Interview With Jack Chambers – Part III

This just in – direct from Shanghai, no less! I’m totally serious. Not only has Jack been incredibly generous with his time, but he even replies from foreign cities (remember, he is a commercial airline pilot)! First Tokyo, now Shanghai – pretty cool!
Ok, on with the interview…This time I’ve included a couple of responses.

Can you tell us a little about your flow-through reactors? How many do you have now? Would you recommend this type of system?

JC – Our flow through reactors are 90′ long, 5′ wide, and 2′ deep. They sit 18″ off the ground. We adapted a design from the ones Dr. Clive Edwards developed in England, back in the 1980’s. A very simple idea really. On the bottom of the bin is a screened floor. The worm castings (vermicompost) actually rest on this screen. The screen is a 2″ by 4″ material.

The idea being that you feed at the top of the flow through reactor, and the majority of worms are at the top working the material. At the bottom, just above the screen is a breaker bar which cuts the finished material, which falls through the screen. The worms work the material for about 60 days. In other words, what we feed on top today, will come out the bottom of the reactor in about 60 days.

The system works very well. We had some issues in the beginning with the beds heating up. We solved that be watching how we pre-compost the material.

We currently have 3 reactors, and over the winter we will install a 4th.

Yes, I would recommend this system. It is especially good for making high quality vermicompost that will be used as a starter material for making vermicompost tea. You have a great deal of control and can turn out a very consistent product.

I know you’ve worked quite a bit with local vineyards in your area. Have you found vermicomposts (and worm teas) to be a really beneficial for this industry?

JC – We have been fortunate to work with some high end vineyards in both Napa and Sonoma counties. They are using a cup of our vermicompost when they plant, or replant their vineyards. They find that the vines do very well with this small addition. It costs them about .12 cents a plant. Sort of like insurance for your vine. A vine costs about $3.00. If you lose the vine, you need to replant it next year. Now you have $6.00 in the hole, and you are a year behind with that vine.

Some vineyards were losing up to 20% of their new plantings. When they use our vermicompost, the losses are less than 1%. One vineyard used our vermicompost, and after planting 3,000 vines, they found that they didn’t lose a single vine.

Different growers are using tea, mostly to fertigate their vineyards. They find that the vines respond well to the tea. It is low in NPK, but very high in microbial activity, and to put it simply it acts as an inoculant in the soil. It helps bring microbial life to the soil.

In our vineyard, we use the vermicompost tea as both a soil drench (fertigate) and as a foliar spray. We have found that it helps create a nice canopy for the fruit, and also keeps powdery mildew at bay. We also spray our roses with tea and it is very good at keeping powdery mildew away, and good for black spot and rust as well.

Stay tuned – still more to come!

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    • Alison
    • December 6, 2007

    Hi Bentley, this is excellent ! I wonder if they have examined the tea under a microscope as a tea with good fungi content is supposed to work very well at protecting the leaves from diseases and their tea is doing just that so I would be keen to know what the tea looked like under the microscope.

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