Biologicals And Compost Teas Make Media Come Alive

Biologicals And Compost Teas Make Media Come Alive

There was a time not long ago when all growers thought that compost or soil in a media mix meant fungal disease problems. A shift is happening in some areas of floriculture to move to media inoculated with compost and living organisms, making a more natural environment for plant growth, with the advantages of increased fertilizer uptake and defenses against pests and diseases.

In some instances, biological agents are being added by growers themselves to enrich soils, while some suppliers are offering media premixed with organisms that protect plants.

Making Media Alive

When growers use a traditional media without live organisms, they don’t enjoy the benefits from nutrient cycling. In a natural environment, microorganisms feed off the plant’s released sugars and the organism provides the plant with nutrients and water, explains Michael Alms, president of Growing Solutions. The company sells the compost tea extractors that provide growers with microorganisms. 

“With the biology in place, there’s this constant exchange between the plant root and the microbiology exchanging back and forth to where it allows the fertility program to operate far more efficiently,” Alms says. Without this system, plants rely solely on nutrition from fertigation or sprays. Having microorganisms in media also helps cut back on fertilizer use. Alms says in the landscape and nursery sector, he’s heard of customers reducing fertility input by as much as 40 to 50 percent without compromising plant growth.

“The majority of fertilizers leach right through the nursery can, but there’s nothing there to hold it,” Alms says. “When you add the biology, it shifts the structure of that media to where more nutrients are retained. Therefore, less is needed and yet the plant response is greater.”

While adding microorganisms can be thought of as a way to increase nutrition, they can also act as plant protection for pests and diseases.

“It’s disease suppression with an indirect result of potential pest reduction, because the plant’s immune system is stimulated,” Alms says.

Not A Sipping Tea

The two ways growers can inoculate their own media are through compost extracts (compost teas) and from companies that offer select species of microorganisms that have proven beneficial, like Bioworks, Koppert, Biobest, Organica Biotech or IPM Labs. Growing Solutions provides the compost extractors, 10, 25, 100 and 500 gallon compost tea systems that draws liquid compost extract from compost.

Sound Horticulture, Bellingham, Wash., uses a vermicompost, a tea made from worm castings, as well as a biodynamic compost from Oregon. Plants receive the inoculant at planting and then are repeatedly dosed during the growing cycle.

“It has alleviated the need for any ‘bugs in a jug’ and only costs us $12.50 per acre to treat plants,” says Alison Kutz-Troutman of Sound Horticulture.

The difference, Alms says, between bugs in a jug and compost teas is the range of diversity. In compost, bacteria and fungi can contain as many as 5,000 to 6,000 different organisms. Science is a long way from being able to capture and sell that variety.

Typically, a compost tea costs between 40 and 50 cents a gallon and 1 gallon can usually treat 1,000 square feet in the greenhouse.

Preventative Pre-Mixes

Both Fafard and Premier Horticulture are offering media pre-mixed with biological organisms. Fafard has incorporated Bioworks’ Rootshield and Natural Industries’ Actino-Iron, in addition to other organisms, including other bascillus strains and mycorrhize, into custom media blends. Premier Horticulture is now offering Pro-Mix With Biofungicide, an EPA-registered mix enriched with Subtilex, a bascillus strain that combats disease and enhances the plant’s root system.

The advantage to a premix is a uniform population of the inoculant, says Fafard’s Dr. Hugh Poole. The recommended rate for Rootshield, for example, is 1 ¼ pounds per yard, a rate that most growers aren’t equipped to mix evenly.
“It’s far easier to incorporate to a mix than as a drench after the plants are planted,” he says.

“Most of these products work by being preventative,” Poole says. “You’ve got to have it in place colonizing the root before a disease organism attacks. If you have a disease, it’s too late to utilize these products.”

These types of offerings from media companies are going to become more common, Alms says.

“I think within a year, all the soilless mix companies are going to have somebody on staff who does have the knowledge, because they’re being asked more if they can inoculate with organisms or micronutrients.”

Online Exclusive: Click here for Premier Horticulture’s Bio Calculator. It can help you calculate the cost difference between a fungicide drench and ProMix with Biofungicide.

Leave a Reply

2 comments on “Biologicals And Compost Teas Make Media Come Alive

More From Insect Control...
Cape Fear Botanical Garden

November 27, 2015

National Garden Bureau Awards Grants To Three Therapeutic Gardens

The grants, totaling $10,000, are through the organization’s Growing For Futures program, which supports the growth of therapeutic gardens across the country.

Read More

November 26, 2015

2015 Metrolina Greenhouses (Huntersville, NC) Field Trials Results

See the 2015 field trials results for Metrolina Greenhouses in Huntersville, NC.

Read More
Yoshimi And Grace Shibata

November 26, 2015

American Floral Endowment Establishes Fund To Honor Legacy Of Yoshimi Shibata

Yoshimi “Shimi” Shibata, a flower grower and wholesale florist, passed away in October at the age of 100.

Read More
Latest Stories
Suzanne Wainwright-Evans

November 16, 2015

Real-World Biocontrols Trends From The Buglady

During ,em>Greenhouse Grower's Top 100 Breakfast at Cultivate'15, Suzanne Wainwright-Evans of Buglady Consulting discussed trends in biocontrols, including what she has seen from breeders, growers and even public gardens.

Read More
USDA Whistleblower Case

November 3, 2015

USDA Bee Scientist Alleges He Was Punished For Reportin…

Entomologist Jonathan Lundgren has filed a whistleblower complaint alleging USDA retaliated against him because of his research on the adverse effects of neonicotinoid insecticides on bees and monarch butterflies.

Read More

October 7, 2015

Ball FloraPlant Eliminates Neonicotinoid Use On Its Off…

Ball FloraPlant has announced its offshore cuttings farms did not use neonicotinoid-based pest management chemicals during its spring crop production last shipping season, and will continue to be neonic free this year. Instead, the company and its greenhouse managers have relied on alternative means to supply insect-free cuttings to its global customer base.

Read More
Nemasys And Millenium Beneficial Nematodes from BASFm_Nematodes

October 7, 2015

How BASF’s UK Biological Production Facility Expa…

BASF has expanded its biologicals production facility in Littlehampton, UK. The new capacity increases the company’s ability to double the production of beneficial nematodes and inoculants.

Read More

September 23, 2015

New Crop Protection Products And Label Updates

Here are some of the most recent products released and label updates for crop protection agents in the greenhouse and nursery market. Fame Fungicides (FMC Corp.) FMC Corp. has introduce Fame fungicides, a family of FRAC 11 group (Strobilurin) products that delivers fast-acting, patented fluoxastrobin protection against major soil and foliar diseases. Rainfast in 15 minutes, Fame fungicides can be used on most greenhouse and nursery plants and provide fast foliar and root uptake. “Proven by university research, Fame fungicides offer fluoxastrobin action, which ensures a high degree of systemic activity to provide very rapid disease protection and stop further growth of established disease,” says Naimur Rahman, strategy and fungicide marketing product manager for FMC. The Fame fungicide family includes: • Fame SC: a suspension concentrate fungicide containing fluoxastrobin that controls major diseases, including anthracnose, downy mildew, powdery mildew, scab and leaf spot. It provides rapid foliar and root uptake […]

Read More
Offshore farm profiles Dummen Orange Las Mercedes Solanaceas GH

September 8, 2015

Dümmen Orange Implementing Consistent Standards On All …

Owning and operating several locations can be a challenge in maintaining consistent quality and cleanliness across the board. This is true of both breeders and growers. But those who do it right have invested in technology and practices that ensure that plant quality matches, no matter where their plants are shipped from. That’s the goal for Dümmen Orange. Now the world’s largest producer of unrooted cuttings, the company has a combined 150 hectares or 370 acres of production space worldwide, dedicated to cuttings production. Recent acquisitions of product portfolios, both this year and in the past few, has raised the company’s cuttings production expectation to more than 1.4 billion, including 350 million in North America. It has farms all over the world (see the 2015 Top Cuttings Producers ranking to see where), and produces cuttings for its own genetics, as well as collaborating with more than 30 third-party breeders across all […]

Read More
Bill Lewis grower manager at Delray Plants

August 31, 2015

Delray Plants Takes Preventative Approach To Pest Contr…

Trying to control pests effectively on a wide variety of crops is a major undertaking. Delray Plants in Venus, Fla., has been using biological controls as a part of its pest control program for more than 10 years. It operates 300 acres, which includes covered structures and 7 acres of outdoor field production.

Read More
Feature image The Aphid Guard Aphid Banker Plant, coming soon to the market, supports beneficial insect populations.

June 21, 2015

The Latest In Crop Protection

Protecting your plants from the latest threats is no easy task, but new product lines promise to safely and effectively eliminate a wide range of pests and diseases, without harming your employees or the environment.

Read More
Bee On Flower

June 18, 2015

Pest Management And Marketing Strategies For Bee-Friend…

Michigan State University Extension shares pest management practices to produce plants that are safe for pollinators and marketing strategies for clearing up confusion about bee-friendly plants.

Read More

June 10, 2015

BASF’s Sultan Miticide Receives California Regist…

BASF Sultan miticide recently received registration in California, giving ornamental growers a new rapid, targeted mode of action for mite control. Sultan miticide, with active ingredient cyflumetofen, offers ornamental growers targeted knockdown of all life stages of tetranychid mites, with long residual control. It has practically no toxicity to beneficial insects, including predatory mites and pollinators. Sultan miticide offers a new mode of action to combat cross-resistance with other commercial miticides, and is compatible with integrated pest management programs (IPM). “The long-awaited California registration of Sultan miticide is exciting news. Greenhouse, nursery and landscape professionals in the state now have a new class of chemistry that gives them fast control over all life stages of plant-damaging mite populations,” says Joe Lara, senior product manager for BASF. “Sultan miticide now provides California growers with a much needed new first choice for miticide resistance management programs that won’t disrupt populations of beneficial […]

Read More
Bee On Flower

May 20, 2015

White House Task Force Releases Pollinator Health Strat…

An interagency Pollinator Health Task Force commissioned by President Obama released its “Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators” on May 19. The strategy, released in accordance with the Presidential Memorandum issued last June, is accompanied by a Pollinator Research Action Plan, which outlines needs and priority actions to better understand pollinator losses and improve pollinator health. The recommended actions will be supported by a coordination of existing federal research efforts and accompanied by a request to Congress for additional resources to respond to losses in pollinator populations. Pages 47 through 52 specifically address pesticides and pollinators. The report calls out plant production, native plants, mosquito control and all urban uses in its Pollinator Action Plan. RISE (Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment) says it supports the goals of improving pollinator health and habitat contained in the White House Pollinator Task Force’s release of its National […]

Read More
Two-spotted spider mites, adults and eggs

May 18, 2015

Beware Of Spider Mites In Bougainvillea And Mandevilla …

Greenhouse growers need to scout for spider mites on bougainvillea and mandevilla and use appropriate treatments that minimize pesticide resistance.

Read More

May 14, 2015

Pollinator Health 2015: What’s Next For Horticult…

The news on pollinators and neonicotinoids continues to fluctuate between good and bad. Research and outreach efforts backed by the Bee and Pollinator Stewardship Initiative help move the industry in a positive direction.

Read More

April 20, 2015

Three Michigan State University On-Demand Webinars Offe…

The first rule of effective insect and disease control for vegetables is to take action to prevent problems before they occur. But in order to do that, you need to have an effective pest and disease management strategy in place that incorporates best practices to ensure a successful outcome. Michigan State University offers three pest and disease management on-demand webinars that will get you started and keep you on the right track.

Read More
Surendra Dara told attendees that biopesticides aren’t just for organic production. “These are tools for conventional growers, too. These materials do work.”

April 14, 2015

Biocontrols Are Covered In Depth At Biocontrols 2015 Co…

More than 400 growers, pest control advisers and certified crop advisers, researchers, government regulators and suppliers gathered in Fresno on March 3-5 for the Biocontrols 2015 Conference & Tradeshow. This event — a first of its kind focused solely on the use of biopesticides and other biocontrols — brought attendees together for an in-depth discussion on the latest tools available, “how-to” production topics, market trends and regulatory issues. Attendees also spent time with nearly 40 exhibitors learning about new technologies, techniques and services bringing biocontrols into the mainstream with growers all over the country. “Ours is a very economic and science-based business culture,” said Gary Schulz, the new CEO of the California Association Of Pest Control Advisers. “We encourage our pest control advisers (PCAs) to use all of the tools they have available, traditional chemicals, as well as many of the new softer materials including biopesticides and biocontrols.” Sessions covered […]

Read More

April 11, 2015

Lowe’s Announces Commitment To Phase Out Neonicotinoids…

Home improvement retailer Lowe’s companies announced April 9 that it has committed to eliminate neonicotinoid pesticides from its stores in a gradual phase-out over the next 48 months. In response, horticulture industry associations issued a statement that Lowe’s position is surprising, considering the most recent and positive reports on the state of honeybee health and recent peer reviewed research, and that this is an issue for which sound science must take priority.

Read More
Restricting foliar pesticide applications on blooming plants to early morning or as dusk approaches in the evening reduces direct exposure to bees.

April 10, 2015

10 Steps For Protecting Crops And Bees

Bees stay safe and high quality crops thrive when you use bee-friendly practices designed to help both succeed. Griffin Greenhouse Supply Pro (GGSPro) has been actively discussing bee-friendly pesticide use for years. Based on its current understanding of the science and social factors at play, GGSPro currently recommends these 10 bee-friendly practices.

Read More
As directed by EPA, the bee hazard icon appears in the Directions For Use for each application site for specific use restrictions and instructions to protect bee and other pollinators.

April 8, 2015

AFE To Fund Honey Bee Health Research Focused On Transl…

The American Floral Endowment (AFE) is funding a new research project to examine the health of honey bees on ornamental plants following treatment with neonicotinoids and other systemic insecticides.

Read More
[gravityform id="35" title="false" description="false"]