First author: Department of Botany and Plant Pathology, Oregon State University; and second author: U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agriculture Research Service-Horticulture Crops Research Laboratory, Corvallis, OR 97330
Compost tea is being used increasingly in agricultural production to control plant diseases. However, there has been limited investigation relating disease control efficacy to various compost tea production methods, particularly compost tea produced with active aeration and additives to increase microbial population densities in compost tea. Aerated compost tea (ACT) and nonaerated compost tea (NCT), produced with or without additives, was investigated for the suppression of damping-off of cucumber caused by Pythium ultimum. Compost tea was used to drench soilless container medium inoculated with P. ultimum; effect on damping-off ranged from not suppressive to consistently suppressive depending on the method used to produce the tea. The most consistent formulation for damping-off suppression was ACT produced with kelp and humic acid additives. Producing ACT with a molasses-based additive inconsistently suppressed damping-off; evidence suggests that residual nutrients can interfere with disease suppression. Heating or diluting compost tea negated suppression. Across all compost tea samples, there was no significant relationship of bacterial populations, measured as active cells, total cells, or CFU, to disease suppression. However, for all ACT produced without the molasses-based additive, there was a threshold of bacterial population density (6 log10 active cells per ml, 7.48 log10 total cells per ml, or 7 log10 CFU per ml) above which compost teas were suppressive.