What is your opinion/experience with alfalfa and AA tea? & Qs

July 19, 2019

I have heard so much about aa for roses that I decided to try it out somewhat systematically.

First I worked in several handfuls of aa pellets around the rose bushes. Ten days later no harm but nothing remarkable,

Meanwhile I made aa tea. There are many recipes on the WWW which are all variations on a theme. The one I followed is like this: In a large plastic vessel with a lid, like a garbage can, soak aa pellets in water, about 1 cup pellets per gallon of water. Stir it thoroughly at least once a day and keep loosely covered (not air tight). Let it ferment for minimum 3 days, better 7 days. Some say even longer fermentation is ok. At this point can augment it with additives such as epsom salt, whatever your heart desires, or use it straight. Add the fluid portion, leaving the aa solids at the bottom, to your plants. Many people add water to the aa solids again (same volume as before) and let it ferment for another 7 days, stirring once a day. Best to locate the container in a remote spot because it develops a very strong smell. (well maybe not that bad)

I used 12 gallon flip top storage boxes. By day 3 the mixture has a forceful barnyard smell. By day 7 it has a forceful pee and poop barnyard smell. The liquid becomes thick almost like syrup and a translucent amber color. It can draw flies. I am not sure of this but it seems to work better if the container is in good sunlight. I have had two containers side by side and the one getting more sun was much thicker and more amber colored. (Cant be that much temperature difference between the two?) I read another members comment, she too thought that putting the buckets in the sun worked better.

Recommended to apply about one gallon of this brew per rose bush. And reapply every week to every 4-6 weeks.

I applied about 1/3 of a gallon (hadn't any idea what could happen) per rose bush and 1-2 cups to every tomato plant and other vegetable.

I didn't know what to expect. Three days later I came out in the morning and something was different. I had to take a second look. All my vegetables seemed to stand taller, stronger and straighter. There was a very distinct change.

Roses of course have a different growth style and rate. By day six or seven I could see tiny shoots/canes coming out at the base of some of the rose bushes. Since Jume 5th I have made 4 applications (including the second less strong brew) and all my roses show basal break. Certainly it is possible all those bushes would have put out canes anyway. But most of them were hurting and not doing much and the aa tea 'seemed' to make them stir, wake up and grow. Now they are also putting out shoots along the branches like crazy.

I gave some to my climbing hydrangea and it almost feels like I see the tips growing longer along the fence in real time. That has never happened.

I have read comments: its nothing but nitrogen. I dont think so. The vegetables did not put on just vegetative growth; there has been much fruit set. Best I have had in my garden. This is my first time observing the growth of roses carefully so I dont have anything to compare it to but looks happy to me.

There are also comments: you are creating anaerobic fermentation, wrong, wrong, wrong. Correct but that the best I can do and it works. Maybe some anaerobic fermentation is needed to release the goodies? who knows?

I am posting some examples in pictures below.

Here is my question: Can this go wrong? Can you apply too much, too often? No one says. There does not seem to be any consensus as to how much to apply and how often. And since this stimulates growth when is the best time for the last application? (zone 6b/7a)

From my very limited experience this probably works best when the plant is going to have a growth spurt anyway. Like wind in your sails. But it is possible there is more to this. Haven't observed for long enough.

Overall this has been a great garden discovery for me. I dont think its a fluke and is going to be reproducible.

Have you tried AA or AA tea? How did it work for you?

Comments (119)

  • Rekha A 9a Houston area

    Just wanted to add that I used the blue gold rose product from amazon earlier this year. I did not find any huge difference, but it's also possible I did not use it consistently.

    katyajini thanked Rekha A 9a Houston area
  • Vaporvac Z6-OhioRiverValley

    I've been making my tea with A. Hay for quite a few years and it's been fabulous. I can really tell when I've slacked. It also really seems to help new roses get established especially towards the fall. I always have a bucket full and it doesn't seem to go bad or lose its efficacy.

    katyajini thanked Vaporvac Z6-OhioRiverValley
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  • katyajini

    OT: I seem to have become unsubscribed from this thread. Is there a way to become subscribed again? Thanks!

  • katyajini

    toolbelt: yes, the mixture expands a fair bit as the pellets swell and a lot of gases are made. I think I wrote here if you are using a gallon jug, it maybe better to use 3 quarts water and 3/4 cup pellets, to make it more manageable.

    I used about 1 to 2 cups tea on my tomato and other vegetable plants (and still do) and about 1/3 of a gallon on my established roses. At the time (early June) the vegetable plants were still small. The more I read about triacontanol, I learn how little of the substance you really need to see an effect. If the critical material in AA tea is triacontanol that is giving these growth effects, I am convinced it is, then you dont need big amounts of it. However the triacontanol has to touch the plant. Most people used amounts in the range from cups to less than a gallon and it seemed to work.

    subk3: Thanks for sharing that. Its good to see most (all?) of us had this positive result with aa tea but not so much with the solid aa pellets in the soil. And its a surprisingly good effect, right? Its not just feeding the plants nitrogen.

    The first two times I did not do another round of fermentation but the remaining AA solids that went around the base of the plants formed a crust. Nothing wrong with that but there it was. When I started doing a second fermentation on the aa left in tub they decomposed so much that the sludge disappeared into the soil in a few days or less.

    I did not know what a muck bucket was. I looked it up and now I know. I use a 4, or is it 5, gallon bucket that cat food comes in :)

    Vap: I learned too that triacontanol is a very stable molecule, does not degrade so easy. Something you may be seeing. I would have worried the microbes eat it up but I guess there is some left or its not eaten.

    The earlier theoretical controversy about aa tea was that 'it' cannot be triacontanol, its just nitrogen, as triacontanol is just about insoluble in water. Well one article leads to another and I found out there is significant amounts of saponins in aa hay and saponins can and do dissolve fats into water. So there is a good likely hood that there is triacantanol in the tea, and other good things.

    Rekha: I am interested in the Blue Gold Rose product, but more for the saponins. I am trying to learn something about that.

  • toolbelt68

    A few pictures showing the results of AA Tea..... works GREAT!!!

    All of the above are Zeffies, 15 plus years old..... Haven't seen this kind of new growth since they were planted.... soooo, Katyajini, thanks, bunches!!

  • Sheila z8a Rogue Valley OR

    Wow, toolbelt, that worked fast. I started mixing alfalfa pellets with fish fertilizer too, and am hoping I see something. It has been pretty hot here so I might have to wait a little longer.

  • Stephanie, 9b inland SoCal

    Toolbelt, Wowo! I plan to get some pellets at my local feed store, by Griffith Park, as soon as the weather cools. AA tea looks very stimulating and my weather is too hot to support that kind of growth right now. I am looking forward to trying it out mid October when it starts cooling off here. Do you see new growth just at base with new basals or does the whole bush get new growth?

  • toolbelt68

    So far just at the base.

  • ac91z6

    I haven't really seen any new basals, but the roses that got some AA tea are pushing new growth nicely.

    My AA did end up sitting a couple days longer than I'd planned; vacation got extended a bit and I didn't get to swing by my house and dump it as originally planned. It may just be that mine got 'overdone'.

  • katyajini

    Gosh! I dont get notifications from this thread anymore. Whats happening?

    toolbelt! really, really nice!

    I came back to this thread to share some further observation. toolbelt's results speak to my experience too.

    I find that (at least in my garden) the alfalfa works with the plants schedule. earlier in the season there were a lot of basal breaks. now, end of july and august the shoots are growing like CRAZY! But no more basal breaks. I see the shoots and garden for a few hours and look again and there has been noticeable growth. Not making this up. I used aa tea on all my roses and toolbelt: Zephy is the only one where I saw a second surge of basal breaks (beginning of Aug) and huge, meaty canes are coming up just like yours. The whole plant is exploding with growth too. So there can be later-in-the-season basal breaks for ZD. This is reassuring to me in that aa tea does not turn the plant in to a freak that keeps growing and growing without paying heed to its hard wiring to follow the change of seasons. Just healthy, hefty, beautiful roses.

    All my roses now have bigger, thicker leaves, thicker stems, and those that are flowering have much larger and more flowers than I have ever seen. I emphasize larger and more flowers because if this was due just to the nitrogen present in aa I doubt the flowering would be thus improved. The bushes are at least a third bigger than I have ever seen them to be too. I would post pictures but without pictures from the past wouldn't be much point. Very, very, satisfying!

    ac91z6: this is conjecture as I dont know a roses growth pattern that well. you may not be seeing basal breaks because it is late in the season. I bet if you repeat from beginning of the season next year you will see basal breaks. You do see overall growth, better than your usual experience without aa tea? And just my in put: I dont think your aa tea got overdone, it does not go bad so fast, at least not over a few days. Where are you located?

  • katyajini


    I tried the Blue Gold for roses with a slew of saponins and triacontanol.

    I would be excited to share anything positive. We are all looking for good, reliable products/procedures.

    This is a total bust.

    Well maybe not total. It claims that it makes water wetter. Thats probably true. When I would water with it at the recommended rate of 1ml/gallon you could very clearly see where the liquid had wetted the mulch, over any base moisture, and that portion of the mulch would stay wet longer. I dont have a drought problem, au contraire, and really dont know how to asses how the wetting would affect drought issues.

    But it also claims sprayed at 2 tbs per gallon everyday would take care of almost all diseases, such as BS, mildew and on and on, within a week or so, due the high amount and wide spectrum of saponins. Nothing of the kind happened for me and I tried on roses, and also tomatoes and peppers. I am not going to waste my efforts posting pictures of 'nothing happened, no changes'. Further just 8 oz is about $20 which makes it very expensive to spray at 2 tbs/gallon everyday.

    Also supposed to promote rapid growth from the triacontanol. I detected no boost at all. Nothing. Again, not going to waste time posting pictures that show no change.

    The only good thing that came of this is that I learned a good deal about saponins which are very interesting molecules. I should write about that. In theory this should be a great product. But in practice its not so special. May work for water scarcity.

  • katyajini



    Did you ever try the potassium silicate?

    I tried it on my hydrangeas. The leaves would droop miserably in the late afternoon even though the plants were plenty well watered. What would that be? heat stress? For the first three weeks I watered with it once a week. I could see the stems and leaves drooping less and less. Then I sprayed with it once and by next day they were new plants. Sturdy stems and leaves that dont droop even though the average temperatures were very high.

    If I really cared to do it, silicate works. The thing is, these leaves will be gone next year and eventually the stems will be replaced too. So have to respray every year from zero. Unless the plant stores extra silicates.

    I would be curious to know how it works for plants suffering from drought.

    I did read someones post on the rose forum that her rose was getting too much afternoon sun but spraying with silicates helped a lot.

  • Vaporvac Z6-OhioRiverValley

    From where did you buy your PS? Are we talking about Protekt?

  • katyajini

    I got mine from Amazon, dont I always. Yes protekt. I bought a different a different brand but exactly the same ingredient. I did not know about protekt at the time. protekt is a far better buy.

  • ac91z6

    I'm in Northern MO. I think we had our usual July/August weather that weekend; warm and no rain, but humid. I take it back - it wasn't that usual as it was warm instead of hot!

    Houzz is being goofy again; it won't let me go to page two of my topics! It sends me back to the main Gardenweb page and let me tell you I appreciate these forums; I can only stand so much 'politicking' before I want to secede from the Union and be done with it all.

  • Dingo2001 - Z5 Chicagoland

    I used the Blue Gold rose blend that I posted the label from earlier - I did see good results! I did the lowest dilution & the root feeding - just put it in my hose end sprayer. Saw results from that, then did the foliar feeding on some of them a couple weeks later - I used half the recommended dilution - and saw results from that as well. I will probably continue to use this, especially in the spring when I’ve had to cut everything down. It’s not overly expensive, you can treat a lot of roses with one bottle.

  • Lesli Neubauer (South central TX zone 8b/9)

    What about using an aquarium air pump bubbler? I remember years ago pre-bubbler getting basal breaks super-growth etc. I don't think I've gotten quite the results as I used too. Now I use organic alfafa pellets from Tractor Supply because I don't want alfalfa sprayed with roundup. I added the bubbler after listening to local organic garden guru on radio making compost tea with bubbler.

  • Sheila z8a Rogue Valley OR

    Alfalfa sprayed with roundup is an awful thought.

    katyajini thanked Sheila z8a Rogue Valley OR
  • Lesli Neubauer (South central TX zone 8b/9)

    unless it's organic, most alfalfa is a roundup ready crop.

  • Sheila z8a Rogue Valley OR

    Does that mean alfalfa will give roses Roundup effects?

  • Lesli Neubauer (South central TX zone 8b/9)

    I don't know, I'm just not willing to risk my roses or my own health. Perhaps it is so dilute there will be no worries... I just can get organic so I choose that route.

  • Sheila z8a Rogue Valley OR

    My local Grange supply does not say organic on their ground alfalfa. I have already put in on. Here's hoping.

  • Vaporvac Z6-OhioRiverValley

    I am sure the A. Hay I used for tea wasn't organic and my roses are still alive. I believe RU has a short half-life. Wow! I will say I wasn't aware alfalfa was GM. It seems it's hard to find something that isn't! Thanks for the info on that aspect.

  • Lesli Neubauer (South central TX zone 8b/9)

    and it may not have been sprayed, but when i bought a bag of non-organic alfalfa, i called the company and they would only say they couldn't guarantee that it wasn't sprayed ad they use multiple sources and if I'm concerned to use at my own risk. So I found organic.

  • Dingo2001 - Z5 Chicagoland

    Quick search online - about 13% of alfalfa is Roundup ready. Any herbicides are used early on, so there shouldn’t be any residual effects on other plants.

  • subk3

    I can understand and respect not wanting to eat or ingest something that has had RU sprayed on it. (Although it is not something I worry too much about for myself--especially since I avoid eating grains and seed oils in general for entirely different reasons.) But what is the concern of using alfalfa pellets that have been exposed to RU on roses? Not being critical at all, just wondering...

  • Paul Barden

    "But what is the concern of using alfalfa pellets that have been exposed to RU on roses?"

    If there is enough Glyphosate left in the Alfalfa product, then it could potentially damage roses in the same way that spray drift does. But it is extremely unlikely there is enough Glyphosate in any Alfalfa product to cause injury.

  • totoro z7b Md

    Argh, did not think of round up on my alfalfa. Will have to find an organic source as I do not want to take any chances with carcinogens., not to mention herbicides.

  • Dingo2001 - Z5 Chicagoland

    If roundup is used on alfalfa, it is sprayed when the plants are 3-4” high. By the time it’s cut there wouldn’t be any residual chemical left. Don’t worry needlessly about this and spend extra money on organic alfalfa.

  • Lesli Neubauer (South central TX zone 8b/9)

    I already have organic, but good to know!

  • subk3

    After talking to my feed guy, I really don't think there is much likelihood of having any issues with RU residue on alfalfa pellets. In the first place RU is not typically used on alfalfa. If it is then it is used when the plants are a few inches high. Alfalfa is also a crop that proves multiple cuttings. Meaning that there is a good possibility that your pellets maybe coming from a second or third cutting. If it is used the time length from application, growth, harvest, curing, haying, pellet production, distribution then sitting on the shelf at your local feed store is going to be longer than the lifespan of RU's effectiveness.

  • katyajini

    Dingo: About Blue Gold, its good that this pdt worked so well for you. I looked at my pictures again and it did nothing. maybe my plants had maxed out on growth with aa tea. my real interest was with the saponins and all the good things I hear that saponins can do. Like resist diseases. Blue Gold did not help.

  • katyajini

    toolbelt: did your ZDs bloom this fall? Mine put on such astounding amount of meaty growth but not a single bloom. Do your ZDs give you blooms throughout the season or is it basically a once bloomer?

  • katyajini

    I took a series of pictures of the making of aa tea, how the tea develops over time. Its a little repetitive, sorry, but this is how it has looked for me consistently.

    I have been making the tea in a 12 gallon flip top container with one cup of aa pellets per gallon of water.

    Day Zero:

    12 cups of aa pellets

    considerable foaming as I fill up the container with water from a hose.

    the liquid already has a thick feeling and a brown-green color.

  • katyajini

    Day 1 (i.e. one day of fermentation)

    lot of the pellets floats to the surface

    after stirring, the tea is developing a orange color.


    Day 2

    again some of the pellets rise to the top

    the orange color.

  • katyajini

    Day 3

    still some pellets floating

    the clear orange liquid after stirring.


    Day 4

    Much less of the hay at the top

    The tea is becoming more opaque and developing some smell (bad smell)

  • katyajini

    Day 5

    After day 3 or 4 no more of the hay comes to the surface. I begin to see a white mold

    the tea is becoming thicker and smellier.


    Day 6

    yet more mold on day 6

    pretty smelly by now

  • katyajini

    Day 7

    Lot of mold and can attract flies due to the smell unless I am careful about closing the lid fully.

    this is it, aa tea ready to pour!

    For what its worth this stuff has worked very well for my plants this year. Straw had commented not to use it as it is low in nutrition and very acidic. That may very well be but somehow the whole was greater than the sum of its parts for me.

    I never measured the pH of the tea, did not occur to me at all. Next year I will measure the pH of the tea and of the soil before and after application. I dont know what it could really tell me, but I will note it.

    I have been routinely leaving the aa hay behind and fermenting a second time for another 7 days, stirring once a day. The color of the tea becomes orange again from a grey-green color after a few days.

    Couple of times I have forgotten to use up the second tea and then after maybe 3 weeks it looks like this:

    black with very little odor. I guess it has become composted??

  • Vaporvac Z6-OhioRiverValley

    So much for taking the time to post these pictures thank you. I use mine repeatedly although I use hay and not pellets. It has extraordinary effects on everything I've put it on. Time does not seem to affect its efficacy.

    katyajini thanked Vaporvac Z6-OhioRiverValley
  • Sheila z8a Rogue Valley OR

    I put alfalfa pellets (2 cups) and fish fertilizer (1/4 cup) in a 2 gal watering can and just left it 24 hrs before use. I poured it on some needy looking roses, and I think it helped. I did have a few roses still do nothing that seem to be done for the season. I finally got a couple nice shoots on Buff Beauty, and Devoniensis maybe due to this. It could have been they were ready to do something anyway though. It is hard without a control untreated plant to compare what really caused the growth. We have had some rain here too, which I think is helping the Fall flush compared to last Fall. I also tried alfalfa hay mulch around some roses and I think that helped keep the soil cooler.

  • Rekha A 9a Houston area

    I made some for the first time and used in on a few that were struggling, so far see no change. I have blue gold and superthrive, I am going to try that next.

  • Stephanie, 9b inland SoCal

    Katy, thanks for the visual tour of making the tea! I need to get some alfalfa pellets this weekend and try it in a 5 gal bucket. I think if I put it by our garbage cans....maybe the smell will be OK.

    katyajini thanked Stephanie, 9b inland SoCal
  • katyajini

    Sheila, without a control its hard to say and then there is no real control. I have read where people just add some pellets as they amend the soil in the beginning of the season and see improvement gradually over previous seasons, so something beneficial will probably happen. Its just that the fermentation for a few days does something special so that the tea acts quickly and dramatically.

    However I do see that the aa tea works with the schedule of the rose. If it is time for the rose to slow down or the rose wants to slow down I dont think the tea can overide that totally. For example if I give them aa tea now my roses will not put on basals. My last application was middle of Sept and I saw only some leafy growth and buds. But in June there were lots of basals. All my roses that were still alive were seriously ailing. All of them got better, remarkably and astonishingly so. But some took longer than others. If the plant is stressed and has to heal, several layers of internal change may have to happen before healthy growth happens. Its good to be patient and apply the tea every 2-3 weeks. No one can say anything with 100% certainty but this has a good chance of working for the health and the growth of the plant. Let the thing ferment for 3 days, stirring or no stirring and use that. Try a few applications before you give up.

    Rekha, good luck with your roses whatever you do. But maybe try to give it a little time and a few applications as I was saying for Sheila. Sometimes the positive effect can take a few weeks to show up. I like superthrive too, that can only help. Blue Gold was a bust for me, maybe it was just the batch.

    I am sounding like a crusader. I have nothing to gain materially. Just want people to experience how well it works. Does need some effort and time however.

  • Vaporvac Z6-OhioRiverValley

    Sheila, there's no substitute for water, especially rain water. : (( Since I have duplicates of most roses in my upper beds, I've used two of the same varieties planted in adjacent beds as a sort of "test", so that is why I think it really helped, especially on one Summer Romance that's always been a laggard compared to its twin monster. I'll be better about everything next year when it's mainly maintenance on the roses and less frantic planting. I've generally just used it with newly planted ones to help them get their feet established. P.S. I used rain water to make my tea.

    I can use all the acid I can get for my soil!!!, especially with the Hybrid Musks. Soil PH is almost impossible to change permanently as it's mainly determined by geology. Here, we rest on limestone so our clay is basic. Sandstone runs through different areas of Ohio and there the soil is acidic, even the clay and they grow all the lovely ericaceous plants I love. I imagine your soil is slightly acidic Katja, but most roses seem adaptable things. Despite our basic soil, R. multiflora seems to have no trouble thriving. : ((( In addition, as noted in the links here and elsewhere, Alfalfa has "things" that help plants through different pathways than what we think of as "nutrition". I don't really add organics to provide that, but to help the soil release what it has innately, In any case, what works for one person, may not work in another garden... or even another area of the same garden; that's why we all see to love to experiment. Please report back on Azomite. Was it you, Katyjini that also used the Protekt? That is something I've been eyeing up since Cori Ann posted on it.

    P.S. I also agree based on my experience using both hay and fermented tea that the fermentation process must add to the bioavailability of things.

    katyajini thanked Vaporvac Z6-OhioRiverValley
  • Paul Barden

    “I poured it on some needy looking roses, and I think it helped. I did have a few roses still do nothing that seem to be done for the season. I finally got a couple nice shoots on Buff Beauty, and Devoniensis maybe due to this. It could have been they were ready to do something anyway though. It is hard without a control untreated plant to compare what really caused the growth.“

    This is a sensible attitude to take when evaluating any cultivation method. To believe something that is not proven by established test methods is just conjecture and confirmation bias at work. I witnessed the unfolding years ago of the “Miracid sprayed on the leaves cures blackspot” business, which was fueled largely by speculation and poor science. It happens over and over. Long live Jerry Baker! I’m off to water my lawn with beer and eye-of-newt.

  • katyajini

    Yes Vap, the fermentation is thought to extract triacontanol into the tea. However many people say it is not so because it has not been demonstrated by someone that there are actual triacontanol molecules in the tea (that I know). Again however, controlled experiments done with pure triacontanol itself does exactly what aa tea does. So....I do think there is triacontanol in the aa tea I have been making from the effects I get. The word on the street is also overwhelming.

    Not be too technical, triacontanol is not a hormone, does not fit the definition of a hormone. Does not even 'enter' the plant. It signals from the surface. It is a molecule that fortuitously acts as a stimulant for some biochemical pathways in plants, as you say. And several applications work better than one.

    Now I am being very technical here: the main reason given why there cannot be any triacontanol in the tea is that triacontanol is too much like a wax or heavy fat to be able to dissolve in water whatsoever. But the aa grass has so much saponins, which essentially can act as detergents, that triacontanol can be washed into the tea as the the grass ferments/decomposes. Saponins are also the reason why there is so much foaming.

    I think Paul mentioned it also and I actually tried potassium silicate (protekt). It worked very well for me, as a foliar spray specially. I tried it on my hydrangeas only so far. I might try it on other plants next year.

    I dont know what to comment on Azomite. It does not hurt at all and sounds like a good insurance to get all your micro elements. I just throw a small fistful in when I plant and sprinkle a little bit on early in the season.

  • Vaporvac Z6-OhioRiverValley

    Yes, to all of the above, including Paul's comments. This is why we should all support science. P.S. I didn't mean to imply that triacontanol was a hormone. I'll amend my post to avoid confusion.

    katyajini thanked Vaporvac Z6-OhioRiverValley
  • Paul Barden

    A PS: its a fact that Triacontanol does what studies have demonstrated it does, but to assume that all desirable behavior observed in a rose's life is due to that one factor is just conjecture/wishful thinking. It tends to generate a false mythology, and that doesn't help this community.

  • katyajini

    Vap, yes triacontanol is an extremely stable molecule so its can stay in working condition in the tea or the grass for a very long time.

  • katyajini

    I am trying to articulate something about what I see happening when I use aa tea but can't quite do it. What I think is aa tea augments some activity or activities the plant is getting ready to do or is doing at about the time you apply it. It cannot make an entirely new thing to happen. It wont make the plant do what you wish it to do unless the plant wants it as well. You can only wait and see what happens. Triacontanol does augment photosynthesis so all the downstream effects of robust photosynthesis happen with triacontanol. Such as growth and good health. Some effects show up quickly some take longer. Then that's not the whole story.

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