What are Effective Microorganisms (EM)?
Microorganisms are tiny units of life that are too small to be seen with the naked eye and they exist everywhere in nature. Microorganisms are crucial for maintaining the ecological balance. They carry out chemical processes that make it possible for all other organisms including humans to live. There are friendly guys of the microbial worlds known as beneficial microorganisms and a not so friendly group called pathogens that are harmful and capable of producing disease , decay and pollution.
Origins of EM: In 1982 Dr. Higa at the University of Ryukyus, Okinawa Japan, discovered a specific group of naturally occurring beneficial microorganisms with an amazing ability to revive, restore, and preserve. Dr. Higa claims that three groups of microorganisms exist: “positive microorganisms” (regeneration), “negative microorganisms” (decomposition, degeneration), “opportunist microorganisms”. In every medium (soil, water, air, the human intestine), the ratio of “positive” and “negative” microorganisms is critical, since the opportunist microorganisms follow the trend to regeneration or degeneration. Therefore, Higa believes that it is possible to positively influence the given media by supplementing with “positive” microorganisms.
Anaerobic vs. Aerobic: “Western Organic Farm meets Asian Nature Farm”
EM is a combined culture of aerobic microorganisms (requiring oxygen to survive) and anaerobic (requires no oxygen to survive ) that co – exist together to the mutual advantage of both (symbiosis).
But wait aren’t anaerobic microorganisms the bad guys?
Asian countries have had much more experience with anaerobic microorganisms because of growing rice in the flooded paddies, which is a predominantly anaerobic condition.
Asian Nature Farming sees anaerobic soils as:
- Having high populations of putrefactive microbes are reductive and produce toxins. This group of organisms also produce methane and hydrogen sulfide gases, with the methane in particular being a tough greenhouse gas.
- Having high populations of fermentative microbes, for example the effective microorganisms found in EM, produce sugars, alcohol and nutrients which remain in the soil as food. A big bonus is that greenhouse gas production is minimal.
What are the principal microorganisms in EM?
Photosynthetic Bacteria: These bacteria play the leading role in the activity of EM. They synthesize useful substances from secretions of roots, organic matter and/or harmful gases (e.g. hydrogen sulphide) by using sunlight and the heat of soil as sources of energy. They contribute to a better use of sunlight or, in other words, better photosynthesis. The metabolites developed by these micro-organisms are directly absorbed into plants. In addition, these bacteria increase the number of other bacteria and act as nitrogen binders.
Where to find them? Freshly deposited manures and worm casting.
Lactic Acid Bacteria: These bacteria are differentiated by their powerful sterilizing properties. They suppress harmful micro-organisms and encourage quick breakdown of organic substances. In addition, they can suppress the reproduction of Fusarium, a harmful fungus, which weakens crop plants, thereby exposing them to diseases and pests such as nematodes. The use of lactic acid bacteria reduces the population of nematodes.
Where to find them? These bacteria are found in the air and are the same ones we use to make sauerkraut and other lacto-fermented foods.
Yeast: These manufacture anti-microbial and useful substances for plant growth. Yeast produces hormones and enzymes that promote cell and root division. Their metabolites are food for other bacteria such as the lactic acid and actinomycete groups.
Where to find them? Unicellular fungi, found in the air, used for thousands of years for brewing and baking.
Why use Effective Organisms?
- To promote germination, growth, flowering, fruiting and ripening.
- To enhance the photosynthetic capacity of plants.
- To increase the efficacy of organic matter as fertilisers.
- To develop plant resistance to pests and diseases.
- To improve the physical, chemical and biological environment of the soil.
- To suppress soil pathogens and pests.
Whats the difference between EM, BIM, and IMO?
The term Effective Microorganism was coined by Dr. Higa, who then started producing laboratory cultured mixture of microorganisms, which was then commercialized all over the world. Beneficial Indigenous Microorganism (BIM) or Indigenous Microorganisms (IMO) is reproducing the same process, but with microbes native to your area, by using local products.
Information and Pictures compiled from: