So microbes are a hot topic these days. A lot of people are talking about them and it seems to me that it is an eager topic to get discussing. After first reading about microbial farming here a year ago, I looked into it. And this is what I found.
I have been looking into various forms of agricultural systems in other parts of the world, mainly Asia.
What I found astounded me. I learned that many of these systems of farming basically involved gathering local biomass, fermenting them, then introducing them back into the land to be taken up by the plants and soil immediately. These systems of agriculture all emphasize minimizing imports by creating your own farming inputs. The ingredients you do need to import are easy to obtain and very inexpensive. These modalities were practiced for a long time and highly regarded by their practioners. Microbial based fermented teas is what the scientific community calls biofertilizers and cannot be formally referred to as fertilizers because the NPK content cannot be quantified, and should not be confused with simple anaerobic plant teas. A biofertilizer feeds the soil biology and does not necessarily feed the plants directly, and often times need to be diluted.. As relatively unknown as these systems are, there is very little research about these form of agriculture in our country, although Korean Natural Farming and JADAM is quickly becoming popular in Hawaii, as Hawaii has great Asian influence in its culture.
By fermentation, we brew microbes, explode their numbers, and have them cycle the locked nutrients for us into plant available forms. These bacteria being brewed are facultative whose metabolisms can adapt to both aerobic and anaerobic environments without being pathogenic (notably lactic acid bacteria). This form of agriculture referred to as "natural farming" (not Fukuoka! Fukuoka farming is do-nothing no fertilizing, the natural farmer absolutely fertilizes), in the sense that the farmer uses the local biomass and even forest/garden soil around them to create their own highly effective, inexpenisve biofertilizers and other farm-made inputs, usually by means of fermentation. They have since learned through their own trial and error that the best way to grow comes from feeding their soils a diversity of microbes, sourced anaerobically and aerobically alike, to create living active soils for means of annual production, opposed to focusing traditionally on nutrients. Many of these techniques uses the shotgun approach to microbial diversity. Someone earlier in this thread said they believe that there is a better way than just "drenching the soil with microbes." The natural farmer does not agree with this, and they will responsibly drench their soil with as many microbial teas and innoculants as they can to quickly grow living soil. They do not distinguish between the good from the bad microbes (of course, they wont use anything they know has gone bad), just that they are all needed, some in smaller amounts than others, for homeostasis. Of course, this does not disregard other responsible agricultural practices. A thick layer of mulch, living roots, etc is of course still encouraged.
These systems of agriculture are very real, and very effective. The Biodynamic folks call this alchemical (well they do plant in accordance to the heavenly bodies), and the traditional Koreans and Indians call it natural. Others call it probiotic. Many natural farmers rely on anaerobic processes as the key to their success. Some even use sea salt and sea water as inputs. I've come to learn that the West is trying to reinvent farming, defining Organic, etc, but the Far East and India simply just learns from its ancient roots of agriCulture. There is no need to purchase NPK or fancy brewing contraptions. As a natural farmer, all the fertilizer you need is already around you, in the plants and in the land, ready for fermentation for quick availability, and all the simple tools you need are already on hand. The key, is coming realize that. Here are some tools to help you.
Korean Natural Farming, developed in the 60s and refined over the decades by Dr. Han Kyu Cho, or "Master Cho", is about collecting Indigenous Micro Organisms (I-M-O), spawning them, feeding and multiplying them to get them nice and strong, and reintroduce back into the soil in via a extremely fungal based mesothilic produced compost. It is a complicated process, termed I.M.O. 1-4, that takes 2 weeks to collect your I-M-Os, which is shelf stable and can then be stored for future batches, and another 2 weeks to grow them out, which is again shelf stable. The final product of the indigenous micro organisms process is not a biofertilizer, but a highly fungal compost. Its all about getting the fungal framework established, and the belief is once the fungi are established, the rest of the soil biology will fall into place. The theory is that since the genetics are already adapted to the soil conditions, they will thrive. And just like any other compost, you apply repeatedly to ensure the soil gets properly innoculated. Some of the other main ingredients are fermented plant juices from young leaves using raw sugar to extract biostimulants, enzymes and hormones via osmotic pressure. Lactic acid bacteria (LAB serum) is an important part of KNF, made using rice wash water and milk. They make use of vinegar to create water soluble calcium/phosphourus from bones, eggshells and oyster shells. There are more inputs and they are all made from cheap and easily accessible sources. Lastly, Korean Natural farmers are known for their odorless swine and poultry operations, as they spray lactic acid bacteria in the pens and make special microbial inoculated deep litter bedding that decomposes animal waste rapidly and eats the odor causing bacteria. I almost forgot to include that!
JADAM farming, which is a Korean acronym for "people who are like Nature", was developed in the 90's by Dr. Cho's son, Youngsan Cho! JADAM ultra low budget organic farming is an anaerobic tea system of farming, where you ferment forest soil with starchy potato water and sea salt (for nutrients), cover the lid and let that go for 36-48 hours, diluate at peak and apply. They also go into making a mix of different other potent special plant biofertilizers. JADAM does incorporate IPM into the system by providing recipes and education on how to make your own non-toxic pesticides and other IPM inputs. JADAM is gaining popularity because of its simple ease at any scale, its effectiveness, and is fast and cheap. Downside to JADAM is that these anaerobic teas smell Bad at times.
In Subhash Palekar's Zero Budget Natural Farming, Palekar was a generational farmer who turned to ayurvedic and other ancient Indian agriculture to learn from. He then consolidated his findings and simplified it so the average Indian farmer can easily employ the methods. He learned that the use of manure and urine of the indigenous cow, paired with pulse flour and raw sugar and leaf mold, created a manure slurry called jivumrita. This liquid manure slurry is the staple of their fertility programs, but they also make use of anaerobic plant teas. The zero budget system also has their own IPM system and inputs that they make themselves, such as plants they grow themselves combined with various cow products such as dairy and dung etc and has recipes for specific and common ailments for pests and disease. However, ZBNF is a strong proponent of permaculture. Palekar goes into intricate detail how to create what he calls a 5 layer market garden, and provides sophisticated mapping blueprints so that the common Indian and literally just tap into and,execute to become successful. As im reading his books i,ordered from India, im developing deep respect for the man and i consider his system to be the most holistic modality i gave come across. Its permaculture specific to India, from dung compost teas, ipm, intercropping/underseeding, mulching(brown and living), seed saving etc.
Even in Biodynamics the special Preparations, #500-507, are fermented. The Biodynamic compost itself is traditional and aerobic and thermophilic, but the bio-dynamic-accumulator herbs that make the compost special (nettle, chamomille, oak bark, yarrow, dandelion, valerian) are all fermented. Just fermented with animal organs is all, which im learning adds lipid content to the compost that makes it so much more effective. The preparations are fermented, and the ferments are highly available and nutrient dense, and added to a compost imbue that rich nutrient content in the form of compost, to the microbes.
EM (effective microbes) was developed in the 80s by Japanese microbiologist Dr. Higa. EM is a proprietary and patented microbial consortium and is sort of,the gateway to biofertilizers. EM is licensed and sold in this country by Terraganix. This brew of specific ratios of lactic acid bacteria, yeasts, and purple non sulphuric bacteria, a type of psuedomonas, are facultative and work well for many soils. EM can be further modified and fermented into different forms for different uses, and has deviations to its name, ie EM1, EM5, to denote the versatility and functions of the single product. You can "activate" it, AEM, to create more, but as you do the ratios start drifting away from ideal proportions. You can use EM in your soil, add it to the compost, or ferment compostables to predigest it for the soil (Bokashi), or spray to animal bedding to remove smells. The natural farmer considers EM inferior to their own microbes, as the microbes in EM are bred in a lab whose genetics are not adapted to the local environment, and purchasing costly microbes is generally against the natural farmer philosophy of using inexpensive materials that are available to you, especially when an equal product can be made for nearly free.
Much like anything in agriculture, this topic is endless and limitless. Anyone who cares to learn more about how to make these highly effective biofertilizers for yourself, there are links provided to several websites below. Youtube has how-to videos on many of the KNF inputs, as well Indian agriculture videos on panchagavya/jivamrita. Online JADAM material is a bit more obscure, but the JADAM ultra low budget farming book can be bought on Amazon, although the shipping takes some time as the book is shipped directly out of Korea. The books on ZBNF need to be ordered from India itself. I had to email someone on the ZBNF website and make and pay by Western Union haha... I had to send $90 to an Indian with a yahoo account and hope for the best (it was legit but found the situation humorous nonetheless).
Dude this is too cool! I am somewhat new to and totally into biological/ecological methods of gardening/food crop growing through techniques of nurturing soil & microbial life and am unfamiliar with Korean Natural Farming and JADAM. I can't wait to read more about this. Jars, thanks for the post!
"Study books and observe nature; if they do not agree, throw away the books." ~ William A. Albrecht
So, if you are gathering local biomass to ferment and then apply back to the soil, it sounds like a good thing to do with unwanted species. Is that true? For example, on my farm (OMG we bought a farm!) we have scotch broom popping up in the neglected pastures and of course lots of blackberries, this being the Pacific Northwest. Goats and pigs like blackberries, not so much scotch broom, I'm told. We hired a guy to chop the blackberry thickets to the ground, they are sprouting up and will be delicious to the goats and pigs that are coming in about a month. However, I need a plan for the scotch broom.
If I went out with loppers and gathered a bunch of scotch broom, could I ferment it and use the goo (I'm guessing it would end up gooey) to fertilize my garden, or my appletrees, or my pasture? Is this anaerobic fermentation? Can you advise me, or point me at a good resource?
hau Julia, you can compost, ferment partial composted, or use full ferment methods, all will work with scotch broom. aerobic fermentation is faster to use since it will be good bacteria doing the fermenting.
I have used anaerobic ferments but only after I switched them over to aerobic bacteria with aeration.
Jars will have more information on the fermenting I am sure.
Heya Julia, i dont believe there is a single solution. With these systems, the possibilities and endless. I'd suggest we recall the properties of scotch broom. Doing a quick search on Permies of the properties of scotch broom, it is leguminous, but potentially allelopathic and known to cause deficiencies in the soil. Who knows what will happen if we ferment it? Lots of enzymes and other things get changed in the fermentation process. So as a natural farmer, as well as permaculturalists, standard protocol would be to apply the the solution in small amounts and observe the effects of it.
There are 2 two ways you can go about fermenting them. JADAM has recipe that they call JADAM Liquid Fertilizer (JLF), where they add take a handful of soil and throw it in barrel with the plant materials to let ferment for 3 months. They dilute that and apply.
The other is called Fermented Plant Juices (FPJ) of Korean Natural Farming methods, where you collect young leaf shoots in the AM (for higher moisture content) and add equal parts raw sugar to it. The idea is to get the sugars to draw out the juices with the dry sugar by means of osmosis. After covering the jar with a coffee filter and leaving out for a week, the contents will evolve into a molasses-like sugary. Dilute this solution at 8mL/ gallon a nd apply. But this methods is more about extracting hormones etc than it is about nutrients, and it is done in smaller amounts than JLF.
I suggest reading up on the materials in the links i provided to help you understand the processes and reasoning behind it.
Jaurs Of Lyfe
Location: Moved from south central WI to Portland, OR
I've been poking around the Natural Farming Hawaii website and there are a LOT of videos. I can't watch videos right now, but the website sure looks interesting! On this page I found a description of how to harvest fungi from the forest - you have a box of cooked rice and either set it out in the forest, or cover it with a t-shirt and then with a layer of debris from the forest. I think after you've got a lot of fungal action then you mix with sugar but I think I'll have to watch videos to learn more.
The idea of smell-free pig and chicken enclosures is super appealing, I'll try to watch some of these presentations soon (when I'm not at work).
I had a site I was going to share, but it looks like it went down or something. It described the same thing that Julia Winter linked to and explained about gathering organisms from the forest. I'm trying to recall....they brought back their inoculated rice and mixed it with some kind of seed hull. Maybe rice hulls?? I don't know...essentially they mixed it with a 50lb bag of something that's rich in carbon, to create a larger pile of inoculated compost/mulch. I think essentially it's like making bokashi, using the forest inoculated rice.
Making compost tea is another great way grow large populations of microbes to spread around. I thought I put up a post a couple years ago showing my compost brewer in some pictures and video..?? Maybe, I didn't I dunno.?? I'll check, and link it here if I find it.
Fungal dominate compost works best for trees and bushes....bacterial dominate compost is best for the annual/veggie garden. But a combination of the two works great for everything as well. You don't need to get all picky about making sure that you get the right compost tea on the right plants, but it's what I've learned from others to boost the effectiveness of the teas. I like to use worm castings because of convenience, it's all fine particles at this point. Fungi dominate compost is easy to make using worm castings or the fines from sifted compost. Just add a tablespoon or so of ground up oats and mix it with a couple cups of the castings or compost fines and let it sit for a few days. I only mix enough for one batch of tea...or whatever I'm going to use right away. I generally make a batch of around 12-14 gallons of tea that I'll mix with water in a 60 gallon barrel. Or you can use it without dilution. I just dilute it so it goes a little further. Or I won't dilute if I really want to get some plants established. Compost tea is very effective.
Here's a simple one I've used as well...this is probably explained better in one of those links. Or google "make your own effective microbes", some places will try to sell you a, "mother culture", this is unnecessary, just grow your own. Put some rice in a jar...maybe half a cup...agitate it so the water becomes cloudy. Separate the rice from the water, and save the water. Let the rice water sit with a loose lid for a few days or so in a warm place. Mix one cup of rice water to one gallon of milk, let this sit with a loose lid for a few days or so in a warm place. The milk will separate and create a layer of "cheese" on the top, and the liquid below becomes like a cloudy looking water. Save this liquid. You can either put the liquid in your fridge and it'll stay alive for a few months...or add some sugar, I think it's molasses that's commonly used, to make it stable. Essentially you're adding a food source for the microbes, and I believe that it's mixed at a 50/50 ratio of liquid to molasses. Dilute this with water before applying. I think it's a TBS to a gallon of water??
My Food Forest - Mile elevation. Zone 6a. Southern Idaho <--I moved in year two...unfinished...probably has cattle on it.
Great for bringing this topic up. There are as well the modern techniques which use and aquarium pump, which I would not like, too much clutter.
The big question is what are the differences? What is more suited to which conditions climate etc?