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Effects of Compost and Vermicompost Teas as Organic Fertilizers



Numerous studies have demonstrated that composted materials and their resulting teas can provide manifold benefits as organic fertilizers in sustainable agriculture. Indeed, compost teas have been shown to suppress a wide range of soil-borne diseases when used as foliar sprays and soil drenches, thereby ultimately affecting plant growth and yield. However, it is difficult to determine the exact suppression mechanisms involved, owing to the complex structure of compost microbial communities. General suppressive effects rather than specific ones are more common and, in addition the sterilisation of the teas has often resulted in a loss in disease suppressiveness. This suggests that biological mechanisms are predominantly involved in the suppression of soil-borne diseases by compost teas, although chemical and physical factors have also been implicated. The purpose of this chapter is therefore to give an overview of the effects of both compost and vermicompost teas on plant growth and soil fertility. Current knowledge on the impact of these products on disease suppressiveness is also addressed, together with the factors affecting theiry .
300 Fertilizer Technology I: Synthesis
Effects of Compost and Vermicompost Teas as
Organic Fertilizers
, M
, M
, H
Numerous studies have demonstrated that composted materials and their
resulting teas can provide manifold benefits as organic fertilizers in sustainable
agriculture. Indeed, compost teas have been shown to suppress a wide range of
soil-borne diseases when used as foliar sprays and soil drenches, thereby
ultimately affecting plant growth and yield. However, it is difficult to determine
the exact suppression mechanisms involved, owing to the complex structure of
compost microbial communities. General suppressive effects rather than specific
ones are more common and, in addition the sterilisation of the teas has often
resulted in a loss in disease suppressiveness. This suggests that biological
mechanisms are predominantly involved in the suppression of soil-borne
diseases by compost teas, although chemical and physical factors have also
been implicated. The purpose of this chapter is therefore to give an overview of
the effects of both compost and vermicompost teas on plant growth and soil
fertility. Current knowledge on the impact of these products on disease
suppressiveness is also addressed, together with the factors affecting theiry .
Key words:Compost teas, Vermicompost teas, Soil borne plant-diseases, Soil
ertility, Plant growth.
University of Innsbruck, Institute of Microbiology, Technikerstrasse 25d, 6020
Innsbruck, Austria.
Instituto Universitario del Agua, Universidad de Granada, Ramón y Cajal 4, 18071
Granada, Spain.
Departamento de Ecoloxía e Bioloxía Animal, Facultade de Bioloxía, Universidade
de Vigo, E-36310 Vigo, Spain.
*Corresponding author: E-mail:
In: Sinha, S., Pant, K.K., Bajpai, S. (Eds), Advances in Fertilizer Technology:
Synthesis (Vol. 1). Studium Press, LLC, USA, pp. 300-318, ISBN: 1-62699-044-1
301Effects of Compo st and Vermicompost Teas as Organic Fertilizers
Overproduction of organic wastes can lead to the use of inappropriate disposal
practices such as their indiscriminate and poorly-timed application of the
material to agricultural soils. However, organic waste can be treated by oxygen-
driven biological processes to produce good quality fertilisers, thus helping to
protect the environment (Moral et al., 2009; Domínguez et al., 2010). Aerobic
composting and vermicomposting are widely used during the recycling of a
large variety of waste material (Domínguez et al., 2010). Both of these processes
transform the material into high quality amendments/fertilisers, which are
rich in organic matter and nutrients (Insam and de Bertoldi, 2007; Lazcano
and Domínguez, 2011). Unlike compost, vermicompost is produced at
intermediate temperatures by the joint action of earthworms and micro-
organisms (Domínguez, 2004).
The use of composts is beneficial to the soil in several ways, leading to
increased amounts of soil organic matter, improvements in soil physical
properties (higher porosity and aggregate stability and reduced bulk density)
and modification of soil microbial communities (Knapp et al., 2010; Lazcano
et al., 2012). There is substantial evidence that the use of composts enhances
soil microbial biomass and activity (revised in Diacono and Montemurro, 2010).
Accordingly, previous studies have demonstrated the potential of composted
materials to stimulate plant growth either directly or indirectly through
different chemical, physical and biological mechanisms, as reviewed by Lazcano
and Domínguez (2011). On the one hand, they may directly affect the plant
growth via the supply of nutrients; by altering water and air availability in the
plant potting media and conditioning root growth; and/or through the promotion
of plant growth regulating substances (PGRs; Fig. 1) or microorganisms (plant
growth promoting microorganisms, PGPMs). And, on the other hand they may
exert indirect effects on plant growth such as the mitigation or suppression of
plant diseases (Fig. 1).
Spaccini et al. (2008) showed that aerated compost extracts contain most
of the low-weight compounds associated with a compost matrix, most of which
are of microbial origin and therefore potentially bioactive. The presence in
vermicomposts of bioactive substances associated with the low molecular weight
fraction of humic acids and which are capable of inducing changes in plant
morphology and physiology has also been reported (Pant et al., 2012). In fact,
these authors found an improved shoot and root growth and mineral nutrient
content of pak choi plants following the tea application. Additionally, there is
considerable evidence that both compost and vermicompost teas can suppress
a wide range of soil-borne diseases when used as foliar sprays and soil drenches
(Marín et al., 2013). All of the aforementioned indicates that they can be good
candidates as organic fertilizers in sustainable agriculture. Indeed, there has
been a considerable increase in research dedicated to the study of their effects
302 Fertilizer Technology I: Synthesis
on soil properties, as well as on plant growth and disease suppressiveness over
the last few years.
Fig. 1. Overview of the proposed chemical, biological and physical mechanisms by which
composted materials may directly or indirectly influence plant growth and yield
(from Lazcano and Domínguez, 2011).
The purpose of this chapter is to provide an overview of the effects of
compost and vermicompost teas on plant growth and soil fertility. Current
knowledge on the impact of these products on disease suppression is also
addressed, together with the factors affecting the quality of the products. The
mechanisms involved in the suppression of soil-borne diseases by compost teas
are also discussed.
Compost teas are simply defined as brewed, water extracts of composted
materials (Ingham, 2000). However, they can be further categorised into aerated
and non-aerated, depending on the method of production. Aerated compost
teas (ACT) are produced by aerating the compost-water extracts during the
fermentation (brewing) process; whereas non-aerated compost teas (NCT) are
not aerated, or are only minimally aerated at the initial mixing stage of the
fermentation process (Litterick et al., 2004; Litterick and Wood, 2009). Both
methods require a fermentation or brewing vessel, an inoculum (compost) and
water, and they both involve incubation and filtration of the product prior to
application (Scheuerell and Mahaffee, 2002; Litterick et al., 2004). According
to Weltzien (1991), NCT are generally produced by mixing one volume of
compost with 4 to 10 volumes of water in an open container. The mixture is
303Effects of Compo st and Vermicompost Teas as Organic Fertilizers
first stirred and then allowed to stand undisturbed, with no or minimal aeration,
for at least three days at 15–20
C. Other authors have suggested stirring the
NCT every two to three days during the fermentation process to facilitate the
release of microorganisms from the compost particles (Brinton et al., 1996).
Over the years there has been continuous debate about the benefits of
aeration during the process of producing compost teas. Specifically, some
advantages have been identified in relation to ACT processes, including shorter
brewing times, greater microbial diversity, lower phytotoxicity and less
potential for regrowth of human pathogens (Ingham and Alms, 2003). Arancon
et al. (2007) observed a higher germination rate, height and leaf area of tomato
and cucumber plants following the application of aerated vermicompost tea.
However, these authors used an extraction period of only 2 days when preparing
the compost teas, which may explain the lower effect of NCT on plant growth.
Indeed, Welke (2004) reported that aeration of compost teas is not essential to
enhance plant growth when a sufficiently long extraction period is used.
In general, production of NCT is favoured over production of ACT because
the method is simpler and requires less energy consumption, as specialized
aeration equipment is not needed to produce the teas (St. Martin and
Brathwaite, 2012). Moreover, several studies have shown that the methods
used to produce NCT can be as effective as those used to produce ACT, in
relation to suppression of phytopathogens and plant diseases (Cronin et al.,
1996; Welke, 2004; Scheuerell and Mahaffee, 2006; Koet al., 2010; St. Martin
et al., 2012; Marín et al., 2013). For instance, St. Martin et al. (2012) observed
that mycelial growth of Pythium ultimum was significantly inhibited in both
aerated and non-aerated compost teas made from banana leaf and lawn-clipping
composts. In fact, aeration of the compost teas during production did not
consistently inhibit the mycelial growth in either type of compost, nor did
increasing the brewing time beyond 18 h for ACT and 56 h for non-aerated
compost tea. In another study, comparison of the efficacy of ACT and NCT has
shown that aeration of the compost tea resulted in higher concentrations of
human pathogens, such as Escherichia coli O157:H7, Salmonella and faecal
coliforms, when nutrient supplements were added at the beginning of the
brewing process (Ingram and Millner, 2007). This indicates that the addition
of nutrients is another important factor in determining the quality of the teas.
Besides the above-mentioned negative effect, the addition of nutrients may
lead to an increase in overall microbial biomass and diversity (Naidu et al.,
2010, 2013; Fritz et al., 2012) or to an increase in the specific group of
microorganisms that are thought to have beneficial effects, thereby enhancing
the disease suppression properties of the teas (Marín et al., 2013). Sugar, grain,
fish emulsion, kelp extract and humic acids (among others) have also been
used as additives during production of aerated tea, to enhance the microbial
activity of the finished product (Ingham, 2003). Pant et al. (2009) evaluated
the effects of aerated vermicompost tea augmented with a microbial enhancer
(ACTME) (i.e., augmented with dry humic acid and kelp extract) on the growth,
304 Fertilizer Technology I: Synthesis
mineral nutrient content and antioxidant activity of pak choi (Brassica rapa
cv Bonsai, Chinensis group) grown under organic (vermicompost) and synthetic
(Osmocote) fertilization. Interestingly, the nutrient content was significantly
higher in the ACTME than in ACT and NCT, whereas neither the microbial
populations nor microbial activity differed in the different types of compost
teas. Plant growth and total carotenoids were also not influenced by the type
of production, particularly under organic fertilization.
Different factors such as dilution rate and application frequency have been
reported to affect the quality of the teas and their efficacy in suppressing plant
diseases (Arancon et al., 2007; Litterick and Wood, 2009). Storage conditions
have also been shown to affect tea properties. For example, Fritz et al. (2012)
stored green leaf-based aerated vermicompost tea at three different
temperatures (10, 22 and 36
C), for a period of 15 days, and observed an initial
(after 24h) decrease in bacterial diversity (assessed by the Shannon-Weaver
index), because fast growing bacteria suppressed other bacteria to an
undetectable limit. This decrease was followed by an increase in diversity at
all three temperatures; the increase was more pronounced at the highest
temperature. Furthermore, the feedstock material used in both the composting
and vermicomposting processes largely determines the physical, chemical and
biological properties of the final products, and thus it is also expected to
influence the tea quality (Weltzien, 1990; Scheuerell and Mahaffee, 2002;
Siddiqui et al., 2009; Pant et al., 2012; St. Martin et al., 2012). Pant et al.
(2012) compared five different commercially produced composts and found
significant differences in the total nutrient content, microbial activity and
phytohormones in the resulting teas, which ultimately affected plant growth
(pak choi). Specifically, higher levels of gibberellins (GA
) and mineral N were
detected in food waste vermicompost tea and aged chicken manure-based
compost and vermicompost teas than in fresh chicken manure-based
vermicompost tea and green waste compost tea. Accordingly, in vitro cultivation
of pak choi with concentrations of GA
similar to those measured in the teas
confirmed a direct positive effect of GA
on growth.. Pant et al. (2012) also
reported that compost age may contribute to tea quality, as indicated by
differences between fresh and aged chicken manure-based vermicompost teas.
Mature composts are expected to release higher levels of soluble mineral
nutrients and lower amount of phytotoxic organic acids and heavy metals than
immature composts (Griffin and Hutchinson, 2007).
In field studies, compost and vermicompost teas have been found to provide
manifold benefits when used as total or partial substitutes for mineral fertilisers
in peat-based artificial greenhouse potting media and as soil amendments, as
shown by Arancon et al. (2007); Edwards et al. (2007); Sanwal et al. (2007); Al-
305Effects of Compo st and Vermicompost Teas as Organic Fertilizers
Mughrabi et al. (2008); Hargreaves et al (2009a,b); Pant et al. (2009, 2012);
Lazcano et al. (2010); Naidu et al. (2010, 2013); Reeve et al. (2010); Siddiqui
et al. (2011); Fritz et al. (2012); St. Martin et al. (2012). The advantages of
compost teas as soil amendments include their capacity to maintain soil organic
matter content and water holding capacity, enhance nutrient availability,
suppress plant diseases and increase soil microbial diversity.
Table 1 provides an overview of several studies focused on the effects of
compost and vermicompost teas on plant growth and soil fertility. For instance,
Siddiqui et al. (2011) observed that the application of compost tea and inorganic
fertiliser (NPK) at a rate of CT 50: NPK 50 significantly enhanced the vegetative
growth, yield and antioxidant content of the medicinal herb Centella asiatica
(L.) urban. Similarly, Reeve et al. (2010) reported a synergistic effect when
using compost tea in combination with inorganic fertiliser, resulting in a higher
shoot (22–61%) and root (40–66%) biomass of wheat seedlings relative to that
observed when inorganic fertiliser was applied alone. Hargreaves et al. (2009a)
found that NCTs made from municipal solid waste and ruminant composts
provided equivalent levels of nutrients to strawberries as supplied by an
inorganic fertilizer. However, the soil K content was lower after application of
NCT, suggesting that the levels of this nutrient should be monitored when
compost teas are the sole source of mineral nutrients. Sanwal et al. (2007) also
demonstrated that the application of poultry manure and compost tea greatly
increased the rhizome yield of ginger. In a recent study, Naidu et al. (2013)
established that microbial-enriched compost tea, in combination with half
strength fertigation nutrients, had a significantly greater effect on the growth
and quality of muskmelons than full strength fertigation nutrients or untreated
controls (water only). Indeed, these authors emphasized that the higher
concentration of nutrients in the full strength fertigation treatment might
have resulted in a mineral imbalance that hindered the generation of defence-
related compounds, thereby leading to increased susceptibility to pathogen
Furthermore, Arancon et al. (2007) and Edwards et al. (2007) demonstrated
that the addition of vermicompost tea to the growing media of tomatoes and
cucumbers enhanced the germination and growth of these plants. Likewise,
Lazcano et al. (2010) observed that the incorporation in the growing media of
vermicompost tea produced from rabbit manure increased the germination
percentage of maritime pine seedlings. In fact, the N content of plants
germinated after treatment with the tea was higher than in control plants
(grown on perlite) and may have determined the faster maturation of the treated
seedlings. Fritz et al. (2012) did not find any significant effects of tea application
on crop yield (wheat and barley) in a field-scale experiment; however, there
was an improvement in crop quality, as shown by sensory tests. In the same
study, use of COMPOCHIP (i.e., a microarray targeting pathogenic bacteria
and bacteria typical of stabilized organic materials) revealed the presence of
the saprophytic bacteria Sphingobacterium and Actinomyces and the
306 Fertilizer Technology I: Synthesis
Table 1: Research studies focused on the effects of compost and vermicompost teas on plant growth and yield.
Compost type Crop Remarks Reference(s)
Municipal solid waste (MSW) Strawberries (Fragaria x Similar amounts of most macro-and Hargreaves et al.
and ruminant composts ananassa, L., cv. Sable) micronutrients were provided by CT (2009a)
treatments compared to both MSW
and ruminant composts and inorganic
fertiliser treatments
MSW compost Strawberries (Fragaria Overall, CTs produced fruit of equal Hargreaves et al.
x ananassa, L., cv. Sable) quality in terms of total antioxidant (2009b)
capacity and vitamin C than MSW
compost; however, all treatments failed
to provide sufficient N to strawberry
plants and all fruit appeared to have
leather rot; consequently, yield was
Rabbit manure compost Six different progenies of The incorporation of vermicompost in Lazcano et al. (2010)
the maritime pine (Pinus the growing media of maritime pine
pinaster Ait.) increased germination by 16%, and
particularly, addition of vermicompost
water extract produced the best
results. The different pine progenies
responded differently to vermicompost
application, suggesting that the
genetic variability is an important
factor to consider when vermicompost
and other biologically active organic
materials are used as potting
Table 1: (Contd... )
307Effects of Compo st and Vermicompost Teas as Organic Fertilizers
Table 1: (Contd...)
Compost type Crop Remarks Reference(s)
Grape pomace and dairy Wheat seedlings (Triticum Their findings support the use of compost Reeve et al. (2010)
manure composts aestivum) extracts as fertiliser substitutes or
supplements. They observed that a
1% compost extract alone was as
effective as the highest fertiliser rate
in terms of shoot height; such effects
were dependent on the time period.
Empty fruit bunch and chicken Centella asiatica (L.) urban The integrated use of CT and inorganic Siddiqui et al. (2011)
manure fertiliser (NPK) at 50% increased the
availability of nutrients and improved
soil fertility.
Vermicompost composed mainly Cereals (wheat and barley) No effects of tea application on plant Fritz et al. (2012)
of green plant parts, cattle and vegetables (Raphanus yield; however, sensoric tests indicated
manure, and agricultural sativus, Rucola selvatica, an improvement in crop quality. Minor
plant waste and Pisum sativum) changes in the soil microbial community
were found after tea application by foliar
spray in both laboratory- and field-scale
Five compost types: Pak choi (Brassica rapa cv Applications of CT increased both growth Pant et al. (2012)
chicken manure-based Bonsai, Chinensis group) and mineral nutrient content of pak choi
Table 1: (Contd...)
308 Fertilizer Technology I: Synthesis
Table 1: (Contd...)
Compost type Crop Remarks Reference(s)
thermophilic compost; green plants; such effects were dependent on
waste thermophilic compost; the type of compost.
food waste vermicompost;
chicken manure-based
vermicompost (aged); and
chicken manure-based
vermicompost (fresh)
Banana leaf (BLC) and lawn Tomato cv. Calypso and All CTs stimulated seed germination of St. Martin et al.
clipping (LCC) composts sweet pepper cv. California tomato and root growth in sweet pepper. (2012)
Wonder seedlings However, NCTs brewed for 56 h using
LCC or BLC, and ACT produced from
BLC brewed for 18 h, significantly
reduced seed germination of sweet
Empty fruit bunches and Muskmelon (Cucumis in mean fruit fresh weight (kg), Naidu et al. (2013)
palm oil mil effluent composts melo L.) firmness (N) and mesocarp size (cm) of
muskmelon fruits were recorded after
the application of half strength fertigation
nutrients in combination with the weekly
foliar application of microbial-enriched CT.
309Effects of Compo st and Vermicompost Teas as Organic Fertilizers
ammonium-oxidising bacteria Nitrosovibrio and Nitrosospira in both
vermicomposts and the resulting teas (Fritz et al., 2012). Nitrosovibrio and
Nitrosospira are responsible for ammonia oxidation, the first and rate-limiting
step in the process of nitrification. As such, their presence in the samples
indicates that these bacteria may play an important role in nitrogen cycling in
the vermicompost tea environment. Nevertheless, most previous studies are
often not comparable because of differences in experimental conditions,
including the type and dose of application of compost tea, the duration of the
experiment, the plant species to be grown, among others.
An overview of several studies dealing with the efficacy of compost and
vermicompost teas (aerated and non-aerated) in minimising a range of fungal
diseases when used as foliar sprays or soil drenches is given in Table 2.
Specifically, Dionet al. (2012) found that application of NCTs prepared from
five different types of compost reduced the mycelial growth of several pathogenic
fungi including Pythium ultimum, Rhizoctonia solani, Fusarium oxysporum f.
sp. radicis-lycopersici and Verticillium dahliae in vitro. Sterilization of the
NCT caused complete or partial loss of the inhibition of mycelial growth of
these pathogens. This confirms that the microbial content constitutes a crucial
factor in the efficacy of the teas for disease suppression, as reported by El-
Masry et al. (2002); Al-Mughrabi et al. (2008), Naidu et al. (2010) and Xu et al.
(2012), among others. Nevertheless, Hardy and Sivasithamparam (1991) found
that sterile extracts of composted eucalyptus-bark and pine-bark container
media had a stimulatory effect on the formation of sporangia of Phytophthora
spp., whereas non-sterile extracts inhibited sporangial formation and even
induced lysis. Elad and Shtienberg (1994) observed that in most cases
pasteurisation of compost extracts did not nullify Botrytis cinerea disease
reduction. These findings suggest that compost extracts may also exert an
abiotic effect on disease control. Zmora-Nahum et al. (2008) established that
chemical and biological mechanisms in compost may operate in tandem. These
authors found that basic pH and high effective NH
concentration in the compost
have a direct effect on the viability of sclerotia. Germination of sclerotia was
completely inhibited in sterile extracts of non-cured compost extracts at
concentrations above a threshold level of 0.5 mM NH
. Interestingly, loss of
suppression was recorded when extracts of cured compost were used. Changes
in the effective NH
concentration of the compost, as well as a decrease in pH
during curing could at least partly explain such findings.
Recent studies have also demonstrated the presence in diverse types of
vermicomposts of various bacteria that are useful for different biotechnological
purposes (Yasir et al., 2009; Gopalakrishnan et al., 2011; Fernández-Gómez
et al., 2012). In these studies, Streptomyces were detected (using COMPOCHIP)
310 Fertilizer Technology I: Synthesis
Table 2: Research studies focused on the use of compost and vermicompost teas to suppress soil-borne diseases.
Phytopathogen Crop Compost type Brewing method/ Brewing additives Reference(s)
Pythium debaryanum,In vitro Leafy fruit, garden Compost extract None El- Masry et al.
Fusarium oxysporum f.sp. and crops-based (2002)
lycopersici, Sclerotium composts
Erysiphe pisi and Pea seeds Not specified Vermicompost extract None Singh et al.
E. cichoracearum (2003)
Pythium ultim um Cucumber Yard trimmings, ACT: 36 h Kelp and humic Scheuerell and
plants mixed vegetation NCT: 7–9 d acid extract Mahaffee
(vermicompost), (2004)
vegetative and
animal manure-
based composts
Rhizoctonia solani,In vitro Grape marc ACT: 24 h None Dnez et al.
Fusarium oxysporum (2006)
f. sp. radicis-lycopersici,
F. oxysporum f. sp.
lycopersici race 0,
F. oxysporum f. sp.
lycopersici race 1,
F. oxysporum f. sp.
Verticillium dahliae,
Pythium aphanide rmatum,
Phytophthora parasítica,
Table 2: (Contd...)
311Effects of Compo st and Vermicompost Teas as Organic Fertilizers
Table 2: (Contd...)
Phytopathogen Crop Compost type Brewing method/ Brewing additives Reference(s)
Phytophthor a infestans Potato Combination of ACT: 24 h A wide range of Al-Mughrabi
thermal compost, additives were tested: (2007)
static wood chips kelp, humates, rock
compost and dusts, grain/alfalfa
vermicastings meals, soluble plant
sugar sources, and
liquefied fish
Choanephora Okra plants Rice straw and Compost extract Tricho derma- Siddiqui et al.
cucurbitarum empty fruit bunch enriched (2008)
of oil palm compost
Sclerotium rolfsii In vitro Municipal sewage Compost extract None Zmora-Nahum
sludge and yard et al. (2008)
waste composts
Pythium aphanidermatum In vitro Solid olive mill NCT: 6 d None Jenana et al.
In vivo:wastes, Posidonia (2009)
Tomato oceanica and chicken
seedlings manure-based
Erysiphe polygoni Tomato Market, urban and ACT: 7 d None Segarra et al.
plants garden wastes (2009)
Choanephora In vitro Rice straw and ACT: Not specified None Siddiqui et al.
cucurbitarum In vivo: empty fruit bunch (2009)
Okra plants of oil palm compost
Table 2: (Contd...)
312 Fertilizer Technology I: Synthesis
Table 2: (Contd...)
Phytopathogen Crop Compost type Brewing method/ Brewing additives Reference(s)
Fusarium moniliforme In vitro Paper sludge and Vermicompost extract None Yasir et al.
dairy sludge (2009)
Alternaria solani,
In vitro Five compost types: NCT: 14 d None Koné et al.
Botrytis cinerea, and
In vivo: chicken manure, (2010)
Phytophthor a infestans Tomato sheep manure (four
Oidium neolycopersici plants sources; SM1-SM4),
and Bo try tis cinerea bovine manure,
shrimp powder,
and seaweed
Phytophthora capsici Pepper 47 compost samples Compost extract: 30 min None Sang et al.
plants from six commercial (2010)
compost facilities
Fusarium oxysporum f.sp. In vitro Olive mill wastes Compost extract None Alfano et al.
lycopersici (Fol), Pythium In vivo:(2011)
ultimum, Phytophthora Tomato
infestans, Sclerotina plants
sclerotiorum, Verticillium
Pythium ultimum,In vitro Five compost types: NCT None Dionné et al.
Rhizoctonia solani,In vivo: seaweed, shrimp (2012)
Fusarium oxysporum Tomato powder, and
f. sp. radicis-lycopersici chicken, bovine and
and Verticillium dahliae sheep manure
Pythium ultim um Tomato and Banana leaf and ACT: 18, 27 and 36 h None St. Martin
sweet pepper lawn clipping NCT: 56, 112 and 168 h et al. (2012)
Table 2: (Contd...)
313Effects of Compo st and Vermicompost Teas as Organic Fertilizers
Table 2: (Contd...)
Phytopathogen Crop Compost type Brewing method/ Brewing additives Reference(s)
Fusarium oxysporum Lettuce and Pig manure and ACT: 36 h NCT: 7-9 d None Xu et al. (2012)
f.sp. ni veum, Fusarium cress seeds rice straw compost
oxysporum f.sp.
cucumerinum, Fusarium
oxysporum f.sp. cubense,
Fusarium oxysporum
f.sp. melonis and
Rhizo ctonia sol ania AG4
Sclerotinia sclerotio- rum,
In vitro Four compost types: ACT: 14 d NCT: 14 d None Marín et al.
Didymella bryo niae,
In vivo: spent mushroom (2013)
Phytium aphanider matum, Melon plants substrate compost,
Phytophthora parasitica, grape marc compost,
Botrytis cinerea, and crop residues
V. dahliae, and compost and
Lecanicillium fungicola vermicompost
Didymella bryo niae,
Podosphaera fusca
Golovino myces Muskmelon Empty fruit ACT: 3 d Yeast extract and Naidu et al.
cichoracearum DC F-1 variety bunches and palm humic acid (2013)
‘Emerald oil mil effluent
314 Fertilizer Technology I: Synthesis
in different vermicomposts, irrespective of the parent material used for the
process. Accordingly, Yasir et al. (2009) detected 22 strains, most of them
identified as Streptomyces spp., with strong antifungal activity against several
plant pathogenic fungi in a vermicompost made from dairy sludge and paper
sludge. Similarly, Gopalakrishnan et al. (2011) reported the antifungal activity
of four species of this genus (Streptomyces tsusimaensis, Streptomyces
caviscabies, Streptomyces setonii, and Streptomyces africanus) against
Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. ciceri in a vermicompost made from plant debris. In
a recent study, Fritz et al. (2012) observed that the species composition of
vermicompost samples was similar to that in the respective teas, thus indicating
that the microbial content of the vermicompost strongly affected the microbial
content of the tea. Together, these findings indicate the potential usefulness of
vermicomposts and the resulting teas in the biocontrol of soil-borne plant
diseases caused by pathogenic fungi.
It is often difficult to determine the exact suppression mechanisms,
especially in composts and vermicomposts, owing to the complex structure of
the microbial community (Boulter et al., 2002; Lazcano and Domínguez, 2011).
Indeed, general rather than specific disease suppression effects are more
common following the addition of compost and vermicompost teas, as a broad
range of organisms may act as biocontrol agents (Hoitink et al., 1997; Arancon
et al., 2007; Lazcano and Domínguez, 2011; St. Martin and Brathwaite, 2012).
The microorganisms present in the tea may act as pathogen antagonists by
competing for space and nutrients, and/or by the production of antimicrobial
compounds (antibiosis), as well as of lytic and other extracellular enzymes
(Diánez et al., 2006, 2007; Koné et al., 2010; Alfano et al., 2011; St. Martin and
Brathwaite, 2012). Diánez et al. (2006) reported that inhibition of the growth
of nine pathogenic fungi, including Rhizoctonia solani and Pythium
aphanidermatum, was due to the siderophores excreted by the microorganisms
present in grape marc compost tea. The presence of microbial groups that
actively grow on substrates containing chitin and cellulose, the two major
constituents of phytopathogenic fungi and oomycete cell walls, may play an
important role in disease suppression mechanisms based on pathogen cell-
wall hydrolysis (mycoparasitism, hyperparasitism) (Kavroulakis et al., 2010).
Disease suppression may also be accompanied by an increase in the production
of defence substances (i.e., phenolic compounds) by the plant following the
application of compost and vermicompost teas (Singh et al., 2003; Siddiqui
et al., 2009). This mechanism, which is known as induction of systemic
resistance (ISR), involves expression of pathogenesis-related (PR) genes,
production of defence-related enzymes such as -1,3-glucanase, chitinase, and
peroxidase and the accumulation of phytoalexin (Sang et al., 2010; Sang and
Kim, 2011). Sang et al. (2010) found that the use of compost water extracts
suppressed infection of leaves by Phytophthora capsici via ISR, specifically by
enhancing the expression of PR genes and the chemical and structural defences
of pepper plants, including H
generation in the leaves and lignin
accumulation in the stems. These authors also observed that compost extracts
315Effects of Compo st and Vermicompost Teas as Organic Fertilizers
were effective in suppressing other fungal pathogens (Colletotrichum coccodes
in pepper leaves and C. orbiculare in cucumber leaves) via ISR, whereas they
did not observe inhibition of other bacterial pathogens, such as Xanthomonas
campestris pv. vesicatoria in pepper leaves and Pseudomonas syringae pv.
lachrymans in cucumber leaves. Overall, the efficacy of compost teas in disease
control depends on the target pathosystem (pathogen and host plant), the
methods of producing the teas and the method of application, as well as on
compost feedstock and the degree of maturity (St. Martin and Brathwaite,
Despite the increasing amount of information regarding the impact of compost
teas on plant growth and disease suppressiveness, there are still some crucial
issues to be addressed. For instance, it would be relevant to delve deeper into
whether compost tea preparations can be made reproducible and if there exists
a general recommendation for the process. Moreover, it is important to
determine on the one hand the best way in which to store the tea, whether at
ambient temperature, at 4°C or frozen; and on the other hand, how to get a
more concentrated product, i.e., by applying high pressure. Further studies
aimed at evaluating the use of compost tea in combination with other organic
fertilisers in sustainable agriculture are also needed. Along these lines,
microbiological profiles could be investigated so as to check if they can be used
as potential indicators of disease suppressiveness.
María Vela Cano is in receipt of a predoctoral research grant from La Junta de
Andalucía. María Gómez Brandón was financially supported by a postdoctoral
research grant from Fundación Alfonso Martín Escudero. The authors
acknowledge Paul Fraiz for his highly valuable help in language editing.
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... The aged vermicompost tea (vermicompost maturity) composition also has an influential effect on plants. Mature composts are probably released with higher levels of solvable mineral nutrients and a lower level of phytotoxic organic acids, as well as a reduced amount of heavy metals than unformed composts (Gomez-Brandon et al. 2015). This technology results in increased profits for farmers and industries. ...
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... There was little difference in S release among the treatments. This might be due to the influence of redox potential as a result of anaerobic incubation and anaerobic decomposition of vermicompost and native soil organic C [86,87]. In this study, mineralization of N, P and S varied between floodplain and terrace soils, which might be due to variation in their parent material and soil properties such as pH, organic matter content, etc. ...
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Conference Paper
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Vermicomposting is a process in which worms break down organic material and transform it into vermicompost, a valuable horticultural product. Additionally, research has found that vermicomposting can divert a significant amount of organic waste from the waste stream. The purpose of this study was to implement a pilot project vermicomposting system at Texas State University using red wiggler worms (Eisenia fetida) and cafeteria food waste as a primary feedstock to determine the potential economic value of the system. Approximently 50 pounds of food waste was collected weekly from one cafeteria on campus and combined with shredded university paper waste. Vermicomposting bins and systems were reviewed and a layered bin system was constructed using recycled 5-gallon food service buckets. The system was constructed in an 8’ x 10’ shed to reduce input costs in maintaining temperatures necessary for the worms to thrive. Worms were checked 2-3 times weekly and rotated through the system in approximately 3–4 months. Vermicompost was harvested at the end of each semester and then weighed and packaged for sale using a food scale. Worm castings were also integrated into the university gardens and greenhouse. Economic analysis results demonstrated the value of the operation to the university in terms of the product generated for use for sale as a fertilizer and the diverted cost of waste disposal versus the cost of operation. Results of the economic analysis will be presented and will be valuable in adding to the literature the potential value of vermicompost as a substitute for synthetic fertilizers or as an ingredient in compost-based potting mixes.
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Greenhouse trials show that solid vermicomposts can suppress plant parasitic nematodes in the field. In the demonstration, tomato plants were intentionally infested with Meloidogyne hapla and treated with vermicompost or thermophilic compost teas. Vermicompost teas can suppress spider mite, mealy bug and aphid populations in the field. Water control, aerated thermophilic compost tea were applied to the plants which in turn was assessed for damages. It was showed that the suppression of aphids is particularly important since they are key vectors in the transmission of plant viruses. It was also shown that the sooner a tea is used after it is brewed, the more effective it is in influencing plant growth and suppressing diseases.
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The effects of three composts (C 1 , C 2 and C 3) produced from Solid Olive Mill wastes (SOMW), Posidonia oceanica (Po) and Chicken Manure (CM), at different proportions, were tested on Pythium aphanidermatum. To evaluate the fungal pathogen inhibition, In vitro and In vivo tests were carried out. In vitro tests aimed to study the inhibitive effect of pure compost extracts and the isolated antagonist bacteria. In vivo tests drench and dip root inoculations were done on tomato seedlings. Pure extracts inhibited the fungal pathogen growth. Isolated bacteria also showed an antagonistic action on the mycelial growth of P. aphanidermatum and the 16sRNA identification showed that Bacillus subtilis and B. thuringiensis had the highest inhibition. In vivo tests showed that drench inoculated tomato seedlings sown in substrates with composts resisted to P. aphanidermatum. Root dip inoculated seedlings had a more sustained growth in substrates mixed with composts. Results showed that tested composts acted by both their chemical composition and microorganisms and could be used at appropriate proportions as biological fertilizers.
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The Ohio State University has recently proved the potential of vermicomposts in which vermicompost tea during brewing results in significant growth responses, even at the lowest concentration tested. The vermicompost are produced from different organic wastes, including cattle, pig, paper and food wastes. Vermicompost has been used by the researchers to suppress plant diseases such as Pythium, Rhizoctonia, Plectosporium and Verticillium, plant parasitic nematodes, such as soybean cyst nematodes Heterodera and root knot nematodes Meloidogyne hapla and arthropod pests. The aqueous extracts are both thermophilic composts and vermicomposts and are termed teas. They can be produced by different ways such as starting by mixing solid vermicompost with water. In the Ohio State laboratory method, the teas are prepared from food waste vermicompost, produced in automated continuous flow reactor systems.
A field experiment was conducted during 2003-2005 in an Alfisol at Umiam, Meghalaya, to study the effect of type of organic manure and compost teas on growth, yield and quality of ginger (Zingiber officinale Rosc.) in comparison to inorganic fertilizer (control). Highest rhizome yield (24.93 tonnes/ha) was obtained from poultry manure + CT2 which was significantly higher than other treatments (24.25 tonnes/ha) except poultry manure. Use of organic manure and compost teas in some cases enhanced quality and reduced input cost. Application of organic materials reduced soil acidity and improved organic matter and available nutrients of the soil.
Vermicompost (VC) is a nutritionally rich natural organic fertilizer, which releases nutrients relatively slowly in the soil. It improves quality of the plants along with physical and biological properties of soil, i. e., soil aeration, water-holding capacity and ecological balance of microbial soil biota. Aqueous extracts of vermicompost (AVC) inhibited spore germination of several fungi. They also affected the development of powdery mildews on balsam (Impatiens balsamina) and pea (Pisum sativum) caused by Erysiphe cichoracearum and Erysiphe pisi, respectively, in the field at very low concentrations (0.1-0.5 %). Soil amendment with VC (1-5%) induced synthesis of phenolic acids in pea. Maximum phenolic acids were detected in pea plants treated with 4% VC followed by 3% as compared to control. The induction of phenolic acids in plants was correlated with the degree of resistance in treated as compared to non-treated (control) pea plants. The growth of plants grown in VC-amended soil was much better than the growth of plants raised in non-amended soil.
Vermicomposting is a low-technology, environmentally-friendly process used to treat organic waste. The resulting vermicompost has been shown to have several positive impacts on plant growth and health. This organic fertilizer is therefore increasingly considered in agriculture and horticulture as a promising alternative to inorganic fertilizers and/or peat in greenhouse potting media. However, the effects of vermicompost on plant-soil systems are not yet fully understood. In this chapter we summarize the research carried out during the last few decades, and the proposed mechanisms explaining the effects of vermicompost on soil quality and plant growth. Although much effort has been dedicated to the investigation of biologically mediated mechanisms of promoting plant growth, the conflicting results indicate the need to open up new lines of research, defining a clear and objective concept of vermicompost, and clarifying the conditions and sources of variability in the biological effects. A case study is presented in which the direct and indirect effects of vermicompost on plant growth, as well as variability in the plant responses, are examined in a field experiment with sweet corn.
Compost amendments have been shown to provide manifold benefits, as long as compost of good quality is used and care is taken not to accumulate heavy metals or organic pollutants as a consequence of repeated applications. Among the advantages of compost as soil amendment is its potential to maintain soil organic matter, foster nutrient availability, suppress plant diseases and increase soil microbial abundance and activity, thus enhancing soil quality and fertility. However, only little is known about how compost amendments act as microbial inoculum to the soil and if the compost-borne microflora leaves a long-term imprint on soil microbial communities. In this chapter, it will be analysed if and to what extent soil microbial biomass, activity and community structure are affected by compost amendments. A long-term field study, in which four different composts have been applied annually since 1991, will be presented in detail.