Natural Farming, abbreviated NF, is a system of farming that includes some principles from organic farming but it has been developed as a complete, integrated system with specific applications and practices. Inputs for farming are made by farmers from locally available materials. One important NF input, indigenous microorganisms, (abbreviated as IMO) is harvested from the soil and used as a soil amendment.
IMOs carry out two major functions: they decompose organic matter, releasing inorganic nutrients that can then be absorbed by plants; and they create other compounds, such as enzymes, lactic acid, and fixed nitrogen.). IMOs contain a mixture of known and unknown microorganisms, including Azotobacter (that fix nitrogen), Actinomyces (that suppress diseases), yeast fungi (that break down complex sugars), and lactic acid bacteria. IMO is considered the basis for making fertile land because, with good conditions and available food, the use of IMO greatly increases the population of the beneficial microorganisms in the soil. Fungi will grow, and other microorganisms and larger organisms like earthworms will be attracted to the healthy soil culture.
Multiplying Indigenous Microorganisms
To collect IMOs from wooded areas, fill a wooden box up to 7 cm long with steamed rice. Do not compact the rice, as you need to accommodate both anaerobic and aerobic microorganisms. Cover the box with porous paper (to allow air to move in and out) tied snugly with string or a rubber band. Place the covered container into a shallow hole located in the soil of an area where leaves are falling and decomposing with the presence of fungus. The weight of the leaves accumulating on top of the covered box should not be allowed to press the paper down to touch the rice surface. Leave out for two to 10 days depending on the temperature (two days in hotter climates and 10 days in colder ones). Results are often better when there is adequate soil moisture.
When you retrieve the rice from under the porous paper, you should see a white mold growing on it. This harvested IMO material (including the old rice) can be mixed with molasses (at a 1:1 rate) and fermented for at least one month. The resulting fermented IMO material can be used to make various IMO solutions and products. For instance, the fermented IMO product can be diluted in water (0.1-0.2%) and sprayed onto transplanted seedlings to help them with their establishment.
Asia Farm Manager, Khun Sombat, recently collected a batch of Indigenous Microorganisms (IMO) from bamboo forest soil. To learn more, check out ECHO Development Notes #110. http:// edn.link/edn110.
Do you use IMO on your farm or garden? Share your advice at conversations.echocommunity.org