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Effective Microorganisms - purchased or home made?  RSS feed

 
Angelika Maier
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Who has experience with EM? Is it worthwhile to purchase or to follow one of the recipes on the internet? Is it worthwhile at all? I want it for the vegetable garden and the rest of the garden.
 
Erwin Decoene
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What is EM ?
 
James Freyr
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I use Effective Microorganisms (EM) with good results, especially as a foliar spray for disease control. It works on the premise that with a healthy population of good bacteria, pathogens have a more difficult time setting up shop and infecting plants. It can also work to rid a plant of an already established disease like powdery mildew. I also use EM as a root drench to not only help control soil borne pathogens but they can also aide plant roots in their daily tasks of nutrient uptake, help break down organic matter, improve soil tilth and create humus. I purchased my EM from Teraganix, but am currently looking into how to make my own. I do recommend using EM to improve your gardening results and help grow good crops.
 
jars lyfe
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Hey there.
Making your own EM is really easy and people in natural farming do it all the time. The homemade EM is just a diversity of Lactic Acid Bacteria, referred to as a LAB serum. According to reports it works just as well as EM for most uses, and for Bokashi as long as youre not fermenting anything complicated (meat, dairy etc). To make your own, it is a 2-3 step prices that takes just a little over a week and all you need is rice, water and milk.

Rinse and wash the rice to collect the starch on the rice. You will have a resulting milky water. The starchy water acts as the initial food source. Cover that with coffee lid and leave on the counter for 2-3. During that time were letting that rice water ferment, it is collecting airborne bacteria. After the rice water is cultured after 2-3 days, collect the middle layer (leaving the thin layer of sediment on the bottom and the thin layer floating on the top, although this part isn't that important) and add 10 parts milk to it, and cover with lid again and wait a week. By adding milk to the rice water, we are providing a lactose-rich environment for the LABs to outcompete all other bacteria/yeasts/whatever that is in the rice wash water, and bc the LABs are the domnant culture, the milk won't go bad. It will curd up on top, drop sediment to the bottom and the middle yellowish layer is our serum! Extracting is tricky, you can scoop out the curds (eat them, feed them to chickens, make cheese, YouTube it) and sieve out the middle layer. Once you have your LABs successfully extracted, store in the fridge! Or you can add equal parts brown sugar to keep it shelf stable at room temperature for 6 months.However, I do not remember if you store it air tight or breathable lid.

I have provided links on how to do this stuff on my thread "These are the stories that microbes tell". If you follow the Korean Natural Farming links at the bottom of my post there, or the unconventionalfarmer.com, it can provide you with the same instructions I have you here.

Good luck and have fun.

Long live the natural farmer!
Staff note (raven ranson):

These are the stories that microbes tell can be found here https://permies.com/t/65436/stories-microbes

 
Marco Banks
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The best microbes for your particular ecosystem are those that are naturally occurring in your immediate area.  Nature does not send away for mail-order microbes.  It cultivates them on location.  On the contrary: the world is full of case-study after case-study of diseases and invasive species that were introduced into non-native ecosystems to create devastating results.  These include microbial invasions where unintended consequences were unleashed by well-meaning people.  A word of caution seems appropriate here.

The only exception I can imagine to this would be if you are planting a nitrogen fixing cover crop (legumes, vetch, forbs and such) and your soil does not have sufficient levels of correct bacteria to inoculate the seeds in order for the roots to form nitrogen fixing nodules.  Then, as you ordered your cover crop seeds, you'd also order the correct innoculant.  This mimics nature.  But even in this situation, I'm pretty careful to order my seeds and innoculent from a reputable local distributor, not someone across the country.  Other than that example, I'd err on the side of extreme caution in introducing any microbes that are not native to your backyard.  But if you are getting your original "starter" from you own soil, then it certainly minimizes the potential for doing great harm.

Perhaps the topic should be expanded: Where in nature do you see microbes being carefully brewed, fed with the starch of a non-native plant, refrigerated, and then sprayed onto the leaves of plants?  Perhaps you might get a bit of splash-back from rain falling onto the soil and splashing back up to the lower leaves of a plant, but soil microbes are not open-air leaf microbes --- they quickly die as soon as the sun hits them and irradiates them.  I would imagine that the same thing happens to carefully brewed microbes as soon as they are sprayed onto a leaf.  The sun is a tremendously effective disinfectant.  UV rays kill most microbes upon exposure—something like 98% or better.  This is why nature covers the soil in a natural mulch (grasses, leaves, other forms of biomass).  It stands to reason (and I'm not being a dick here, I'm just observing) that if 98%+ of your microbes are going to die within 5 minutes of exposure to the sun, you've spent a lot of time and effort on something with minimal longevity.   Microbes stay alive if kept in a natural medium like compost — in fact, they multiply quickly.  You CAN do things to increase the microbial life of your compost and soil, but spraying microbes where they'll be exposed to a quick death by UV rays isn't one of them.

I'm certainly open to reading any scientific study that would convince me otherwise.  Please don't read the above as being argumentative -- I'm just be permaculturative. 
 
Todd Parr
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Marco and I are in the same camp here I think.  I would have no problem doing this if I saw real, tangible evidence for it, but it seems so much easier to just pile on a thick layer of mulch and wait for nature to take care of it.
 
Erwin Decoene
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I'm following this topic with interest.
I have no experience with EM but as i see these recipees questions pop up.

- Are you not simply 'growing' the organisms that happen to thrive on your chosen growth medium regardless wether these organisms are good or bad?
- How do you select? How do you judge the quality of your product?
- And if you apply your EM are you not skewing the existing ecology in a direction you cannot predict regardless wether you use local EM or not.

I live about 2 hours driving from Brussels. There is a local brewing process near Brussels that makes use of airborne organisms to make the local beer (yummy). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lambic
So in principle you can be so lucky to have a local organism droping in from thin air but i find it hard to envisage that being the case everywhere on earth. That would be an extraordinary claim and those require extraordinary proof.

I won't be trying it anytime soon but i'm interested to hear more.



 
Tj Jefferson
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This is an interesting topic for me. I am a fan of introduced mycorrhyzal cultures on roots. I have no studies to point to, but I asked Bryant Redhawk about it and he was very much in favor of quality commercial cultures and uses them. The guy has forgotten more than I will learn. I think there are beneficial and harmful fungal and bacterial culture in any polyculture and the ones I use are single culture Rhizophagus intraradices, and stuff is doing nicely with it, and I am hoping this will decrease the dread introduction of Armillaria and Phytophthora, which is present locally and would potentially be introduced by culturing or moving local soils. That is the rationale for introducing an initial mycorrhyzal culture, the other stuff will certainly prevail in the future since it is better suited to this location, but I expect this to limit my early losses. There may be a benefit to EM for the same reason, load it initially with some known non-pathogenic cultures. My understanding is that lactose-metabolizing cultures are almost universally innocuous, so you might get the same benefit from just using some milk that has expired as a dilute solution around the plant (which you might be able to get for free- ask at grocery stores!)  This seems to have morphed into foliar spraying too.  

I think we know very little about plant's immune functions. I read a post (I think from R Ranson) about her experience with Elaine Ingram's foliar compost tea to treat Cedar Hawthorn Rust on serviceberries, and the successful treatment with a foliar spray. This is intriguing, because it defies the current belief about treatability once infected! Those who deal with me daily know me to be a skeptical person, but I have enough Cedar Hawthorn Rust to experiment (yay!). The poster advocated a very rough stream of tea so to not break the fungal structure on application. This is tricky, because I agree with Marco that most microbes last a very short time with UV exposure, which means you need to be putting it on when it is overcast, applying to the underside of the leaf though a very rough stream (hard to do), or making it in place by applying the raw ingredients! I watched the Permaculture Orchard video a long time ago, and I think that is the idea behind his use of whey solution as a foliar spray (maybe someone can confirm or deny). I am mixing the same stuff as described by the OP basically, and by Elaine- a sugar source, some protein and a good mineral source. The difference is that I expect the airborne cultures to proliferate in situ. I can also apply this underleaf, which is, I suspect where microbes would be favored. I am certain I will not get the CFU yield of a nice controlled culture but the ingredients are super cheap. 
 
jars lyfe
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Marco Banks wrote:The best microbes for your particular ecosystem are those that are naturally occurring in your immediate area.  Nature does not send away for mail-order microbes.


I agree with you. Laboratory microbes will always be succeeded by others in theory. Although they may have positive short term effects, it's safe to assume they are not resilient enough for the long run. I do believe they do contribute in soil succession.

Marco Banks wrote: On the contrary: the world is full of case-study after case-study of diseases and invasive species that were introduced into non-native ecosystems to create devastating results.  These include microbial invasions where unintended consequences were unleashed by well-meaning people.  A word of caution seems appropriate here.


That is true. There are many instances of species of plants, animals and microbes being introduce into an ecosystem that turns out to have a negative impact on the locale. But for decades (and in some cases, millenniums) that lactic acid bacteria have been used, the instance that you describe have not been observed in these systems of agriculture. The results have always been positive. Likewise, bad compost killing people is not unheard of.  Caution should always be exercised if one chooses to experiment by twaeking the explicit guidelines and instructions of these methods.

Marco Banks wrote: Then, as you ordered your cover crop seeds, you'd also order the correct innoculant.  This mimics nature.  


Certainly not. Nature does not order microbes from anywhere. What a natural farmer would do, opposed to ordering inoculants such as rhizobia etc, is to treat the seeds by soaking them in microbial seed solutions prior to planting.

Marco Banks wrote: Perhaps the topic should be expanded: Where in nature do you see microbes being carefully brewed, fed with the starch of a non-native plant, refrigerated, and then sprayed onto the leaves of plants?


Fermentation is a much more common occurrence then you believe. Manure is a product of fermentation, and it is a coveted fertilizer. Fruits and berries will ferment on the shrub/tree/plant if left unharvested, then that will quickly rot and cycle through when it does fall.

Marco Banks wrote: ... but soil microbes are not open-air leaf microbes --- they quickly die as soon as the sun hits them and irradiates them.  I would imagine that the same thing happens to carefully brewed microbes as soon as they are sprayed onto a leaf.  The sun is a tremendously effective disinfectant.  UV rays kill most microbes upon exposure—something like 98% or better.... It stands to reason (and I'm not being a dick here, I'm just observing) that if 98%+ of your microbes are going to die within 5 minutes of exposure to the sun, you've spent a lot of time and effort on something with minimal longevity.  


UV does kill bacteria, but there are plenty of microbes that live in the soil that can be found airborne. Lactic acid bacteria, yeast. There are many photosynthetic bacteria that fix Nitrogen without symbiotic relationships. While not everything may survive the Sun, proper foliar sprays of microbes is far from a waste of time. You have powdery mildew? The common practice in organic is to spray it with hydrogen peroxide (chemicals!) Or you can spray lactic acid bacteria and harness their power of these pathogens consumers to be chemical free.

Marco Banks wrote: Microbes stay alive if kept in a natural medium like compost — in fact, they multiply quickly.  


Im going to flip the script on you and point out that composting is not found naturally. Nature does not pile up biomass in a 1:15-1:30 N:C ratio and turn it daily to keep aerated. Herds of bison and other grassland bovines do not deposit their contributions in a piles, they mulch their manures, but that will never get hot enough to get mesothilic/thermophilic temperatures. If they are not found in nature, it's not natural, according to the parameters you've set in this thread.

Marco Banks wrote: You CAN do things to increase the microbial life of your compost and soil,  but spraying microbes where they'll be exposed to a quick death by UV rays isn't one of them.


That is a matter of your personal opinion. Biodynamic preparation 500 is evidence that foliar spraying microbes has consistent positive effects. Preparation 500 is manure from a pregnant cow fermented in a horn buried underground. I use preparation 500 as an example, because it is something that is fairly common practice that most people know of.

Marco Banks wrote:
I'm certainly open to reading any scientific study that would convince me otherwise.  Please don't read the above as being argumentative -- I'm just be permaculturative. 


For decades Koreans have been using lactic acid bacteria very successfully and the Indians have been doing it for thousands of years. That is the evidence that I need. I have learned last year that living in the extremes, ie having an imbalance of right/left brain thinking, is and generally prohibitive to productivity for myself.

If you wait for research papers in America to publish this stuff to verify what successful practices already know, you will have to wait a very, very long time. I suggest your broaden your horizons and look elsewhere. Read about Biodynamic research in Europe. Learn Korean and see their studies. Perhaps look into University of Hawaii, they have lots of material on Korean Natural Farming. Periodically check USDA and other agency researches (I checked, they have no research on microbes as fertilizers). Research scientific Indian agriculture.

I understand the Permaculturists view. Adhering to ones philosophy is important, as farming is a philosophy in itself. But for someone, say, a marker gardener, these method are a godsend that will change they way they farm, and im sure they will appreciate these technologies.

My point is, these are tools to be used to expand your tools of the trade.
 
jars lyfe
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Erwin Decoene wrote:
- Are you not simply 'growing' the organisms that happen to thrive on your chosen growth medium regardless wether these organisms are good or bad


Yes, the rice water collects everything that comes in contact with it.

Erwin Decoene wrote:
- How do you select? How do you judge the quality of your product?


If you've read my post, i said that the lactose from the milk provides the perfect feeding grounds for the lactic acid bacteria to outcompete all other microbes. As such, the pathogens that spoil milk, die, and the milk will not spoil. Lactic acid bacteria are the warriors of the bacterial world, they eat pathogens. There are guidelines in each respective natural farming modality that will tell you if your collect is sucessfull or not.


Erwin Decoene wrote:
- And if you apply your EM are you not skewing the existing ecology in a direction you cannot predict regardless wether you use local EM or not.

Yes. If you are using tried and proven methods, the ecology will receive positive impacts. On the other hand, ecology is difficult to predict in the first place.



Erwin Decoene wrote:
So in principle you can be so lucky to have a local organism droping in from thin air but i find it hard to envisage that being the case everywhere on earth. That would be an extraordinary claim and those require extraordinary proof.

Dandelions, thistles, nettles, and other common weeds are everywhere on earth. You don't need to be "lucky". These processes are as reliable as traditional compost, not some supernatural ritual that only comes true once in a blue moon. If you need extraordinary proof, study microbiology, because lactic acid bacteria and other microbes are factually literally EVERYWHERE.
 
Ben Zumeta
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Marco Banks wrote:The best microbes for your particular ecosystem are those that are naturally occurring in your immediate area.  Nature does not send away for mail-order microbes.  It cultivates them on location...


I think you are definitely right about this Marco, I use my local forest duff, kelp etc as bird bedding and feed supplements, and start my bokashi with a tea of the ducks' pond water. To extrapolate on that idea of nature cultivating microbes, ideally in soil building we are providing the biology present and introduced a physical structure conducive to a stable ecosystem that generally accumulates biomass and biodiversity more each year it goes undisturbed by an anomalous destructive event. Ultimately this system of punctuated equilibrium selects for organisms that are conducive to the longterm stability of the ecosystem, which tends to favor biodiversity (though speciation takes a long time) and biomass (which grows each year in an old-growth forest). Given sufficient diversity of organisms, and my local redwood forests have the highest soil biodiversity on Earth according to some studies [Noss], we see an elastic but self-balancing succession of species' dominance after disturbance. Populations are naturally and dynamically regulated by predators, parasites, seasons and fluctuations of resource abundance.  In these diverse ecosystems, a high risk-reward niche exists for the organisms that can are adapted survive when shit hits the fan. Especially if they are perfectly adapted to eat a well spread layer of shit. I theorize that one way that can happen for soil microbes is in a fermentation environment, and that seems like what would happen in the NW winter with many eroded, compacted post-logging clay soils. I cannot say I am the world's most profitable farmer, but my soil seems to be improving dramatically with 50lbs of bokashi spread over the 1/2 acre each spring and fall, after spreading mulch or chop and drop, being a part of my routine soil maintenance and improvement.
 
Angelika Maier
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Jars, thanks for the practical steps. Are you simply taking the washing water of the rice and then cook the rice normally so no rice 'wasted'? And for one part of rice water there are 10 parts of milk - do you dilute when putting it on your plants? Is it meant to be a foliar spray (a bit too fiddly) for my taste or simply applied with the watering can? At what time of year and how often?
 
Cody Crumrine
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jars lyfe wrote:It will curd up on top, drop sediment to the bottom and the middle yellowish layer is our serum! Extracting is tricky, you can scoop out the curds (eat them, feed them to chickens, make cheese, YouTube it) and sieve out the middle layer.


So I haven't intentionally cultivated EMs (yet) but we do make yogurt, and the serum you describe sounds a lot like whey (yellowish liquid, left over after we strain it). Since you're talking specifically about LAB, what you're making is probably a little closer to Sour Cream than yogurt, and has the advantage of starting with the IMOs that live in your air, but I'm curious now if there might be garden uses for whey. We usually just cook with it.
 
jars lyfe
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Cody, whey is lactic acid bacteria, and this thread is about using them for the garden. This particular "whey" is more diverse than your typical whey from yogurt. Im trying to explain its effectiveness that's been discovered over and over again over generations of trial and error.
 
jars lyfe
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Angelika Maier wrote:Jars, thanks for the practical steps. Are you simply taking the washing water of the rice and then cook the rice normally so no rice 'wasted'? And for one part of rice water there are 10 parts of milk - do you dilute when putting it on your plants? Is it meant to be a foliar spray (a bit too fiddly) for my taste or simply applied with the watering can? At what time of year and how often?


Please refer to the links I posted on my thread "These are the stories microbes tell". Lactic acid bacteria has many uses and and is incredibly diverse. Foliar to take care of any topical fungal issues (powdery mildew). LABs have evolved to consume and kill pathogens. Spray it on your compost as an activator, spray it to livestock bedding to eliminate smells (works for domestic uses as well around the house). It's more beneficial for leafy greens than other crops. You can also add it to soil, yes. KNF directions say to dilute 1 teaspoon (4mL) per gallon. And as always, observe the effects of it in your environment. And yes, don't waste the rice =). Cook and eat, or if you're interested, learn how to collect local fungi with the IMO1 process using rice to introduce into your garden to establish diverse fungi and mycelium.
 
Tj Jefferson
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Learn Korean and see their studies.

That is a pretty big "should". My take on it is probably close to Marco's. This may open a can of worms but branding something doesn't make it more scientific or effective. There is a saying that there are as many borscht recipes as there are people in Poland, and the same can likely be said for Korean Natural Farming or other traditional approaches. I would include Biodynamics as a distinctively rigorous Germanic  homeopathic approach to agriculture. I am more attuned to the principle-based approach, and I think that is the disconnect with my interest in KNF or several other approaches. I think if you spent time in Korea you would find other approaches that work in certain areas and that KNF as described may not work at all. I don't know, I don't live there. I guess the point is that as humans we try to extrapolate from one experience, and the chance that it will successfully transfer is lower the more specific the prescription, but at least it is testable. I have no doubt that some of the Biodynamics preparations work, but the odds are that if I make up 600 preparations, some of mine will too. I am more interested in general principles I can riff off of, and do local experimentation. Plus I don't have a pregnant cow! Are there principles I can adapt? Can I do it with decreased human input (because I barely am organized to get stuff planted on time)?

The common practice in organic is to spray it with hydrogen peroxide (chemicals!)

Your neutrophils make this dread compound every moment of every day. Most organisms rely on enzymes producing it to kill pathogens, but it is a basic molecule in photosynthesis. Is there a way of improving the plant's ability to make it? What minerals are required? I'm thinking in systems and principles.

So the general principles here are lactose fermenters/metabolizers are good, local cultures are preferable (although I suspect local cultures will predominate rather quickly anyhow, but maybe we can select a subgroup of local microbes). Bryant Redhawk said microbes are next after his soil series, and I am thinking he will address a lot of these issues.
 
jars lyfe
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Tj Jefferson wrote:
There is a saying that there are as many borscht recipes as there are people in Poland, and the same can likely be said for Korean Natural Farming or other traditional approaches. I would include Biodynamics as a distinctively rigorous Germanic  homeopathic approach to agriculture. I am more attuned to the principle-based approach, and I think that is the disconnect with my interest in KNF or several other approaches. I think if you spent time in Korea you would find other approaches that work in certain areas and that KNF as described may not work at all. I don't know, I don't live there. I guess the point is that as humans we try to extrapolate from one experience, and the chance that it will successfully transfer is lower the more specific the prescription, but at least it is testable. I have no doubt that some of the Biodynamics preparations work, but the odds are that if I make up 600 preparations, some of mine will too. I am more interested in general principles I can riff off of, and do local experimentation. Plus I don't have a pregnant cow! Are there principles I can adapt? Can I do it with decreased human input (because I barely am organized to get stuff planted on time)?


I agree with you. There have been many offshoots of KNF that have been adapted for different regions of the world with many KNF elements. Thai had adopted many KNF principals and approaches and have developed Thai Natural Farming with many similarities. The same has happened in the Philippines. There is a system called mountain microbes that I found in Africa that has many elements of KNF as well as panchagavya of zero budget natural farming and bokashi.

My point here is to direct those in the right direction who are interested in learning these  systems. As one becomes more familiar with these processes, it is natural that they start to improve upon it in accordance to the unique individual situation/climate/geography/resources.
 
Adriaan van Roosmalen
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Angelika,

At http://theunconventionalfarmer.com/recipes/lactobacillus-serum/ you will find the detailed steps to create your own EM and also how to use it.
You also can use the serum to create newspaper bokashi. See https://newspaperbokashi.wordpress.com/category/newspaper-bokashi/

 
Marco Banks
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jars lyfe wrote:
Biodynamic preparation 500 is evidence that foliar spraying microbes has consistent positive effects. Preparation 500 is manure from a pregnant cow fermented in a horn buried underground. I use preparation 500 as an example, because it is something that is fairly common practice that most people know of.


Biodynamics.  "Evidence".

I'll step out of this thread and let you enjoy your way of gardening.  Best of luck.

 
jars lyfe
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I believe in microbiology.
 
David Livingston
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I think it is important that Folks remember that rules of Permies . No one has the monopoly on truth and we do not ask for citations . If this thread does not follow  these principles the thread may  be locked /deleted. If anyone is unclear about this I suggest you read these threads before replying  https://permies.com/t/17422/permies-publishing-standards https://permies.com/t/2296/nice ; https://permies.com/t/6155/citation-needed https://permies.com/t/25570/debate-sharing https://permies.com/t/7304/Leaving-room-peoples-ideas

Play canny folks
Folks should reread what they have written so far and reflect

David - wearing my mod hat
 
Angelika Maier
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I find it actually very interestin how you mentioned several different cultures (including Anthroprosphie) using similar methods to increase the good 'bugs'.
Probably we lost a lot here. Is autumn a good time to start or do I wait until spring?
 
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