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Building Living Soil with EM1, Effective Microorganisms™

By Erika Fehr

EM1, "Effective Microorganisms," is a microbial solution using the technology of nature itself, which is built upon the intelligence of microbes. It is a unique blend of natural microbes supporting health in soil, plants and environment. Trained to eradicate bugs, we are reminded by EM technology of the beneficial aspects of microorganisms (Lynn Margulis and Dorian Sagan, Microcosmos).

In 1980, horticulture professor Teruo Higa of Japan, threw away a brew of common microorganisms. He was stunned that one week later the grass there had grown denser and greener. He was exploring the regenerative and synergistic power of natural microorganisms to revitalize depleted soil. Single microbes were studied, but not their synergistic activities (Teruo Higa, An Earth Saving Revolution, Volume 1).

Finally he found a solution of only three common strains that did the trick: lactic acid bacteria, yeast, and phototrophic bacteria. They form a group that establishes a balanced medium, out-competing pathogens. Phototrophic bacteria have the amazing capacity to degrade pesticides, dioxin and other pollutants (Higa, An Earth Saving Revolution, Volume 2).

Another astounding finding: More than 60 percent of all microbes are opportunists that follow the main stream, whether it is for health or putrefaction (Higa, An Earth Saving Revolution, Volume 1). This tells again the importance to stir microbial activities towards self balance. By studying these interacting and food-exchanging microbes, Higa's EM philosophy was born: co-existence, cooperation and co-prosperity.

In the 1980s, EM1 was proven throughout Asia to be a revolutionary technology not only for agriculture, but also for livestock, composting, waste and wastewater treatment and remediation of contaminated waste (Higa, An Earth Saving Revolution, Volume 1 and City of Redding, California, Department of Municipal Utilities, Solid Waste Utility). EM Technology™ spread over time to about 100 countries.

In the 1990s, North Korea went through a desperate agricultural situation. Soils were depleted by overuse of chemicals. EM Technology™ was introduced to all farmers. Within three years yields became bountiful and high quality produce could be exported (Higa, Our Future Reborn ). There are reports about other projects where 100 percent higher yields were obtained (Higa, An Earth Saving Revolution, Volume 2). Interest in EM1 is growing in the U.S. due to increased demand for organically grown produce.

What is happening to soil when microbes are present?

Looking at soil as a digestive system, microbes are the alchemists breaking down organic matter into the smallest building blocks, guided by nature's inherent intelligence. They are secreting substances such as antioxidants, enzymes, amino acids, sugars, and hormones — catalysts in the soil food chain. Nutrients are more available and less fertilizer is needed, though EM1 itself is not a fertilizer, and organic matter should to be added to soil for other benefits. With EM1, soil is more able to retain water, resulting in increased drought-resistance. I have experienced this — and better plant health in general — in my garden.

Other benefits of EM1 include allowing plants to tolerate wider temperature ranges — up to 10 degrees F — allowing for a longer growing season. Plants store more sugar, which makes them less desirable for pest insects, but more delicious for us! Plants grown with EM1 also contain more vitamins and nutrients.

As food prices rise, and individuals focus more on growing their own food, we can rely on EM1 as a living technology to create microbial-rich soil that will increase our bounties and reduce our problems.

Erika Fehr is an environmental educator and a promoter of EM1 Technology™, EM1 classes and Bokashi workshops in the Olympia Community Free School. She can be reached at 360-894 6819. Teruo Higa's books and EM1 are available at the Olympia Food Co-op.

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Updated 2015/01/07 21:14:22