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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.

Allison Hornor

Allison L. Hornor
Graduate Student
Department of Crop and Soil Science
Cornell University
706 Bradfield Hall
(607) 255-3226

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