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[compostteas] E. coli and compost teas
Just a note about Nafiisa Sobratee's message...E. coli are facultative
aerobes, which means that they prefer to live in anaerobic environments,
but can live and reproduce very well in aerobic environments. In fact,
when scientists work with E. coli in the laboratory, we use aerobic
conditions. There is some evidence and preliminary data that human
pathogens are not a significant concern in compost tea if they are not
present in the compost used to brew the tea, but there have been no
articles published in peer reviewed scientific journals on this topic.
Remember also that E. coli are soil microorganisms and live in many soil
environments. There are many different strains of E. coli, some that are
harmless to humans, some that are mildly pathogenic and some, like E.
coli 0157:H7, that are extremely virulent to humans. I think the more
important question to ask is: "are there virulent strains of E. coli
in compost tea?" Several different researchers, including myself are
working on this topic and at least one paper (from researchers at Soil
Foodweb Incorporated) is in the review process and due to be published
soon. It will be very interesting to see the results of this research.
Currently the use of compost tea is not permitted under the new National
Organic Program (USDA Organic) because of concerns about E. coli and
other pathogens. Hopefully research in this area will define safe ways to
brew and apply compost tea so that this emerging sustainable technology
can continue to be used in agricultural systems.
Department of Crop and Soil Science
706 Bradfield Hall
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