a cup of tea, discuss the benefits of compost tea with your fellow farmers!