Turf & Rec

Features Agronomy
Serving of compost tea results in healthier greens at reduced costs


December 6, 2012
By Mike Jiggens


Topics

By Myron Love

Golf course superintendents who want to help prevent disease from
gaining a foothold on their greens—and have healthier-looking greens in
the process—should try regular servings of compost tea, according to
Dale Overton.

     Overton is the director of Overton Environmental Services, a Winnipeg-based enterprise that has developed an aerated compost tea made up of worm castings, high-grade compost, kelp, humic and fulvic acids with the addition of bio-activator compounds. Speaking in November to an audience of superintendents attending the Manitoba Golf Superintendents Association (MGSA) 2012 Manitoba Golf and Turf Conference, he described how his company’s compost tea can help prevent disease from gaining footholds on greens and lead to healthier turf.

     He pointed out how much the greens at Riverway Golf Course in Vancouver benefitted from his firm’s compost tea. 

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     “Riverway was built on a landfill and has always had a lot of problems with its vegetation,” Overton said. “We treated the front nine holes with compost tea, and the result was that the grass on front nine holes had significantly healthier roots than the back nine. The use of compost tea was the only difference between them.”

     Overton’s topic was “soil ecology and integrated approaches to turfgrass management.” He began with a detailed overview of all the elements of life that make up a natural soil ecosystem, including photosynthetic organisms, bacteria, fungi, protozoa, nematodes, arthropods and earthworms, (and their various sub-groups) and how they work together to produce a healthy soil environment for strong grass and plant growth.

     “There is a lot of stuff going on in the soil,” he said. “There are hundreds of thousands of different species present and interacting on a constant basis.”

     When you spray to kill disease, you also kill off beneficial microbes and open the site to further infection, he noted. Using a biological approach to disease control also helps reduce leaching of phosphorus, holds calcium and retains nutrients in the soil.

     In response to a series of questions following his presentation, Overton noted that prior to application, the compost tea should be mixed with water in a three-to-one ratio—i.e. 150 gallons of water to 50 gallons of tea. Spraying should be done with 06 or 08 nozzles with the inline filter removed to prevent clogging. And because UV light is bad for the organisms in the compost tea, the product should never be sprayed past 10 a.m.

     He also cautioned against allowing organic material to humify in composts made for compost tea. That involves regular turnings of the compost.

     He noted that, in his opinion, the compost tea would be ineffective in treating snow mould because the organisms are not active when the temperature dips under five degrees.