The video above shows a diverse assortment of flagellates produced in an aerated tea. This tea failed to develop any other organism groups (aside from bacteria, which flagellates eat); even so, this is a relatively high-quality result that can often be coaxed from lower-quality inoculum materials using the right brewing techniques. Presence of diverse protozoa (including flagellates) means this tea contains lots of nutrient cycling, which is essential to any effort to improve a soil's biological health.
Any scientific assessment, as they say, is a snapshot in time. This is especially true in biology, because life never sits still. And it’s true in a particularly vivid way with an aerated microbe “tea.”
A microbe tea is, of course, one of our most powerful tools for quick biological development in plant-production systems. What exactly is a tea? Simply put, it’s an aqueous environment kept oxygenated for fast microbial growth and reproduction. As such, it’s a temperamental thing: in aqueous conditions, when things go well (aerobic), they can go dramatically well; and when they go bad (anaerobic), they can go dramatically bad.
A tea can also turn out neither especially good nor bad, instead hardly producing much diversity of microbial life at all. Such a tea may contain a wealth of diverse bacteria that, in and of themselves, are beneficial to plant health. But bacteria alone won’t bring about the dramatic field improvements growers often need, so such a tea is only a wasted investment of time, energy and money. Relative to other organisms, most soils already harbor way too many bacteria; adding more only serves to counteract any efforts at succession management.
The bottom line is, every tea is different, but in all cases the goal is the same: a full host of the right types of soil microorganisms. With the right populations and diversity, a tea will boost your soil’s nutrient-cycling capacity and successional development. That means it will get your plant-growing system on a direct path to maximized health and productivity, with no pest or disease issues, while all the conventional inputs of plant production – fertilizers, pesticides, irrigation, tilling – either disappear altogether, or shrink to a fraction of what they were.
So how does a grower know a tea is worth the time and expense of brewing and applying? By fine-tuning a recipe incorporating the best materials readily available. This requires checking one’s tea in the lab repeatedly during brewing (which can last from around 12 hours to several days). You’ll readily see when those microbes spike and dip in number; once you have the population data, it’s a matter of keeping the variables consistent in future brewing (although we’d still recommend a periodic check-up).
For a trained Soil Food Web practitioner (like us), getting a handle on this process is fairly straightforward. As we like to say, the best option for any grower is to attain the skills, thereby running your own in-house lab. But not everyone has the time or energy to tackle that prospect. And for growers with problems to solve in the field, the need for results may be immediate. So for many folks, the best option is to seek the help of a Soil Food Web lab like ours.
This, of course, means packaging and shipping several samples during the brewing process, adding complexity to the already-unwieldy process of developing a tea-brewing system. So we have a solution – the Microbe Tea Optimizer, our new consultation-and-testing package.
First we’ll discuss your recipe, starting with the best inoculum reasonably available to you. Then you’ll receive a kit with sample bottles and pre-paid shipping materials, and we’ll direct you to the nearest UPS drop box (shipping is arranged to get samples back to us quickly). After analyzing your samples, we’ll assemble a report showing growth, over time, of the major microbial groups you’ve developed in your tea. If the results aren’t terribly impressive, we’ll repeat the process at a reduced price.
We’re making this system available on July 1, so between now and June 30, we’re taking discounted pre-orders (23% off).
In efforts to improve soil ecology, we’re always working to address the importance of promoting education and know-how, in both the field and the lab. We’re dealing with life after all, especially diversity of life, so most situations are fluid. Working with living things is never as simple as adding a product and expecting uniform results, and it can require working closely with a lab like ours. We're hoping the Microbe Tea Optimizer addresses these realities in a way that helps simplify things.
Go here and sign up. We look forward to seeing your brew!