Iowa no-tiller Ryan Gibbs says a great compost extract starts with high-quality compost. His preferred methods to make it are Johnson-Su bioreactors and vermicomposting. His composts consist of woodchips, straw, alfalfa and livestock manure left to decompose for about 1 year before extraction. Photo: Michaela Paukner

Inoculating No-Till Soils with Compost Extract

No-tiller sees powerful bio-boost from spreading concentrated microorganisms pulled from compost

It’s often said that a handful of high-quality compost contains more microorganisms than there are people on the planet. With that flurry of agriculturally beneficial activity, it’s no wonder compost adds vitality to soils. For a backyard gardener, a few dozen pounds of compost can make a huge difference, but how would a large commercial farmer with thousands of acres get the same advantage without needing many hundreds of tons

For Hopkinton, Iowa, no-tiller Ryan Gibbs, the answer is compost extract. 

“Research has shown that if you were to spread dry compost, it could take up to a few thousand pounds per acre to get the same benefit you get from washing down the compost and putting it into a liquid form to spread,” Gibbs says. 

In a practice he calls “reinoculating the soil,” Gibbs feels strongly that adding compost extract to his fields unlocks biological benefits. Although hard to pinpoint due to variables, he believes he’s consistently seeing a 4-17 bushel per acre yield advantage in rows with compost extract applied in furrow compared to check strips. Although the benefit seems somewhat less on already robust soils, Gibbs says he sees the most improvement in marginal fields. 

“If you go out to the timber and grab some soil, it's beautiful, black and has a great smell, but if you walk 100 feet into a corn field, the soil isn’t like that,” Gibbs says. “We've killed a lot of the organisms with tillage, heavy chemical use, single cropping and by…

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Ian Gronau

Ian Gronau is a Contributing Editor for Lessiter Publications, with primary support responsibilities for Precision Farming Dealer, Strip-Till Strategies and the Strip-Till Farmer Website. He is a graduate of Chicago’s Columbia College and has been preparing content for magazines, websites and newspapers since 2009, and has been recognized with several awards.

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