Effective Microorganisms for Ecological Agriculture during Transition

About 25 years ago, I came to know about Effective Microorganisms and their use in agriculture, animal health and sanitation through a Japanese friend who visited my farm and also arranged to get literature about Effective Microorganisms.

Prof. Teruo Higa, an agronomist, modified an age-old Japanese technology which he learnt from his grandmother.  Traditionally, Japanese farmers used to make “BOKASHI” a concentrated form of compost, apply it to the soil along with other organic manures.  The purpose was to inoculate beneficial organisms to improve the quality of organic manure and to check fungus and virus problems in the soil.  They used to collect chemical free soil, rich in humus, from forests and mix it with dry cow dung powder, dry fish meal, jaggery syrup, oil cake and rice bran, adding about 10% to 12% of potable water. The anaerobic compost thus prepared was used at the rate of 100 grams per square metre of land.  Prof. Hegueo, further worked on this traditional practice along with his friend, a microbiologist and introduced Effective Microorganisms to agriculture, animal health and sanitary uses. Now, almost after 30 years of its introduction, it is being used in most countries all over the world.  In India, through its licensed tie-up with Maple Orgtech (I) Limited, the Effective Microorganisms are being supplied through their distributors all over India.

What is EM?

EM contains more than 70 beneficial organisms, more importantly lactic acid bacteria, photosynthetic bacteria (Rhodopseudomonas Palustris) and yeast. Surprisingly, use of EM helps in augmenting the photosynthesis by about 30% in all the crops. Further, it controls viruses and fungal damage to crops and animals by inoculating lactic acid bacteria and actinomycetis bacteria. It is very expensive and not very effective to use the stock solution.  So, the farmer has to prepare Secondary Effective Microorganisms (SEM) or Extended Effective Microorganisms (EEM).

To prepare SEM/EEM, we need a 20 litre plastic can, free from chemicals, 20 litres of potable water (not chlorinated, or bleaching power being used for purification), 1 or 2 kgs of chemical free Jaggery.  Mix jaggery in 20 litres of water in the plastic can and add 1 litre of Effective Microorganisms stock solution. Close the lid and keep in a cool and dark place for about 8 to 10 days.  The PH will come down to 3.5 and the processed product – E.E.M or S.E.M will smell sweet and sour like a mixture of jaggery and curd.

 Ways in which EEM can be used

You can use E.E.M or S.E.M. in agriculture in 5 ways very usefully.

  1. Direct use of E.E.M

You can spray E.E.M. directly on crops at 0.1% or 1 ml in 1 litre of water.  You can also spray on the soil or crop residues at 0.5% to help them break down much faster (particularly sugarcane and paddy thrash). If you have S.E.M in excess, not being used after 60 days, you can spray at 0.5% on your compost heap.

  1. Enriched Urine with E.E.M

Collect urine including human urine and process anaerobically for 8 days @ 50 ml E.E.M with 1 litre of urine, and 100 gms of jaggery and spray on crops @ 1 ml in 1 litre of water.  Farmers in Doddaballapura, Bangalore Rural district, Karnataka State area are collecting urine from school latrines and are using on their crops as soil application as they hesitate to spray on crops.  But for sure there will be no traces of bad odour after addition of E.E.M and fermentation anaerobically.

  1. Fermented Plant Extraction (F.P.E)

Collect about 10 kgs of weeds at the time of sunrise and cut them into 2” pieces. Fill them into a plastic container with water, adding 500ml of E.E.M. and 500 ml of Jaggery syrup. Close the lid, not too tight, as this particular fermentation releases some gas. Allow it to ferment for 8 days, in a cool and dark place. You will find clear odourless liquid which can be strained in a cotton cloth. This sap can be sprayed on the crops at 1 ml in 1 litre of water i.e @ 0.1%

  1. Bokashi or concentrated compost

You need 100 litres of fine rice or wheat bran, 10 kgs of dry cow dung powder, 10 kgs of groundnut oil cake, 5 kgs dry fish meal, 2 kgs of Jaggery, about 12 to 14 litres of chemical free potable water, 1 litre of SEM or EEM and a suitable plastic container to fill all the above material and to be airtight.  Mix all the ingredients well and fill into the container as tightly as possible for anerobic composting for 8 to 10 days in a cool and dark place. The PH. will come down below 3.5 and the product can be mixed with soil at a cooler time along with other organic manures @ 100 gms per square metre.

  1. M. 5

You will need 600 ml of chemical free potable water, 100 ml of Jaggery syrup, 100 ml of E.E.M or S.E.M, 100 ml of ethyl alcohol (rum or brandy) and 100 ml of natural vinegar. Fill and mix all the above ingredients in 1 litre bottle and allow to ferment anerobically in a cool and dark place for 8 to 10 days. The PH will come down to 3.5.  You can spray EM 5 as an antifungal, antiviral and insecticide @ 1 ml in 1 litre of water.

In my vast experience on my family’s five mixed (bio-intensive) farms, I can recommend the use of EM to increase soil fertility and to help suppress harmful organisms from developing there. In the first two to three years, we used EM as a 5 percent spray on our crop residues such as maize, rice paddy stubble and sunflower, to make them decompose more quickly. We noticed that by using EM spray, composting is quicker and better. Similarly, when we applied bokashi (another EM product) together with farmyard manure, we noticed no fungal attacks and viral diseases on our rice, tomato, bottlegourd, soyabean, gladiolus, banana and papaya. Another EM preparation was very useful in controlling sucking insects on legumes and cucurbits. We have observed better growth in the leaves and stems of crops sprayed with different EM preparations, leading to yield increases of 15 percent, and fewer pest infestations.

Farmers in Erode District, Tamil Nadu, south India, are regularly using EM preparations for soil treatment to check root-rots. Farmers in Raichur District, Karnataka State are using EM to help quicken the breakdown of paddy stubble, as do sugarcane growers in Sivaganga District, Tamil Nadu. The EPPL thermal power company, with 700 acres of hill neem trees (also in Tamil Nadu), found that the germination capacity of their seeds increased from 5 percent at the beginning to 85 percent after soaking their dry fruits in 5 percent EM solution for 24 hours before planting. I myself and over 500 farmers in the area also use EM solution to soak all our seeds before sowing.

Care in use of EM

Since Effective Microorganisms are basically an inoculum of beneficial organisms, care needs to be taken not to use any chemicals in the same land forever.  Also as these are acidic in nature EM preparations of 0.1% only should be sprayed, otherwise it may scorch the plants.  All the preparations have to be stored in a cool and dark place and to be used before 60 to 70 days of preparation.

Although some farmers produce their own micro-organism mixtures, for example keeping rice gruel near humus rich wet soil for 4-5 days, my fear is that farmers cannot identify any harmful organisms getting into the preparations as they do not have suitable laboratory equipment to segregate them. Therefore I think it is better to get EM stock solution from an authentic laboratory. It is very cheap to use it: in India, the use of EM on one acre costs less than a cup of coffee. Farmers use it 3-4 times a year on all their crops. Nevertheless, it is enough to use EM preparations only in the first 2-3 years during the transition from chemical to organic farming. It is very useful in building up of the population of beneficial organisms both in the soil and plants. In my opinion, use of EM is the best way for farmers intending for a transition from chemical farming to bio-intensive farming.

Dr. L. Narayana Reddy, Srinivasapura, Via – Maralenahalli, Hanabe P.O. – 561203, Doddaballapura Taluk, KARNATAKA, SOUTH INDIA, Mobile : +91-09367713963


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