BACKGROUND: Multiple studies have been reported on the effect of compost tea on suppression of certain plant diseases. However, relatively little work has been done to investigate the effect of vermicompost tea on yield and nutritional quality of vegetable crops. In this study, experiments were conducted to determine the effect of extraction method on vermicompost tea quality and subsequent effects on growth, mineral nutrients, phytonutrients and antioxidant activity of pak choi plants grown under organic (vermicompost) and synthetic (Osmocote) fertilisation. Three vermicompost teas obtained by different extraction methods, namely non-aerated vermicompost tea (NCT), aerated vermicompost tea (ACT) and aerated vermicompost tea augmented with microbial enhancer (ACTME), were applied to the plants. Aerated water served as control.
RESULTS: Mineral nutrients were significantly higher in ACTME compared with other teas, but total microbial population and activity did not differ with extraction method. All vermicompost teas similarly enhanced plant production, mineral nutrients and total carotenoids, and this effect was most prominent under organic fertilisation. Antioxidant activity and total phenolics were higher under organic compared with synthetic fertilisation. Vermicompost teas generally decreased phenolics under organic fertilisation and increased them under synthetic fertilisation compared with the control.
CONCLUSION: The effect of vermicompost tea on crop growth is largely attributable to mineral nutrient, particularly N, uptake by plants. Non-significant differences among extraction methods on plant response within fertiliser regimes suggest that aeration and additives are not necessary for growth promotion and nutrient quality under the conditions reported here. Copyright © 2009 Society of Chemical Industry