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Abstract, SARE. 2011

Water-based extracts of compost (compost “tea”) have long been recognized as potentially valuable in promoting plant growth. Recent innovations in production and application have popularized tea use among food producers, landscape managers and others interested in promoting plant health. This renewed interest in compost tea has made the input fairly controversial, and it is often presented as either a “Silver Bullet”, or conversely, “Snake Oil.” Like most other traditional agricultural inputs, compost tea is neither. Unfortunately, our ability to effectively employ compost teas to their full advantage is severely limited by our poor understanding of the interactions between compost type, crop and environmental factors as they relate to plant yield and quality, particularly under tropical conditions. These gaps in our knowledge limit the efficacy of compost tea applications on the farms that currently employ this strategy, and seriously restrict the extension and adoption of compost tea technology to conventional farms that want to improve the sustainability of their operations.

The purpose of this book is to critically evaluate the phenomenon of compost tea from three general perspectives: Growers, Researchers and Industry. By integrating these perspectives into a cumulative experience, we hope to improve our understanding of the potential and limitations of this technology from scientific, economic and practical points of view. The book is arranged to specifically address the varied needs of multiple stakeholder groups. Individual chapters are intended to provide both broad and in-depth summaries of the science and technology of compost tea, particularly from a tropical perspective. Brew Master insets feature innovators, long time users and recent adoptors of compost tea, who share their anecdotal experiences. Two longtime users describe their efforts to quantify the impacts of compost tea on their farms. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) are interspersed throughout the book and address common questions by people interested in using compost tea, including the important question “Does it work?