Sophie Alexander farmers 410 ha of organic land at Hemsworth Farm in Dorset. The farm works on a rotation of three years of grass and clover leys followed by spring wheat, winter oats and spring barley, and sometimes a bean crop.
In 2015, Sophie took part in a field lab looking at the possibilities of scaling-up 'compost tea'. Compost tea is made by mixing dry compost with non-chlorinated water, which is then aerated in a large vat to multiply the microorganisms. The theory is that spraying crops with compost tea smothers the leaves in “good microbes” that overpower incoming disease before it harms the plant.
In the first year, the trial plots were hosted on two organic and one non-organic arable farm. All farms used the same compost teas and the same brewers. Soils, yield and disease presence were monitored on the trial and control plots over the course of the growing season. The host farms then measured the yield and nutritional content of the crop at harvest. The trial was then extended at Hemsworth Farm for a second year.
In this short film Sophie talks about the impact compost tea has had on her bottom line, and the impact the field lab has had on her business.
The field lab is extending for a third year. Applications went on this spring, soil samples have been taken and are now being analysed by SoilBioLab and Cranfield University.
Come along and see compost tea in action
The group will be coming back together to discuss the results on 19 July. If you'd like to come along and find out more, email email@example.com
Interested in brewing your own compost tea?
This brewer was supplied by Martin Lishman, as was some of the footage used in the film.