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Compost Tea Beats the Tough Conditions

Linseed plot with no Compost Tea applied.

Published August 2013 – Linseed plot with Compost Tea applied

Applying Compost Tea to a linseed crop has yielded the best results yet, despite the toughest growing conditions in living memory.

After several years of encouraging results with both winter wheat and oil seed rape on Justin Stafford’s farm at Little Bytham, near Grantham, Compost Tea has boosted linseed growth in the 2013 harvest resulting in a yield increase of 77%. In adjacent one hectare strips a typical linseed yield of 1.4 t/ha increased to a whopping 2.4 t/ha in the plot where Compost Tea was applied.

Mr Stafford reflected on the ongoing Compost Tea trials at his farm: “That makes five consecutive years where we have seen benefits like this. Despite the wettest autumn being followed by the coldest spring, the linseed has looked good throughout and stood up much better to the cold weather. We noticed how much thicker the Compost Tea treated crop was the moment we drove into it with the combine”.

Never the easiest crop to put through the combine, the linseed nevertheless produced around two and a half times the amount of straw where Compost Tea had been used. With linseed straw increasingly being used as a biofuel as well as more traditional purposes such as first bedding-down straw or horse feed, the extra has a direct financial benefit to Justin.

Compost Tea is made on Justin Stafford’s farm using a Growing Solutions 400 litre Compost Tea System supplied by Martin Lishman Ltd. This simple to use machine brews a small volume of good quality compost with a catalyst in aerated water for 24 hours. This achieves rapid multiplication of the micro-organisms in the compost, and produces a solution that Justin applies via a conventional sprayer.

The first Compost Tea application was as a soil drench in October and this was followed by four foliar applications of 250 l/ha to the linseed spread over the growing season until six weeks before harvest. Normal crop protection treatments were applied between Compost Tea applications, although these were limited by weather conditions. Similarly restricted, only 80kg/ha of N was used – and all areas received the same treatment.

Using Compost Tea to increase the quantity and diversity of beneficial micro-organisms in the soil and on the plants enhances the relationship between plant roots and the soil, so they can make greater use of nutrients in the soil and also be more resistant to diseases.

Compost Tea may also be improving the workability of the soils on Justin Stafford’s farm, which vary widely in type from heavy clays through to light, brashy types. These

Linseed plot with Compost Tea applied

observations are supported by the results of soil tests, which show that treated soils have around 20% greater levels of both bacteria and fungi.

Justin believes that the increased root growth in plants where he applies Compost Tea not only helped them survive the harsh conditions of the 2013 winter but is also beneficial at times of drought. In both 2011 and 2012 his wheat and rape crops were spared the excesses of the droughts in those years.

“The Compost Tea linseed plants were more robust, stood up to the cold winter weather and looked a lot healthier throughout the growing period. Walking through the field the plant density difference was very obvious from quite early on – and the Compost Tea plot was noticeably cleaner of weeds.”

At up to £450 per hectare extra income from his linseed, the benefits of Compost Tea are very clear to Justin Stafford. He plans to increase his use of it to cover the whole farm, using the largest Growing Solutions brewer. At 2000 litres, typically diluted with three parts water, it will enable him to brew enough Compost Tea to spray the whole farm in one day.

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