Compost teas in arable cropping - 1st trial

There is growing interest in the UK in compost teas and claims as to their benefits. These are the first large-scale arable trials in Britain, investigating whether spraying with compost tea can increase yields and suppress disease.

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Field Lab Timeline

    3/30/2014 12:00:00 AM
  • First meeting

    First meeting
  • 6/24/2014 11:00:00 PM
  • Second Meeting

    Second Meeting
  • 8/10/2014 11:00:00 PM
  • Trial design agreed

    Trial design agreed
  • 9/15/2014 11:00:00 PM
  • Trials start

    Trials start
  • 5/3/2015 11:00:00 PM
  • Third meeting

    Third meeting
  • 8/30/2015 11:00:00 PM
  • First year trials finished

    First year trials finished
  • 11/10/2015 12:00:00 AM
  • First year results disseminated

    First year results disseminated
  • 6/12/2016 11:00:00 PM
  • Farm walk

    Farm walk
  • 9/3/2016 11:00:00 PM
  • Second year trial finished

    Second year trial finished
  • 10/17/2016 11:00:00 PM
  • Second year results disseminated

    Second year results disseminated
For further information hover over the above milestone marks
  • Discussion

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  • Achievements

    July 2016

    Results from monitoring

    The results collected at the Farm Walk by Dominic (ORC) have been analysed.

    In the mycorrhizal assessments, there was a difference in the % of root colonised for the compost tea and control groups, across the replicates (in favour of compost teas).

    The ORC team did a great job in collecting and preparing the samples, in soil from each location, so the lab (The Soil Hub) also had the samples processed for Active and Total Bacteria, and Fungi. These results at a glance indicate a continuing trend of higher Active and Total Fungi levels ( as seen also in the last set of results), for compost tea areas, in both fields. The full second year results can be seen in the field lab document attached.

    The third year of trials can be found under the field lab 'Investigating compost teas in arable cropping'.

    Milestone: Farm walk

    June 2016

    Farm Walk and monitoring at Hemsworth Farm

    This was a farm walk and not a group meeting, but all members were welcome to attend.

    One of the hosts Sophie Alexander talked about her experiences of the compost tea field lab and Dominic from ORC carried out some field monitoring including comparative root growth. There was also a demonstration of the drone used to survey the trial fields.

    Milestone: Farm walk

    August 2015

    Trial completed - final measurements

    Final measurements and samples were collected from all three trial farms for analysis and results collation.

    At this meeting we shared initial results from Hemsworth Farm which showed both changes in soil fungi levels and a large increase in yield from all three fields compared to the control areas. Results from the other two farms will be collected before final results are written up. At Hemsworth, soils are calcium dominated. Where soil fungi levels are good this enhances plants' ability to capture phosphorous which will lead to yield increases. This trial did not have replicates in field, although three fields at Hemsworth were involved in the trial with similar results obtained from all three fields.

    Milestone: First year trials finished

    May 2015

    Third meeting

    Group members learnt about the key requirements for effective compost tea preparation and application. This included ensuring water used in the brewer is chlorine free, that sprayer pressure is kept below 2 bars to avoid destruction of the micro organisms in the compost tea and that compost tea should be used within 24 hours of brewing. Information on the initial soil sample analysis was shared with group members.

    Milestone: Third meeting

    August 2014

    Trial design agreed

    Three farmers committed to run field trials on their farms on spring wheat and apple orchards. All but one of the farmers are organic producers. This was done via a teleconference between group members, coordinator and researcher.

    All members of the group carrying out farm trials will take soil samples for analysis from their trial fields. Soils will be tested for microbial activity, routine soil analysis and Nitrogen.

    Milestone: Trial design agreed

    June 2014

    Second Meeting

    At this research meeting the group learnt more about the precise requirements for making and applying compost teas effectively. It was a research visit to Lincolnshire to meet Gavin Lishman (manufacturers of compost tea brewers) and Justin Stafford who has been using compost teas for seven years on non - organic arable crops. Justin believes that they have allowed for increased yields and reduced use of fungicides on his arable crops.

    Milestone: Second Meeting

    March 2014

    First meeting

    Lakehouse Farm: Group members introduced themselves and then heard from the host who has been using compost teas for three years on all organic fields. Symbio who manufacture compost teas and brewers also presented to the group on the soil food web and then giving the group opportunity to look at their compost samples under the microscope with observed compost tea application in. Whilst no scientific trials have been conducted to date, the host farmer believes that use of compost teas has led to increased yields.

    Milestone: First meeting

  • Findings

    March 2016

    First year findings

    An estimate of the cost benefit of using compost teas suggests that for the first 10% increase in yield on an organic farm, the financial benefit from use of compost teas after costs was around £18.30/ha. For every further increases of 10% in yield the additional benefit was estimated to be around £70/ha. Full details are in the report for this year. Increases in yield at the three trial sites ranged from 1.3% to around 50%.

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