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Microorganisms now used in organic farming in Japan

November 12, 2010


March 13, 2009, 10:18pm

A Japanese scientist has perfected a system that utilizes microorganisms to increase farm yield, reduce the foul odor of pig manure, and intensify rice cultivation without using petroleum-based fertilizers and chemical inputs.

Dr. Teruo Higa of Okinawa said he worked on the system for decades, eventually coming out with what he called effective microorganisms (EM) that proved superior in growing bananas, cherry trees and other plants in Okinawa and elsewhere.

The Japanese expert was trained in the University of Ryukyu where he earned his doctorate in agronomy and microbiology.

Backers of both organic farming and biotechnology are keen on applying Higa’s system in the country since the government has recently advocated the use of sustainable agriculture in as much as 10 percent of the country’s total arable land.

Higa said he managed to grow bananas, cherry trees and other crops in Okinawa without plowing the field and disturbing the topsoil, an innovation that encouraged many farmers on the island to experiment on the system that he developed.

EM, according to Higa, makes use of such microorganisms as phototrophic bacteria, lactic acid bacteria, yeast and actinomycetes that are good for sustainable agriculture, livestock health, odor control, human health and environmental protection.

Higa said his system could be utilized anywhere in the world since EM is actually comprised of microbial inoculants that improve soil quality, crop growth and yield. He said the use of microorganisms to boost yield should be recognized as a technology that should benefit humanity and not just a few corporations.

One type of microbial inoculant that Higa developed was “bokashi”. It carries the microorganisms on a base of molasses and water and is added to kitchen and dry waste, rice hulls, banana peels, citrus rind, discarded yams and other biodegradables to create compost in a matter of weeks rather than months.

“Bokashi” was the same solution provided by Higa to the National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA) of the United States when the agency encountered problems with plants carried on board space stations that were eventually found to be the cause of headaches and colds among astronauts.

The success of Higa’s “bokashi” has been replicated in London and in other places where ordinary household waste are stored, heated and transformed into compost, thus reducing trash and eliminating nasty odors from garbage.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Alain Osano permalink
    June 24, 2011 8:33 am

    We have made reference of Dr. Higa’s works on EM in our research project which was one requirement for a masters degree when we were taking up Master of Management at the University of the Philippines-Visayas. We were supposed to be management students but i stumbled upon EM while i was in the hobby of planting high value crops then, in which case i was into watermelons.

    We applied mixed use of EM and commercial fertilizers that resulted to reduction of capital costs’ for a 2.5 ha. watermelon farm by about 33 percent compared to a department of agriculture cost benefit analysis data, reduction of harvest time by about 11 days for a particular watermelon variety.

    We have shared this with farmers adjacent to our watermelon plantation to rice farmers then, but it seemed old habits die hard for them.

    The research paper we did using EM on watermelons could likely be accessed through UP-V, College of Management library which we are happy to share and propagate as do Dr. Higa.

    I myself is interested into further studies about EM.

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