Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Effective Microorganisms

Today we had a lesson in how to create “Effective Microorganisms,” or “EM” for short. EM is kind of a miracle substance in the garden than functions as plant nutrition, pest control agent, soil builder, and all-around ecosystem enhancer. So what is it?

EM is an inoculum of microorganisms cultured using compost, sugar, and a bit of the local soil. Microbes are a crucial part of every ecosystem, even the ecosystem we call the human body. The idea with EM in the garden is that you cultivate a super-vigorous culture of microbes that can use the native soil mineralogy, build soil and provide nutrition to your crops. There are even types of EM you can drink that will promote a healthy ecosystem in your gut!

Today we began experiments with three types of EM – two for the garden and one to drink. The drinkable EM consists of bananas and sugar. We chopped up enough bananas to fill a two gallon plastic bucket. We added about 2 kg of raw cane sugar, put the lid on, and stored the bucket in a shady spot in the kitchen. In a few weeks we should have about half a gallon or so of liquid produced by the rotting bananas. This can be used as a tincture and mixed with water, or taken in a small amount (a couple tablespoons) daily for health. I tasted some they have already made and it tastes like sweet and slightly alcoholic banana wine. Pretty good stuff! Either I will become violently ill, or I will never get cancer. I’ll let you know one way or the other…

Here are the two recipes we are experimenting with for EM for our gardens:

Michel’s easy EM

In a large mixing bowl, mix a bunch of starchy cooked leftovers. We mixed a lot of cooked rice with some sweet potatoes. To this we added about 1 kg of cane sugar (molasses would also work).

Find a nice spot outside in a grove of trees that’s shady and has a diverse and thriving arrangement of plant life. The diversity and healthy plants indicates a healthy ecosystem and a good crop of ambient microorganisms. Mix a couple handfuls of soil into the bowl and cover with a cloth to keep critters out.

Let this mixture rot for about 1 week. Add the mixture to about 2 gallons of water in a five-gallon bucket. Add food scraps and another kilo of sugar or molasses. Let this brew for about a month. Aliquots of the resulting liquid can then be diluted with water about 1:20 and used to water your plants. Repeated additions of sugar can keep the stock of microbes going for a few months, possibly up to a year. If it ever smells sour and gross it’s done and can be composted.

Pi Jo’s original old-school EM

This recipe is based on the original conception for EM that first took hold among Thai farmers.

Sterilize a pint-sized mason jar with boiling water. Fill it about 2/3 full with cooked rice. Cover the jar with a piece of paper (notebook paper is fine) and secure with a rubber band. Put the jar in a shady, diverse and healthy environment of trees and shrubs. Cover the jar with leaves and whatever plant detritus is on the ground.

In three days to one week a white, cotton-like mold should form on the rice. Put the rice and mold into a large bucket with 1 kg molasses or sugar and 3 kg vegetable scraps (fresh but some cooked are OK). Let this mixture sit and rot for one month. Strain the juices off the bottom of the bucket and dilute 1:20 with water and add to garden. Aliquots of the juices can be used with additional sugar/molasses to create more EM, up to two times after the original.

An extra-potent for of EM can be made using the same procedure as above except substituting fish (whole fish, fish parts, fish leftovers) for the vegetables. This EM is so potent it should be diluted 1:1000 before application. The fish-EM also cures viruses that affect tomato plants.

The solids from both of these variations can be composted and mulched. The fish-based EM solids can be applied right to grass in sheet mulch form and it will kill the grass and prepare the soil excellently for planting a garden. As with Michel’s recipe, when then smell of the mixture turns sour and gross it is done and should be composted.

25 comments:

javawaki@hotmail.com said...

This article is very useful to me but I wish to ask, if this EM would be able to eat away foul odor of our septic tank or waste water treatment facility.

EMEric said...

Yes, EM1 is perfect for this type of application. You can get the exact details on how to do it here: http://www.emamerica.com/treating-a-septic-tank.
Regards,
Eric

Anonymous said...

I'm into permaculture and backyard farming, always wanting to learn and improve...
I see soil as a complex society of single- and multi-cell organisms, very much like the ecosystem walking on top of it. Introducing new species (or changing the proportions of the present ones), in an ecosystem weakens the balance and lead to instability. You know, like bringing foxes and rabbits to Australia.
Is it wise to assume that high proportions of fungi and stuff, (living in a closed bucket-ecosystem), would improve the GENUINE fertility of soil, especially in the long run?
The bucket-organisms might surly speed the composing of organic matter, but what will be composted in the soil next year then? Rocks? Could this not just be another way of using the resources to fast?

Chriss

Anonymous said...

which type of recipe im going to try for aquaculture purposes?thanks

Anonymous said...

What kind of aquaculture? Growing fish, crabs, rice or what? Hydrophonics?

/Chriss

Anonymous said...

tiger shrimp,fish..please kindly email me at bulacansell@yahoo.com sir Chriss or anyone who can help me out. thank you and God bless

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runthoseredlights said...

Can I please know the exact recipe and steps to create this drinkable EM?
This will be of much importance to me.

spraycan said...

Thanks heaps for the information. Barry.

Loren, Pat, Kenneth & Kyle Claassen said...

Hey Josh, I need help on making EM who can I contact. I've made both your recipes. Easy one turned orange in the first week because of the earthen pot I put it in. Its in the one month process. Smells like beer. Is that the same thing as "smells sour-throw it out?" The traditional one- no white mold showed up- I'm still going to try it. But need coaching on this. Loren India

blanco1948 said...

I want to make em for my garden its winter here in northern Ca. but rarely goes below 32. Can I still make it. Thanks walter

dal.alif.lam.ya.lam.alif.ha. said...

This is very good. I've only used EM for my goats & chicken. But Im buying them, do u hv any idea on how to do it for animals instead of plants?

Adam Hamilton said...

Yes EM-1 will help prevent odors in septic tank. I've never seen any of these 3 recipes though. The one I use calls for mixing rice with water in a 1:2 ratio. Mix vigorously (I use gallin milk jugs). Filter out the rice and keep the cloudy liquid in the jug for 4-8 days covered lightly with a paper towel. Then add 10 parts whole milk to 1 part rice water and cover lightly again for 2-3 weeks. After this you will have most of the solids left on top and a purified yellowish serum. Strain. Mix 3/4 cup serum, 3/4 cup molasses and 3-4 gallons of water. Mix this in witha 50 pound bag of wheat bran. Until mixture is about 30-35% moisture. Put mixture in an airtight bag/container and ferment another 3 weeks. When done, it will smell much like cider vinegar. Spread out and dry the mixture thoroughly and store in airtight container at room temperature up to a year.

Adam Hamilton said...

No. Bokashi composting is excellent for replenishing nutrients in the soil and adding life. These organisms help break down matter faster. That is never bad. All it does is eat the dead matter, help prevent diseases/pathogens, and control foul odors. For instance, of you have cattle or horses, spray the manure and their feed with the EM and the smells will be contained. EM also helps digestion. EM will not hurt the natural ecosystem at all. To the contrary, it will dramatically help.

Adam Hamilton said...

Try the recipe I posted above. It will work much better

Adam Hamilton said...

The recipe that I posted above is for EM-1. It is Lactobacillus bacteria like the ones in Yogurt. You can eat it. It is completely organic and is known to help with type 1 diabetes as well as digestion. There are also studies for more medical benefits.

Adam Hamilton said...

You can put the finished bran down your septic tank, but if you really want to do the job, drain the liquid from the finished bokashi compost and pour unsullied down the drain. This mixture should be diluted 1:1,000 with water for plants, but straight for drains. The mixture will help ALOT.

Adam Hamilton said...

* undilluted

dal.alif.lam.ya.lam.alif.ha. said...

thank you very much...our EM1 is out of stock so i'll try this one out...

Many thanks again!

ORLAN said...

hi! may i ask how to make EM for aquaculture. We are growing crabs, shrimps and milkfish. Thanks! If possible, can you send it to my email. mendozacristel@yahoo.com THANKS SO MUCH!!! :)

ORLAN said...

hi! may i ask how to make EM for aquaculture. We are growing crabs, shrimps and milkfish. Thanks! If possible, can you send it to my email. mendozacristel@yahoo.com THANKS SO MUCH!!! :) you may also send it to uranggo@gmail.com

mooncrescenteyesgirl said...

Hello there!
currently i'm doing research on EM's benefit on poultry. so i'm wondering is the above recipe can be given to the poultry? and if it is, is it the same ratios with the EM-1?

tqvm. :)

Adam Overman said...

The microbes cultured this way are the same as the ones present in the soil. Buy culturing them this way you favor the beneficial organisms giving them an edge over pathogens.