Gardening

What is Leachate? What is it for? How can my Garden and Agriculture benefit?

What is leachate?

Leachate is an  organic liquid fertilizer.

It is produced thanks to a transformation process caused by the degradation of organic matter ( compost ), generating an organic liquid of great value and use as an insecticide or fertilizer that contains high concentrations of mineral salts, nutrients, microorganisms and other secondary derivatives.

It is in common use in environmental science. Its most popular use is that which is managed in controlled waste deposits.

It has a black-brown color and removes latex, phenolic substances and quinones from their oxidation. materials that are toxic to worms. 

Its quality will always depend on the initial material with which the compost is produced and the procedures used when the composting process is carried out , the temperature it reaches, the time used, the humidity of the process and the good maintenance of the leachate when it is stored.

 In the so-called vermicomposters, They are much more abundant, due to a special system that collects them , unlike domestic composters that have more difficulties because they come into direct contact with the soil , infiltrating quickly.

How does leachate work?

It is a liquid highly concentrated in mineral salts and nutrients, so it is always convenient to dilute the leachate in water, approximately in a 1: 4 ratio, because if it is poured directly, it is capable of burning the plants.

It can also be diluted in the plant watering system .

When obtained under the garden compost preparation system, its extraction is almost impossible.

So a «compost tea» is made , which consists of keeping the compost in piles of water, decanting it or filtering it after a few days to obtain a liquid substance with properties very similar to leachate.

What  it is not possible to separate it from a domestic composter, what will happen is that it will infiltrate the soil directly , so it is convenient to move the composter every time it is emptied if we want to provide nutrients to the soil.

Once this process has been completed, the compost will also be used in a better way.

It must be stored in a dark , dry but cool place, in order to prevent the entry of pathogens and achieve an anaerobic fermentation that will cause microorganisms produce secondary methanolites. 

Why is it important in agriculture?

Leachate has been widely shown to be not only a good liquid fertilizer, but also a very effective insecticide for the control of pests and diseases of plants and in agriculture .

It is very powerful as an insecticide against blight that attacks potatoes and tomatoes , powdery mildew and fusarium that affects apple trees. And they are also ideal to repel other pests such as the proliferation of fungi.

What advantages and disadvantages does it have?

Advantage

  1. They have a great abundance and diversity of beneficial microorganisms that compete with others for space, food and site of infection in the case of pathogens, so they are not considered pesticides per se.
  2. Recently, they began to be used in the protection of crops, pests and wide-ranging diseases such as blight in potatoes and tomatoes, fusarium of apple trees and powdery mildew.
  3. They have the property of providing the plant with much greater resistance to infection, antagonism and competition with pathogens, among others.
  4. There are leachates that contain antimicrobial chemicals that inhibit the growth of fungi. When applied to the surface of the leaf, beneficial microorganisms occupy the main niches and consume the exudates that the pathogenic microorganisms should consume, an action that blocks their development and expansion.
  5. They suppress harmful conditions that lead to diseases, such as:

    • Inhibition of spore germination in diseased plants.
    • Stopping the expansion of the lesion on the surface of the plant.
    • Competition with microorganisms for food and nutrients.
    • Predation of the microorganisms that cause the disease.
    • Elimination of organisms with production of antibiotics.
    • Increase in the health of the plant and, with this, its ability to defend against diseases.

Disadvantages

The disadvantages are mostly associated with the production conditions of this organic liquid fertilizer, which comes from two fundamental processes: compost (where it cannot be separated) and vermicompost (where it is separated from organic remains, filtering it with the help of a tray device.

This last modality is the best one if you want to use it regularly to strengthen plants, improve resistance and fight pests.

Therefore, both processes require some conditions that could bring us difficulties or barriers, if they are not met. These are:

  • Availability of certain trained personnel, with time available to attend the leachate production device from  compost or vermicompost methods. 
  • Knowledge and constant checking of the environmental variables to be constantly monitored , such as humidity, temperature, oxygen and adequate supply of organic matter gradually.

How is leachate transported?

Generally, the fundamental elements that constitute a good catchment and transport system  standardized are as follows:

  • Drainage layer.
  • Pumping point equipped with pump house and sump,
  • Collecting tube.
  • Transport pipe to the pond or storage tank.

In the case of  leachate produced in a landfill,  There are two systems for collecting and transporting the generated liquids: manual and automated.

Where can I buy leachate as an organic fertilizer?

In any nursery or plant store you may find leachate. In any case, we have purchased it on Amazon and it has given us good results:

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What types of treatments are there?

Household compost

It is a process of decomposition of organic matter that allows obtaining a fertilizer with excellent characteristics, from the use of vegetable waste from the kitchen and garden. Numerous microorganisms, fungi and invertebrates are involved in decomposing organic waste, converting it into humus.

These microorganisms live in the presence of air, so there is no putrefaction or bad odors.

They have many advantages, among which we can highlight the improvement they give to the water retention capacity of soils, making them more resistant to frost.

With the help of compost we increase the amount of organic matter in the soil, for the benefit of the plants .

With this homemade technique we can also produce leachate that will act as a great protector of our plants, due to its powerful pesticidal and nutritional properties.

But  cannot be separated after compost maturing, For this reason, it is necessary to take advantage of it in this modality, with the help of the technique called «compost tea», where it will infiltrate the earth directly , so that if we want to provide constant nutrients to the soil, we must move the composter  every time it be emptied.

Vermicomposting

In the case of vermicomposters, we do have a deliberate system to guarantee the collection of this organic fertilizer, but not its application, because the leachate we tend to spray directly on the plants once collected.

Let’s see what a vermicomposting consists of and how is manufactured.

It is a process that consists of the transformation of organic matter through the decomposing action of worms , which with the help of their digestive system , convert the remains into a stable product, called vermicompost , ideal for fertilizing the plants of the home.

 This extraordinary domestic process called vermicomposting, It is carried out in a cube or cylinder divided into trays with holes that connect all its floors.

This design provides ideal conditions for the life of the California red worms or Eisenia foetida , protagonists of this story. Using a device divided into trays makes the vermicomposting process more convenient.

This red worm is the result of crossing other species to get a variety that is capable of high performance in the production of humus.

It feeds on a great diversity of organic remains, which it transforms into worm castings or vermicompost.

On a daily basis, it feeds on a quantity of waste that is equal to its own weight , transforming 60% of the food eaten into vermicompost.

In addition, it tolerates relatively acidic media and supports small concentrations of heavy metals. In the same way, supports a wide temperature range, because it can also develop in a fairly wide temperature range .

They have activity between  3ºC and 35ºC, although its best is around 15-25ºC  and they need high humidity, which is around 70-90%.

Humidity is very important, if it is higher than the maximum range of 90%, the matter will stop being oxygenated and the process will be damaged, because the worms breathe through the skin. Otherwise, if there is little humidity, the survival of the population will be much more difficult, since they always need a humid environment, both to move and to ingest food.
Did you know…
A population of several thousand worms will be able to transform the daily remains of the whole family.

And it reproduces very quickly if the conditions are right. Every 7 days it lays an egg that will hatch after a few weeks, from which between one and twenty small worms will hatch, a few millimeters long and whitish in color.

Likewise, they themselves degrade the organic remains and in about three months they will have become adults, thus being able to reproduce with their congeners. At this rate, in a few months our worm population may double.

In ideal conditions they can live up to 16 years. They do not present diseases or have predators within the vermicomposter that can deplete its population.

The vermicomposter is a device made up of several trays, arranged one on top of the other, which have a multitude of holes that allow worms to pass between the different levels. The lower part is a liquid tank and has a tap for the leachate outlet.

At the top, the vermicomposter has a lid with small openings for air intake. If there is excess moisture, the worms will not be able to breathe. For this reason, it has the previously mentioned leachate collection system.

The excess moisture from the different materials will drain into the tank, carrying away valuable nutrients present in the process materials. Therefore this liquid can be used to water and fertilize our plants.
Careful with this
To use the liquid fertilizer it is necessary to dilute it with three parts of water, if not it can be very strong for our plants.  But the best thing is that it will always be available to use it whenever we want.

In case it runs out, it is always possible to get more, by watering the vermicomposter.

But the lid must always remain closed . And it is necessary to prevent entry of light, flooding in case of rains and visit of insects . The worms will never leave the container, which we can place on a terrace or balcony, because they will always gladly access food, humidity, darkness and perennial shelter .

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