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Solid Compost vs. Liquid Extracts In addition to compost teas, there is considerable basis for soil applications of macro amounts of finished compost. Compost is well known for imparting suppressiveness directly to the soil (Kloepper, 1980). In addition, trials have shown significant differences in antiphytopathogenic effects between composts, green manures and livestock manures. In one study, soils receiving composts over three years showed increasing antipathogenic traits against S. trifoliorum, with some instances of 100% control. Soils receiving fresh green waste and non-composted livestock manures over the same period in contrast gave no pathogen reduction (Dittmer, 1991).

In other words, use of solid compost applied directly to soils or container media should not be curtailed even when compost teas are available.

The difference between the use of soil-applied composts and watery compost extracts can perhaps best be summarized in that the teas give immediate but very short-term control of surface spreading pathogens, while soil composts act more slowly over a longer period of time and require much larger amounts. For long term effects in solid media, it is not unusual that at very least 5% by volume and often as much as 40% compost in the seedling mix are required to bring about effective disease control (Budde & Weltzien, 1990). In contrast, a whole hectare of vineyard can be covered with extract prepared from only less than 100 kilos of compost (York & Brinton, 1995).

Brinton, Tränkner - Woods End Agrar u. Umwelt — Page 7 Journal Submittal Seed Dips or Seed-Baths with Compost Teas Seeds dips with manure composts have long been advocated by biodynamic farmers in Europe. Current research shows the suppressive effects of the teas as dip are apparent with control of Pythium on alfalfa (Table 3). It is clear that increased use by farmers of seed-baths should and could be made as a substitute for conventional seed coatings with questionable fungicides such as Captan.

Table 3: Effect of various seed treatments on incidence of Pythium on alfalfa seedlings after 6 days germination

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A significant increase of compost usage in California vineyards has been noted (Fetzer, 1995). As an overview, we have surveyed research trials conducted in Europe employing various manure compost extracts in cases involving common fungal pests of grapes (Table 4). The data indicate satisfactory to excellent control in many cases.

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In virtually all the viticulture cases, the significant reduction of the pest in question has been observed in conjunction with a yield increase. The results for each individual trial have been previously reported (Tränkner, 1992).

Compost Extracts Compared to Standard Fungicides How does compost tea perform compared to common fungicides? We examined research which concerned itself with Horse manure compost tea effects over two years versus sulfur and conventional fungicide on grapes (Table 5 — see also Photo).

Table 5: Spray effects on downy mildew (Plasmopara viticola) incidence on whole grapes in the Ahr-Valley (Ketterer, 1990).

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* Treatments followed by the same letter are not significantly different at P ≤ 0.05 by Duncan’s test † 800-1,500 liters/ha sprayed each time for 12 intervals over the season

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In both a light and heavy infection year, composts performed very well and resulted in significant reduction over controls, and did not differ significantly from standard fungicides.

These and other results underscore the significant effects that properly prepared compost teas can achieve when used in substitution for, or in conjunction with, standard fungicide control programs. Increased research and trials in the field is likely to promote this “value-added” composting on an even broader scale in agriculture.


Brinton, W.F. (1994), Use of Compost Teas for Fungal Pathogen Control. Biodynamics Vol. 3 Beicht, W. (1981) Induction of Resistance in Plants by Microbial Metabolites. Dissertation, University Hannover.

Budde, K. and Weltzien, H.C. (1990) The use of compost extracts and substrates for combating Erysiphe graminis( in German), 6th International Symposium on Grain Diseases, Halle, 5-9 Nov 1990, Part II, 527-528 Dittmer, U. (1991) Untersuchungen zu den Wirkungen des Kompostierungsprozesses und zum Antipathogenen Potential von Komposten gegen Sclerotnia spp. und Pseudocercosporella herpotrichoides [Investigations into the effects of the composting process and on the antipathogenic effects of composts on Sclerotnia trifoliorum, Sclerotinia sclerotiorum und Pseudocercosporella herpotrichoides] Dissertation, Univ. Bonn Dittmer, U. et al. (1990) Der Einfluss der Kompostierung von Kompostsubstraten und wässerigen Kompostextrakten auf verschiedene Pflanzenkrankheitserreger, [The influence of compost substrates and compost extracts on various plant diseases], Gesunde Pflanze 42: 219-235 Droffner, M.L, W. F. Brinton and E. Evans (1995). Evidence for the Prominence of Well Characterized Mesophyllic Bacteria in Thermophilic (50-70oC) Composting Environments. Biomass Bioenergy 8: 191-195.

Gross-Spangenberg, A. et al. (1993) Ein neues biologisches Verfahren zur Verringerung des new organic method for treating apple scab], in Zerger, U. (Ed.), Forschung im ökologischen Landbau, SöL-Reprints, 42: 238-243 Fetzer, J (1995) personal communication. Ceago Vineyards, Ukiah, CA Hoitink, H.A.J. (1980) Composted Bark: a lightweight medium with fungicidal properties. Plant Disease 64:561-565 Hunt, P.G., Smart, G.C. & C.F. Eno (1973) Sting Nematode, Belonolainus logicaudatus, immotility induced by extracts of composted municipal refuse. Jrnl. Nematol. 5:60-63 Ketterer, N. (1990) Untersuchungen zur Wirkung von Kompostextrakten auf den Brinton, Tränkner - Woods End Agrar u. Umwelt — Page 10 Journal Submittal Blattbefall der Kartoffel und Tomate durch Phytophthora infestans sowie auf den Befall der Weinrebe durch Plasmopara viticola, Pseudopeziza tracheiphila und Uncinula necator, [Research into the effect of compost extracts on potato and tomato leaf infections through P. infestans as well as the incidences of grape diseases] Doctoral Dissertation, Univ. Bonn Ketterer, N. and Weltzien, H.C. (1988) Wirkung von Kompost- und Mikroorganismen-Extrakten auf den Befall der Kartoffel durch Phytophthora infestans, [Effects of compost extracts and microorganisms on incidences of P. infestans in potatoes], Comm.. Biol. Bundesanst. Land- und Forstwirtsch.: 245:346 (abstract) Koepf, H.H. (1992) Biodynamic Farming: Principles and PracticeAnthro. Press, NY Kloepper, J.W. et al. (1980) Pseudomonas siderophores: A mechanism explaining disease suppressive soils. Current Microbiology 4:317-320 Kuc, J., Shockley, g. and Kearney, k., 1975: Protection of cucumber against Colletotrichum legenarium by Colletotrichum lagenarium. Physiol. Pl. Pathol. 7, 195Last, F.T., 1955: Seasonal incidence of Sporobolomyces on cereal leaves. Transactions Brit. Micol. Soc. 38, 221-239.

Magdoff, F. (1996) personal communication, University of Vermont, Dept of Plant and Soil Science OFRF (1994) California Organic Farming Research Foundation, Newsletter on Funded Projects 1993-94 Including Biocontrol and Compost Tea Projects Potera, C. (1994) From Bacteria: A new weapon against fungal infection. Science 265:p605 Preece, T.F. and Dickinson, C.H., 1971: Ecology of Leaf Surface Microorganisms.

Academic Press, London, 640p.

Ruinen, J., 1956: Occurrence of Beijerinckia species in the phyllosphere. Nature 177, 220-221.

Sackenheim, R., Weltzien, H.C., and Kast, W.K. (1992), (in German) Der Phytoparasitäre Einfluss von mikrobiologisch aktiven Kompostextrakten gegen pilzliche Pathogene der Weinrebe, (‘The phytoparasitic influence of microbiologically active compost extracts in the control of fungal pathogens of grapevines’), Mitt.

der BBA, 283:404 (Abstract) Samerski, C. and Weltzien, H.C. (1988) (in German) Untersuchungen zum Wirkungsmechanismus von Kompostextrakten im Pathosystem Zuckerrübe - Echter Mehltau, (‘Investigations into the mechanism for compost extract effects on Sphaerotheca fuliginea in sugarbeets’), Z.PflKrankh.PflSchutz, 95: 176-181 Schönbeck, F. and Dehne, H.-W., 1986: Use of microbial metabolites inducing resistance against plant pathogens. In: Microbiology in the phyllosphere, eds. N.J.

Fokkema and J. Van Den Heuvel, Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge.

Brinton, Tränkner - Woods End Agrar u. Umwelt — Page 11 Journal Submittal Steck, U. (1988) Krautfäulebekämpfung in Kartoffeln: ein gelöstes Problem. [Potato Plant Disease Solved] Gesunde Pflanze 40:421-424 Tränkner, A., 1992: Use of agricultural and municipal organic wastes to develop suppressiveness to plant pathogens. In: E.C. Tjamos, G.C. Papavizas and R.J.

Cook, Biological Control of Plant Diseases. Plenum Press, New York, 35-42.

Tränkner, A. and Urban, J., 1993: Biocontrol of Botrytis cinerea with naturally occurring antagonist populations and their influence of the effectivity and practicability of the use of compost extracts. In: Biological Control of Foliar and Post- harvest Disease. ICBC/WPRS Bulletin Tränkner, A. and W. Brinton (1996) manuscript in preparation: Effects of compost on Plant Health. Biodynamic Association Press, Kimberton PA USDA-NRI (1996) personal communication. Research program peer review committee, Compost Teas in Agriculture Warner, K. (1995) personal communication. Walt-Disney World Horticulture, Lake Beuna Vista, Fl Weltzien, H.C. (1991), Biocontrol of Foliar Fungal Diseases with Compost Extracts;

In J.H.Andrews, S. Hirano (ed.), Microbial Ecology of Leaves, Brock Springer Series in Contemporary Bioscience, BSBN 0387-97579-9, 430-450 Weltzien, H.C., and Ketterer, N.(1986) Control of Phytophthora infestans on tomato leaves and potato tubers through water extracts of composted organic wastes, Phytopathol., 76: 1104 (


372) York, A and W. Brinton (1996) The Basis For Compost Disease Suppression In Agriculture And Horticulture. paper presented to: Conference on Ecological Agriculture, Pacific Grove, CA. California Sustainable Agriculture Association.

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