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The Presidio Trust Uses Compost Tea to Keep Golf Course Turf Healthy

San Francisco, CA

The Presidio Golf Course is leading by example. An award-winning national leader in environmentally sensitive golf course management, the Presidio is helping to move the industry away from chemical dependency and toward non-chemical practices.

The historic and dramatically beautiful 18-hole public course operates with a solid Integrated Pest Management Plan featuring maintenance practices that focus on long-term prevention of pests through a combination of environmentally friendly techniques. Among those techniques is the application of compost tea, produced using Growing Solutions Compost Tea Systems, the industry leader.

Since 1997, Growing Solutions Compost Tea Systems have been in use in the agricultural and horticultural industries, especially by organic farmers, vineyard managers and commercial nursery growers. With the growing movement to reduce the use of chemicals and conserve water on green spaces, compost tea made in Growing Solutions Systems is finding its way into turf management and other green applications worldwide. Growing Solutions Compost Tea Systems are featured in the February 2008 issue of Turf, a magazine for turf care professionals.

As integrated pest management coordinator for the Presidio Trust, Christa Conforti helps the golf course managers deal with turf disease problems. In 2000, she helped conduct a field trial on the Presidio course to evaluate the effects of compost tea applications. The trial involved compost tea produced in Growing Solutions Compost Tea Systems and applied to the greens with a boom sprayer.

Results of the field trial showed that turf treated with the compost tea had longer root length and less microdochium patch—a foliar turf disease—than the untreated turf.

“When we completed our compost tea field trial, the superintendent at the Presidio Golf Course determined that it is well worth his time and effort to make compost tea an integral part of the turf IPM program,” Conforti says. She says the Presidio has been treating all 18 greens weekly with one gallon of compost tea per 1,000 square feet since May 2001. The use of fungicides dropped 69 percent in the first year and has remained at the lower level since that time.

The Presidio Trust uses two 100-gallon Growing Solutions Compost Tea Systems and Growing Solutions’ Compost Tea Catalyst. The catalyst is a proprietary blend listed by the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) and is formulated to stimulate diverse microbial growth during the compost tea brewing process. Conforti says the Presidio Trust sends Growing Solutions-made compost tea to a lab for annual quality control tests. “We consistently get good numbers for diversity of microorganisms,” she says, adding that the Growing Solutions Compost Tea System is easy to use.

“We’ve had two new golf course superintendents since the field trial, and both arrived with a healthy dose of skepticism about compost tea,” Conforti explains. “But when they realize they haven’t been spraying much fungicide, and haven’t been seeing much disease, they’re convinced that compost tea is the way to go.”

Conforti says she regularly compares the amount of fungicide used by the Presidio Golf Course with that of private golf courses in the San Francisco area. She’s found that the Presidio’s greens, sprayed weekly with compost tea made with the Growing Solutions System, use roughly 40 percent to 80 percent less fungicide than the region’s private courses that aren’t sprayed with compost tea. She notes that private courses aren’t held to the same restrictions regulating the use of chemicals as San Franciso’s municipal courses are.

The Presidio Trust has expanded its use of Growing Solutions-produced compost tea to include two ball fields. “Basically, we’re using compost tea anywhere that bulky compost would interfere, for instance, places that are mowed or have lots of foot traffic, like the greens and baseball infields.”

The Earth-friendly maintenance practices at the Presidio Golf Course have resulted in top-quality greens that meet the exacting standards of Arnold Palmer Golf Management.

In 2001 the Presidio’s environmentally sensitive course maintenance program was recognized with the Environmental Leader in Golf Award for a public course sponsored by the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America. In 2003, the Presidio course was certified by Audubon International as partner in the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program. In the same year, the course received an award from the Environmental Protection Agency for its efforts to protect and preserve the environment.

Boulder, Colorado

Founded in 1976, Eco-Cycle (Boulder, Colorado) is one of the oldest and largest private non-profit recyclers in the United States. In 2004—in pursuit of its goal to increase the total amount of materials diverted from the local landfill—Eco-Cycle began to offer commercial collection of organic materials (food waste, plant waste and non-recyclable paper products) from businesses within the City of Boulder. At present, the collected material is delivered to a nearby commercial composting facility. In addition to eventually expanding its commercial organic collection program outside of Boulder, Eco-Cycle is also exploring options to develop its own composting site.

Community outreach and education have always been a big part of Eco-Cycle’s strategy for program participation. In keeping with this philosophy, the organic material collection program was designed to create a link in people’s minds between healthy soil, good local food, and their own compostable discards. Boulder already has a successful farmers’ market featuring local growers and sustainable agriculture. To begin building visibility and support for its budding organics recovery and composting program, Eco-Cycle took a novel approach by introducing compost tea to the Boulder community at the farmers’ market.

In 2004 Eco-Cycle purchased a Growing Solutions 25-gallon Compost Tea System, set up some plant trials to demonstrate the effectiveness of compost tea, and regularly staffed a booth at the farmers’ market to sell the concept and the product, dubbed “Eco-Cycle Microbe Brew.” The positive trial results drew plenty of interest, and customers took tea home to experiment on their own lawns and gardens. “Microbe Brew” was so successful from the very beginning that Eco-Cycle decided to purchase an additional Growing Solutions 100-gallon System for the program. The brewer is on a trailer that is brought to the farmers’ market booth, where tea is dispensed into gallon or quart containers for sale. Eco-Cycle also rents two-gallon backpack sprayers to those who need it to apply their tea.

In 2005, the City of Boulder Water Conservation Office began offering a 50 percent rebate off the purchase price of “Microbe Brew” to city residents, showing their support for the program and the concept that healthy soils and landscapes help conserve water.

In the future, Eco-Cycle plans to add vermicompost and composting worms alongside its “Microbe Brew” at the farmers’ market. They will also expand their testing of compost tea in conjunction with local growers and perhaps municipal parks and golf courses. Most importantly, the compost tea program has proven to be the community conversation piece that Eco-Cycle had hoped for to start building enthusiasm for its long-range composting vision.

To learn more about Eco-Cycle’s compost tea program, go to http://www.ecocycle.org/compost/composttea.cfm

By Cindy Salter, Growing Solutions Research & Education Director

Bandon Dunes Golf Resort
Bandon, Oregon

“We were looking for a way to suppress turfgrass disease without using fungicides. We’ve seen positive results from using the tea, and we haven’t used fungicides for a long time.”

Troy Russell, Resort Superintendent

Bejo Seeds, Inc.

“My research over the past four years has demonstrated the value of compost teas for organic fertilization and bio-disease control. I wouldn’t consider organic production without including the use of compost tea produced with Growing Solutions’ Systems.”

Joel Reiten, Seed Production Manager

Cascade Cuts
Bellingham, Washington

“Our last controlled study in the fall of 2001 showed control of pathogenic fungi on a wide range of bulb crops. It was nice to be able to substantiate what we had been experiencing with compost tea over the last few years over a variety of crops. The disease control achieved was similar to that of fungicidal drenches that are normally used in commercial production of these forced bulbs. Our crew is happy to see the step away from the use of dangerous fungicides in our facility, and as an owner, I feel responsible to reduce worker exposure to chemicals wherever possible.

“Not only does the compost tea provide disease protection, saving us many dollars in expensive fungicides on ornamental crops, it allows our herb division to grow crops as never before. Herb crops which formally we could not grow well by conventional methods are now practical by our sustainable methods. A healthy soil structure, increased vigor, and sustained availability of nutrients are among the many benefits we have enjoyed. Compost tea has opened this door and made the impossible possible. We feel prepared to move our very complex nursery organic, and are proud to say this after 21 years of waiting for the final tool to arrive. Thanks Growing Solutions!”

Alison Kutz-Troutman, Owner

In Harmony
Organic Based Landscape Services
Bothell, Washington

“We have been using the compost tea brewer for three years in our operations. The results from the machine have been outstanding. We have clients that after one application call and tell us to use the teas on their property every visit. We have converted our service vans in order to use compost teas exclusively for fungus disease control on woody ornamental plants and to enhance soil environments for grass plants. We love using the compost tea brewers and we are sold on the results we see from the teas.”

Ladd Smith, Owner

Iwamoto & Gean Farm
Oxnard, California

“In the year and a half since integrating the Growing Solutions System100 into our cultural system, we have seen significant results, especially in vegetable yields; it’s a great tool.”

Kaz Iwamoto, Partner

King County Airport, Boeing Field
Seattle, Washington

“I have been getting good results with the compost tea. Areas where I have been using it have a large increase in the amount of worms in the soil, the drainage is better and areas where I was having root problems are now healthy and the plants more robust.”

Christine Groubert, Landscape Management

Oregon Coastal Flowers
Tillamook, Oregon

“Compost tea has become the cornerstone of disease prevention in our production. Weekly applications of tea as a soil inoculant in our calla tuber production has given complete control over fungal pathogens in this normally problematic crop. Not only has it enhanced tuber growth and vigor during their growth cycle, it has made a definite improvement in maintaining health and bulkiness throughout their storage period. In addition, compost tea as a foliar spray has prevented powdery mildew and fungal spotting within our artichoke and cut flower production.

“Over the past few years, we have relied on Growing Solutions to keep us informed on changing improvements and developments within this technology. This knowledgeable support, backed by research, has been crucial to our success in using compost tea.”

Patrick Zweifel, Owner

Presidio Golf Course
San Francisco, California

“Since completing our compost tea field trial, the superintendent at Presidio Golf Course has determined that it is well worth his time and effort to make compost tea an integral part of the turf IPM program. We have been treating all 18 greens weekly with one gallon of compost tea per 1,000 square feet since May 2001. Fungicide use dropped 69% in 2002 compared to 2001. Since we no longer have untreated control areas on the greens, it is impossible to determine the exact extent to which compost tea contributed to the reduction in fungicide use. But given the results of the field trial, we feel that compost tea plays an important role in keeping turf diseases below our threshold levels.”

Christa Conforti, Presidio Trust IPM Coordinator

Territorial Vineyards & Wine Co.
Veneta, Oregon

“The compost tea used in my vineyard has worked particularly well. The plants are really healthy and so is the soil....With the tea, the mildew shows up, hovers, and goes away. It never builds up enough steam to take over a tea-sprayed area. In the sulfur-sprayed areas, if there’s one to two percent mold one day, there will be 10 percent the next and 40 percent the day after that.”

Jeff Wilson-Charles, Owner

Yachats Specialties
Yachats, Oregon

“We have a small farm in the Oregon Coast mountains. On our 15 acres we have 3,000 sq. ft. of greenhouse where we grow herbs and specialty produce for restaurant and home use. We also have 12 acres of pasture for organically grown cattle for beef sales. This, along with an orchard, and mushroom logs. Our primary source of soil and plant nutrition is compost tea. We use a mix of compost, food grade molasses and kelp in a brew of 50 gallons of water. We apply it with a tractor-mounted sprayer. In the sprayer we use 25 gallons of tea, 25 gallons of water and 1 gallon of organic fish liquid fertilizer. We have been using this mixture for the last three years, and our soil, plants and general farm production has been the best, and healthiest over the seven years of our full operation.”

Verl Jensen, Owner

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