Soil Biology - Microbes: Part VI: ANAEROBIC

The Naughty Word

“Going anaerobic” is the biggest fear of most novice tea brewers. What this means is that the aerobic (oxygen-loving) bacteria have been taken over by the anaerobic (oxygen-fearing) bacteria. This happens when much of the oxygen in the solution has been consumed by the aerobic bacteria during their natural metabolism. Oftentimes this occurs because either the grower isn’t applying enough oxygen to the tank in the first place, or the initial culture contained too many elevated levels of anaerobic bacteria (usually residing in the guano portion of the mix). Once your tea begins to smell putrid, rank or “sewery”, that generally means it has gone anaerobic and needs to be discarded. Now, if you're using some form of fish emulsion or kelp-based product, you may find that the solution smells pretty bad from the get-go; but when this stuff goes bad you know it!!!

As discussed previously, this occurs 3-5 days after you put a compost or ready-made tea product into solution. We strongly recommend and encourage you to use a microbial tea with the ability to maintain it’s aerobic capacity for at least 7-10 days so you can continue to feed the product throughout the week in small doses. This ensures total coverage in your soil or container. 

If you’re worried about your soil going anaerobic, then you should probably stay away from lactobacillus fermentation. Lactobacillus bacteria are facultative anaerobes meaning that in high oxygen environments they metabolize using oxygen and in low oxygen levels they shift to anaerobic fermentation. This means that for some time they will promote a high-oxygen environment, but as soon as oxygen starts to run out, your anaerobic bacteria levels will skyrocket! This can lead to weird nutrient interactions and mess with the soil food web causing your plant to show signs of nutrient deficiency when there actually is no such deficiency, just an inability to uptake them. 

The best way to combat going anaerobic is to continue to promote high dissolved oxygen levels in your solution as well as continually feeding a balanced diet of aerobically dominant microbial solutions over time. 


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