What’s the Deal with Soil Biology and Lawn Care?
I was recently (like two hours ago) asked by one of our best BeeSafe applicators if I could put together a brief email about how the BeeSafe Products compare to Compost Tea. It’s kind of funny because the answer in my head is much more simple than the answer that began to come out in the email. In fact the short answer is that both compost tea and many of the inputs in the BeeSafe program are essentially the same…but different…but really similar…but very different….but really about the same.
The answer, without getting too crazy lives somewhere in the explanation about why soil biology is so important. At BeeSafe we operate under a “Five Principle Approach” which prioritizes the importance of our inputs and firmly rooted at number one is “the introduction of soil improving microbes and the amplification of indigenous soil improving microbes.” In other words, the need to crank up the Soil Food Web. Yes, this can be done by brewing compost tea but that is only a small part of the total equation.
Many of the beneficial species in the Bee Safe blends produce plant growth regulatory compounds, which have the capacity to positively impact plant growth processes. These microbial metabolites stimulate cell division in plants ultimately increasing growth and yield. This biologically induced process coupled with the high quality fertilizer component permits the Bee Safe formula’s to stimulate more growth than a simple compost tea inoculant.
The addition of microorganisms, also serves to prolong a fertilizers ability to stimulate growth by reducing the incidence of nutrient leaching. Nitrogen is very mobile in the soil profile and it often leaches passed the roots before they have a chance to absorb it. Soil bacteria will incorporate this free nitrogen into their bodies utilizing it to satiate their metabolic functions. Much of this nitrogen would have been lost forever to the plant through the leaching process had the bacteria not incorporated it into their cell mass and temporarily stored it. This storehouse of nitrogen is then given back to the plant through a complex process known as nutrient mineralization. Nutrient mineralization occurs when protozoa consume soil bacteria in order to satiate their nitrogen & carbon requirements. Soil bacteria contain more N than the protozoa require therefore the protozoa essentially spit this excess nitrogen back into the soil where it is then absorbed by the plant roots.
Can these functions and processes be triggered by compost tea? Yes but only alongside the addition of natural sources of N,P and K which are not a component of compost tea.
In short the addition of beneficial soil microorganisms serves to satiate the short term and long term nutritional requirements of the plant. They have the capacity to expedite nutrient availability, facilitate nutrient absorption and to continue providing these nutrients to the plant over an extended period of time.
Bee Safe product blends will also improve the structure of the soil matrix over time by way of its turf bio nutrition component (bacteria, actinomycetes & fungi). Many soil bacteria have the capacity to produce a glue-like substance (polysaccharides), which serves to create micro-aggregates in the soil profile. These micro-aggregates are then wound together and stabilized by fungal and actinomycete hyphae to create macro-aggregates. This biologically induced process improves the soil structure over time increasing porosity and water infiltration as well as the water holding capacity of the soil matrix.
Can this process be triggered by compost tea? You bet it can as long as the compost tea that is being brewed is “Teeming with Microbes” to borrow a commonly used phrase. A master tea brewer can absolutely create this process.
Aside from their ability to positively affect plant nutrition, soil structure & plant growth the microbial systems utilized to augment Bee Safe products afford the plant and soil a number of other quantifiable benefits. They serve to stabilize soil pH, increase humus levels, improve CEC of soil, increase the photosynthetic capacity of the plant, enhance root architecture and provide plants with increased resistance to environmental stress such as heat, cold, drought and foot traffic.
Are all of these concepts something that can be induces by the consistent application of compost tea? Absolutely!
The bottom line here is that the BeeSafe line of products are essentially stabilized, laboratory versions of any compost tea. Why bother going through the learning curve, purchasing the compost tea extractors and brewers that are required to create your “tea” when you can use a much more efficient product directly from the laboratory? Finally and most importantly do you really want to “brew the compost tea” everyday? Every single day? There is great deal of work involved with that which, not the least of which is consistently checking the microbial activity under your microscope.