Effective Microorganisms EM
The concept and technology of Effective Microorganisms (EM) was developed by Professor Dr. Teruo Higa, at the University of Ryukyus, Okinawa, Japan in 1970s. The fundamental principle of this technology was the introduction of a group of beneficial microorganisms to improve the soil condition, suppress putrefying (disease inducing) microbes and improve the efficacy of organic matter utilization by crops.
EM is a fermented mixed culture of beneficial microorganisms. These are predominantly Lactic acid bacteria, Phototropic bacteria and Yeast. These microorganisms exist in nature and are utilized for food processing and probiotic for livestock. The culture of EM contains these species, in an acidic medium. This solution does not contain any genetically modified microorganisms.
Research and field studies in all continents have shown that the inoculation of EM culture to the soil/plant ecosystem can improve soil quality, soil health, and the growth, yield, and quality of crops. Similar benefits have also been reported when EM is used in animal production systems.
EM can significantly enhance the beneficial effects of soil and crop management practices, especially in organic farming systems. The solution will help the decomposition process of organic materials through fermentation, and produce beneficial organic acids, bioactive substance and vitamins. A key ingredient in this process is organic matter, which is supplied by recycling crop residues, green manures and animal manure. In addition this process leads to increased humus in the soil.
The use of EM is not restricted to the production of food. It is used extensively in waste management with very good results as shown by numerous studies and field applications in many countries In the recent past, antioxidation effects of EM have been reported, which could improve immune system of plants and animals.
The types of microorganisms found in the Effective Microorganisms EM are:
The Photosynthetic Bacteria group are the leaders in EM. They break down harmful substances and produce antioxidants Independent, self-supporting microorganisms
Photosynthetic (phototrophic) Bacteria synthesize useful substances from root secretions, organic matter and /or harmful gases. The useful substances secreted include amino acids, nucleic acids, bioactive substances, antioxidants and sugars.
They all promote plant growth and development naturally and are directly absorbed by the plants. They also act as substrate for other micro-organisms e.g. Photosynthetic Bacteria secrete nitrogenous compounds (amino acids), which are used by VA (vesicular arbuscular) mycorrhiza. Mycorrhiza increases solubility of Phosphate in soils. VA also co-exists with Azotobactor (free living nitrogen fixing bacteria) and enhances nitrogen fixing ability of Rhizobium sp. in legumes.
Lactic Acid Bacteria:
Lactic Acid Bacteria promote fermentation and produce organic acids that suppress pathogens. They form lactic acid from sugars and other carbohydrates produced by Photosynthetic bacteria and yeasts. They have been used in making food – pickles, yoghurts etc. for a long time. They are strong natural sterilizers that help to eliminate harmful micro-organisms. They enhance the natural breakdown of hard to decompose matter e.g. lignin and cellulose and they eliminate Fusarium sp. and as a consequence harmful nematodes.
Yeasts promote fermentation and produce useful substances for plant growth from amino acids and sugars found in soil organic matter and from the secretion of the Photosynthetic bacteria. They produce bioactive substances such as hormones and enzymes promoting active cell and root division in plants. Their secretions are substrate for other effective microorganisms such as Lactic acid bacteria and Actinomycetes.
Examples of fermenting fungi include Aspergillus and Penicillium which help to decompose organic matter, producing alcohol, esters and antimicrobial substances. They also synthesize amino acids and glucose from starch and other carbohydrates.
They control odours, thus preventing infestations of harmful insects, maggots etc. by eliminating their food supply.
Actinomycetes are intermediate in structure to bacteria and fungi and are found in compost and fertile soils. They produce anti-microbial substances from amino acids, secreted by photosynthetic bacteria or found in soil organic matter. These anti-microbial substances limit growth of harmful fungi and bacteria.
They can coexist synergistically with photosynthetic bacteria and they help to break down hard-to-decompose matter. Actinomycetes are found in compost and fertile soils.
E.M. can improve the chemical, physical, biological and microbial aspects of the soil. It is readily available, cost effective, easy to use and is environmentally safe.
These various micro-organisms are cultured and are known as EM or Effective Micro-organisms. EM is now used for various practical applications. There are more than 80 different micro-organisms including Actinomycetes, Photosynthetic bacteria, Fermenting fungi, Yeasts, and Lactic acid bacteria present in the EM product.
EM c0ntributes to and improves the chemical, physical, biological and microbial aspects of the soil. It is readily available, cost effective, easy to use and is environmentally safe.
Effective Microorganisms are also promoted through the Kyusei Farming Network.
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See Lindros training using the Effective Microorganisms
Ideally there is no uniform instruction manual for the use of EM as there is for chemical fertilizers and pesticides. It is said that the only instruction manual for EM is that there is no manual. This is because the agroecosystems for crop production are different, and EM must be used in a way that is most suitable for each environment. Therefore, it is necessary to characterize the environment through careful observation and then establish the EM treatment. This approach is fundamental to agriculture. We believe that to strengthen the soil complex is to vitalize the earth and its harvest. The principle of Kyusei Nature Farming is to vitalize the earth, and its goal is to attain the health of mankind
Effective Micro-organisms or EM is a mixed culture of beneficial micro-organisms (primarily photosynthetic and lactic acid bacteria, yeast, actinomycetes, and fermenting fungi) that can be applied as an inoculant to increase the microbial diversity of soils. This in turn can improve soil quality and health, which enhances the growth, yield, and quality of crops. Agricultural scientists have discussed the concept of inoculating soils and plants with beneficial micro-organisms to create a more favourable microbiological environment for plant growth for decades. However, the technology behind the concept of Effective Micro-organisms and its practical application was developed by Professor Teruo Higa at the University of the Ryukyu in Okinawa, Japan.
Professor Higa has devoted much of his scientific career to isolating and selecting different micro-organisms for developing beneficial effects on soils and plants. He has found micro-organisms that can coexist in mixed cultures and are physiologically compatible with one another. When these cultures are introduced into the natural environment, their individual beneficial effects are greatly magnified in a synergistic fashion.
The Effective Micro-organisms are used through the following derivatives:
- Multiplied EM Multiplied EM is produced in multiplying the EM Stock solution through adding molasses and water. This makes it very cost effective and is then applied generally, depending on the situation in a dilution ratio from1:100 up to 1:1000.
- EM Fermented Fish (F.F) EM FF is a fermented mixture of fish and EM. It is used as a foliar feed and due to the fortified photosynthetic bacteria cultured the plant’s fruit sugar content rises and produces very tasty produce with a prolonged shelf life.
- Fermented Plant Extract (F.P.E) EM FPE is a mixture of fresh weeds fermented with molasses and stock EM. It serves as a bioactive supplement of vitamins, hormones and enzymes, which help plants ward off plant pathogens and harmful insects. The cost of making F.P.E. can be very cheap if you use weeds, but using herbs and a diversity of plants will improve its quality.
- Fermented Chicken Manure (F.C.M) EM FCM is a fermented mixture of Chicken Manure, Bokashi and EM. It is used as a foliar feed
- Bokashi (Fermented Organic Matter) EM Bokashi. Bokashi is a Japanese word, which means ‘fermented organic matter’. It is made by fermenting organic matter (bran, oilcake, fish meal etc.) with EM. EM Bokashi is an important soil amendment used to increase plant nutrients and the abundance of beneficial microorganisms in the soil.
- EM5 (Insecticide & disease suppressor) EM5 is a fermented mixture of vinegar, spirits (alcohol), molasses and EM. EM5 is an organic insect repellent and is non-toxic. EM5 is used to help prevent disease and pest problems in crop plants and is also effective for animals to prevent insects from attacking their skin. It is usually sprayed in a dilution of 1:500 up to 1:1000 for plants, for animals 1:500. It is mainly used to repel insects by creating a distasteful barrier. EM5 also helps control diseases/pest attack by the mechanism of ‘competitive exclusion’, a form of natural biological control.
- EM 3-in-1 (Insecticide & disease suppressor) EM Insecticide is brewed with EM and a variety of insecticidal plants, e.g. garlic, chilli, ginger, black pepper and is used against strong pests, acting as a contact poison.
EM cultures do not contain any genetically modified micro-organisms. EM is made up of mixed cultures of microbial species that are found in natural environments worldwide.
The EM products are used for:
- Insect/Pest Control
- General Environment
Home Uses – Cleaning with EM
EM is a very acidic solution that re-populates surfaces with beneficial microbes. The presence of these microbes discourages mould, fungus and harmful bacteria from taking root. EM helps to eliminate odours from pets, cigarette smoke, and odour-causing bacteria as well. A small spray bottle filled with undiluted Multi EM is handy to keep by the kitchen sink. It is convenient to add to water for washing vegetables, to pour down the garbage disposal to reduce odours, and to spray on sponges/ cloths to keep it fresh and reduce harmful bacteria. One teaspoon of Multi EM can be added per load to the washing machine. This is recommended for light coloured laundry since the microbes love fabric dyes, and dark coloured articles have a tendency to fade. If you are using Multi EM reduce the detergent to 1/3 the usual amount. If possible, let the clothes pre soak for 10-15 minutes before running through the cycle. Use 2 Tablespoon of EM to 8 litre room temperature water for mopping ceramic tile or vinyl floors. No detergent is needed.
For use on wood floors and furniture, dilute 1 tsp. in 4 litres water. Wipe dry immediately.
Add 1 tsp. EM to 2 litres of water, and spray or wipe on tile, porcelain, and Formica. Let is stand on wood or plastic cutting boards to discourage salmonella and other harmful bacteria. Then rinse. This dilution must be used within 3 days. Diluted Multi EM can be sprayed lightly in shoes to keep them smelling fresh and on shower curtains to discourage mould. Clean garbage receptacles with this mixture to reduce odours. Use a diluted solution and spray generously on light coloured automobile interior, door panels, light-coloured upholstery, and carpets to freshen and deodorize.
Soil Uses – Gardening and Landscaping
EM can be used to inoculate plants, water and soil in various ways to achieve beneficial results. It can be sprayed on soil as a pre-planting treatment, used to inoculate seeds or transplants, and applied to growing crops as a foliar spray or through irrigation systems. EM is useful in growing nursery crops, container-grown plants, and even in hydroponics. After crops are harvested, EM is used to help break down crop residues.
EM can be applied to cover crops and green manures during growth and upon incorporation into the soil, and is applied to pastures with good results.
Some General Directions:
For most crop applications, EM is diluted with water at a ratio of 1 part EM to 500 – 1,000 parts water. Do not apply with pesticides or fungicides. It is best to start on a small scale and experiment with EM to determine the best methods and ratios for specific locations.
Between two and three weeks before planting, apply a 1:100 dilution of EM to the soil. Apply as a spray, drench or introduce into irrigation water. Cultivate weeds that emerge after 10-14 days. To activate EM on a large scale, you may start with 5 – 8 litre of EM and 5 – 8 litres of molasses per hectare treated. Dilute EM and molasses in water to a concentration of 1:100 and apply. Or apply through the irrigation.
Gardeners may want to try soaking seeds in a solution of EM before planting to increase seed viability. Dilute EM with water at 1:1000. Soak seeds in solution for 5-10 minutes and no longer. Air – dry in the shade and plant as usual. Experiment with small batches before treating larger quantities. Weak seeds and soil conditions may lead to decreased results. This is not recommended for seeds of the legume family.
Nursery / Container-grown Plants:
Inoculate with EM at seeding and transplant stages, then on a bi-weekly basis thereafter. Use the standard dilution of 1:500 – 1000. Orchid growers have achieved good results by inoculating with EM immediately after planting in a sterile media.
In hydroponic crop production systems, EM can be diluted with the nutrient solution at a rate of 1:1000. This practice will coat the root systems with beneficial microorganisms and make nutrient uptake more efficient.
Grain Crops, Vegetables, Fruits & Herbs:
Spray the standard dilution of 1:500 – 1000 onto the plants. Apply as a pre-planting treatment, again at planting/transplanting and every two to three weeks during crop growth. Apply also to crop residues after harvest, just before incorporating residues into the soil. Use 5 – 8 litres of Multi EM per hectare, diluted with the appropriate amount of water for each application.
Orchard Crops / Perennials:
For orchard crops, such as apples and pears, apply EM immediately after harvest, along with other amendments. Spray plants and soil thoroughly, applying 5 – 8 litres of EM per hectare at 1:100 for the soil and 1:500 to 1:1000 for the plants.
EM Improves Animal Health
Dogs and cats:
Spray the litter box with EM diluted 1:100. You can add EM to bathwater when bathing your dog. This will help keep the dog’s coat shiny and clean. Add 1 cup Multi EM to the bathwater.
Add EM to pet’s drinking water to help maintain good digestive health at a dilution of 1:1000.
To reduce ammonia in fish tanks, and promote beneficial bacteria in the water, add 1 part EM to 1000 parts water once a week, or as necessary.
Livestock and Farm animals:
To improve micro flora in the intestines and make nutrient absorption more efficient, try the following applications. Mix bokashi into livestock feed (1-5% of feed) or sprinkle bokashi on top of feed daily. Mix EM into animal’s drinking water at a ratio of 1:1000. Spray EM dilution in barns and pens to control flies and odours at a ratio of 1:100. Foul odours are present in barns and livestock pens due to the proliferation of harmful, putrefactive microorganisms. These bacteria produce harmful toxins such as ammonia, hydrogen sulphide and methane. EM controls the proliferation of harmful microorganisms by competitive exclusion and the animal’s living quarters will be drastically improved.
Water / Pond Treatment:
To treat sewer lines, livestock holding facilities, solid waste and food waste, apply at a ratio of 1:100 parts water and saturate then compost. For septic systems, holding tanks, recreational vehicles and portable restrooms, apply 1 litre of EM per 1000 litres holding capacity every month by pouring down a drain in the house, or directly into the holding tank. The septic system still may need regular pumping and maintenance. The daily inflow (number) in m3 is the weekly dose in litres of Multi EM (e.g. 20 m3 of sewage will need 20 litre Multi EM/week).
It can reduce BOD by up to 90%.
To control algae blooms dilute activated EM at a ratio of 1:1000 to 1:5000 and spray over the pond or fountain once every 2 – 4 weeks beginning in the early spring. Or apply as needed. If it is not possible to spray the solution, introduce EM at several different sources in order to avoid shock to other pond life. Results will vary depending on the source of inflow and other factors.
Storage and Handling
Multi EM is stored out of direct sunlight and at room temperatures. When activating EM, some sunlight is preferable since the bacteria need light to reproduce. Do not refrigerate. Use by the recommended expiration date. If in doubt, check the smell and pH. Good quality EM will have a sweet-and-sour smell and a pH below 3.7. If the pH rises towards 4.0+ use the remaining EM as soon as possible or within 30 days. Do not use EM if a foul or rotten odour is present. Keep in mind that you are dealing with living organisms. Best results are realized when EM is supported with good organic soil management. Avoid bare soil and mulch whenever practically possible. Feed beneficial and effective microorganisms to crop residues, cover crops, compost and other forms of organic matter.
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