(April 30, 2012) – First graders at Willard Elementary School recently received a hands-on lesson about soil health and the benefits of compost and compost tea from R&S Landscaping’s Eco Earth Plant Health Care Specialist, Greg Kelly.

Mr. Kearns’ class, who hosted Kelly, learned that soil health is an important factor in maintaining healthy plant growth. Farmers and researchers have known this for centuries and have used nature’s example to help replenish the soil. In nature, when herds of animals would move to another location after some time, researchers found that the soil in the area they had lived was more fertile. In essence, the herds were helping the soil by leaving their natural compost droppings.

The students were shown how farmers put these same ideas into practice in order to rejuvenate the soil on their own land. By rotating cows and then chickens in a field, the soil receives natural compost.

By definition, compost is alive with fungus and bacteria and nematodes and worms that compete and feed each other. Mycorrhizal Fungi is a special group of fungi living inside compost that are symbiotic with plants. In exchange for sugars from the plant the fungi supply minerals and nutrients in the form the plant can use. This symbiotic relationship is a plays a powerful role in the health of the plant.

Chemical based fertilizer provides a release of nutrients, similar to vitamins for a human being. Unfortunately, like vitamins, the nutrients are gone after they are absorbed. The benefits are not able to sustain themselves over the long term. Compost is a more sustainable solution. It does not seek to replicate nature because, in fact, it is natural already.

To test the natural benefits of compost, Kelly sprayed one of the class’ basil seedling trays with R&S Eco Earth Plant Health compost tea. Compost Tea is created by extracting the beneficial living micro-organisms from a compost pile in liquid a solution. It has the same beneficial ingredients and organisms alive in compost in a more portable form. This liquid is usually applied to trees and shrubs to improve their health. In this instance, the first grader’s are performing an experiment to see if there will be a difference in growth and health for these basil plants.