Korean Natural Farming – Mixed Compost (MC)

This is taken from the Korean Natural Farming Handbook p.149-153

What is MC?

Mixed compost is a very useful Natural Farming input. It is made by mixing animal and vegetable organic matter together. Agricultural byproducts, forest leaf molds, livestock and human excretions, rice bran, rice husk and sesame dregs (what remains after pressing the oil of out sesame seeds) can all be MC ingredients. Aside from this you add Fermented Plant Juice (FPJ) and Fish Amino Acid (FAA) for moisture control.  Adding Lactic Acid Bacteria (LAB) and yeast will improve the quality of the MC you produce.  MC is similar to ordinary compost (barnyard manure) but its quality is completely different.

MC must be mixed with soil from both from both pristine mountains and from your farm.  Soil must be added to compost because it holds the nutrients thus preventing their loss.  It also prevents offensive odors (which is a sure sign that nutrients are escaping into the atmosphere). The reason you should collect soil from mountains in the wild is that mountain soil is filled with minerals and tough, resilient microorganisms. Adding your field’s soil will allow mountain and field microorganisms to develop an affinity with each other- you would not want to unleash enemy microrganisms into your fields.

You should note that with regards to organic fertilizer applying unfermented ‘fresh’ organic matter directly to the field, i.e rice bran, sesame dregs, animal faeces, food waste etc,  can be harmful for four reasons.

First, as these substances decompose they consume oxygen and in so doing starve the soil.

Second, as these substances decompose they emit ammonia or methane, which will harm the crop in the field. The problem is even more serious in greenhouses.

Third, these substances are regarded as food by pests, which will then feed on your plants.

Fourth, these substances will not have a fertilizing effect immediately upon application, but in the later stages of plant growth when you do not want it.

Effects of MC

  • Promotes absorption of micronutrients:  Countless diverse microrganisms exist in MC because you use powerful indigenous microorganisms (IMO). A single cell of a single microorganism contains hundreds of enzymes and all sorts of organic compounds. When a micronutrient, such as iron,  is bonded with an organic compound its activity is greatly increased. According to research when iron is combined with 4 pyrroles rings its activation level is increased 1000 times.

[Note from Ian: The last sentence is difficult tor the layman, myself included to understand. What I think it is saying is that iron in the soil in pure mineral form is difficult for plants to uptake, but when iron is combined with an organic compound it is two orders of magnitude (i.e. a thousand times) easier for plants to uptake.  Interestingly, a lot of GMO research is looking into how to make plants more tolerant of low levels of specific micro nutrients.  If making the soil more biologically active can release more of these micronutrients then this would seem to be easier than changing the plant.]

  • Promotes plant hormone effectiveness: MC is rich with hormones. MC ingredients such as the dregs of rape seed and sesame as well as rice bran are rich in hormones. Most hormones are formed in the process of fermentation, for example auxin is produced by yeast and filamentous fungus, with gibberellin being produced by red fungus and cytokinin by germs and yeast. The hormone cytokinin promotes leaf/branch growth, lateral bud growth, cell division, embryo and seed formation, flower bud formation, germination and prevents ageing.
  • Provides vitamins: Vitamins are as critical to plants as they are to humans. Vitamins function like a catalyst that facilitates the action of other nutrients. MC is endowed with abundant vitamins, even more when supplemented with FPJ, FAA and other NF inputs.

How to make MC:

  1. Prepare IMO4 and organic matter in a 1:10 ratio. The ingredients of the organic matter will likely differ with each batch.  The best season for production is autumn and winter. In the northern hemisphere October is the ideal month. During cold winters greenhouses provide sufficient heat for your purposes.
  2. Mix the ingredients under a roof or indoors in order to protect the ingredients from rainfall or direct sunshine. Mix the materials atop soil, not concrete. The materials pile should be at least 500kg since it is difficult for a smaller mass to retain sufficient heat to allow fermentation.
  3. Spread the materials to a height of 40cm when hot and 80cm when cold. This is to let oxygen get into the material and to control the temperature.
  4. Adjust moisture levels to 60% with diluted  (about 500 times) FPJ, FAA, OHN, NMA or other inputs. Adding powdered oyster, crab, shrimp or egg shells is a very good idea. The matter should be slightly wet to the hand and barely maintain shape when squeezed.
  5. Cover with a rice straw mat.
  6. When the temperature reaches 50 degrees use a shovel or a machine to turn the material over. Mixing inside to out will lower the temperature and allow better aeration.  Turn for the first time on the second day, the second time on day 5 or 6, and for a third time on day 8-10.
  7. Control moisture level when necessary.
  8. After about 20 days you will have MC that is ready to use. A well made MC has a sweet smell.  If it stinks then deterioration rather than fermentation has occurred. In the worst case scenario, for example if you did not turn the material well or watered the material too heavily, you will even have maggots.
  9. Put MC in sacks or plastic containers for storage. You can store your MC in cool shade for up to a year.

The three stages of MC

Stage One (filamentous fungus and aspergillus oryzae):

The filamentous bacteria produces sugar. It thrives in cool, low moisture acidic conditions. Bacteria found in stage 2 of the process like hot and humid conditions, which means that if you want a thorough stage one you will make the MC in cool weather.

Stage 2  (bacteria, bacillus lichenformis) :

Bacillus lichenformis that were dormant in straw begin feeding on the sugar produced by filamentous fungus. The digest protein and produce amino acids.

Stage 3 (lactic acid bacteria, yeast):

After the temperature drops below 50 degrees centigrade, lactic acid bacteria starts to proliferate. Yeast follows. They work together to produce/synthesize amino acids, organic acids and vitamins.

Ingredients for MC

You should always mix more than one organic matter for making MC.  It is very interesting that if you are making MC from rice bran predominantly but add a small amount of fish trash, that the whole end product (MC) will be almost as high quality as fish trash MC. This is particularly so if you mature the MC for 1-2 months.

Adding chemical fertilizer to MC boosts the fertilizer’s performance. MC’s fermentation also rids/neutralizes harmful substances in the chemical fertilizer. Then there is the added benefit that outlays on fertilizer are reduced.

Organic matter that we would recommend as inputs when making MC are rice bran and husk, agricultural byproducts, oil dregs, bean/sesame/rape dregs, fish trash, seaweed, animal intestines/bone/blood powder, wild herbs, leaf moulds, livestock, human excretions, crab/oyster/shrimp/egg shells, etc. Carefully measure the nutrients of each ingredient and mix the best formula.

When you add FPJ to the ingredients we recommend that you use FPJ made from the crop that you will apply the MC to.

6. How to use MC

  • Apply MC when there is no sun.  UV light in sunshine is lethal to micro-organisms therefore you should apply the MC on a cloudy day or late in the afternoon.
  • Apply MC partially. Is it better to apply MC to all parts of the field or here and there. Partial application allows micro-organisms to better survive in the soil, where they are being attacked by local field micro-organisms. We recommend that you apply MC here and there on the fields, on top of the soil where the roots will be spreading.
  • Using MC liquid fertilizer: You can put the MC in a cloth, immerse it in water and aerate it. Adding FPJ, LAB etc is even better. When you spray this on leaves you should do it in the evening or at night. It is also better to spray on the back of leaves rather than the front.

[Note from Ian: If you are interested in using liquid fertilizer you should type  'actively aerated compost teas' into your browser]

Korean Natural Farming – Fermented Plant Juice

This is an extract from Dr.  Han Kyu Cho’s Korean Natural Farming Handbook p.106-p.121. Some slight editing has taken place to make the material more readable.

Fermented Plant Juice (FPJ)

1. What is FPJ?

Generally plants are composed of blood, chlorophyll and fiber. Plus, there are about 100, ooo to 150, 000 microorganisms per 1cm3 of leaf. Most of them are lactic acid bacteria and yeast.

Fermented plant juice (FPJ) is a fermented extract of the plant’s blood and chlorophylls. Brown sugar is used to extract the essence through osmotic pressure. Therefore, FPJ is a rich enzyme solution full of these bacteria; invigorating plants and animals.

It is interesting to note that chlorophylls don’t dissolve in water or oil but in weak alcohol. Microorganisms in the process of fermentation of making FPJ produce small quantities of alcohol; extracting the chlorophyll.

FPJ and Kimchi

Kimchi have enjoyed kimchi (korean style pickled vegetables) for hundreds of years. Kimchi, which is made by adding variety of spices and condiments to vegetables, is not only a food source rich in nutrition, but also helps digestion. Abundant lactic acid bacteria in the kimchi soup do this job. That is why Koreans will begin their meal with a spoonful of kimchi juice.

Some smart farmers tried to apply kimchi in farming. My father was one. My father never threw away left over kimchi juice, which is very sour, but instead always poured it into a container filled with human faeces and added water. He then used it as fertilizer and so the crops grew healthy and strong.

This got me to thinking that ‘if human faeces treated with kimchi juice is good for crops, why not use the kimchi juice directly? So I did some experimentation and applied diluted kimchi juice directly to the growing of crops. I tested to see whether hot pepper seeds dipped in old kimchi sauce would germinate. So I dipped the hot pepper seeds in kimchi juice for a while, sowed the seeds and observed the effects. The result were much better than I had expected.  Preparing the seeds by dipping them in kimchi juice meant that even old seeds sprouted and all the plants were healthy.  The success of my experiments led me to use other plants for kimchi ingredients  and FPJ is the eventual result. In essence it’s the same process to make FPJ as kimchi, except that salt has been replaced with brown sugar.

Mugwort and Dropwort

The two basic FPJs come from these two plants; Mugwort (Artemisia Vulgaris) and Dropwort (Filipendula Vulgaris).  My inspiration for using these two plants came from my Korean ancestors use for these plants.  It was a traditional practice in Korea for women who had just given birth to bathe in a broth of mugwort water.  Indeed it is written in the “Dong Eui Bo Gam”, Korea’s great medical encyclopaedia, that mugwort is also known as the “lady’s plant” and that it was good for women.

After some studies of my own it became clear why this should be the case. Mugwort is rich in iron while Dropwort is rich in manganese. The iron in Mugwort thus supplements a woman’s supply of iron, which is depleted during menstruation or after she has given birth. Manganese on the other hand stimulates the peripheral nervous system, which promotes cell division, allowing wounds, such as those sustained in a difficult birth, to heal more quickly. However as trace elements iron and manganese are not only important for humans but also for plants. Therefore it occurred to me that extracting these micronutrients from these plants and applying both to my crops would produce good results.

The best ingredients are everywhere

Once again I should emphasize that the Korean Natural Farming philosophy strongly recommends that farmers produce their agro inputs themselves rather than purchasing them from the market.  As we have everything we need close to hand to make other inputs ourselves so it is with FPJ.

All things created by nature are imbued with energy and plants are are no exception. Plants overflowing with energy are all around us.  We can utilize a variety of weeds, crop remnants and wild plants from the mountains and the sea as the ingredients when making FPJ. Any vigorously healthy plant is good.

When making FPJ plants choosing plants which grow first in the spring or remain green longest in late fall/autumn are particularly good ingredients.  Fast growing bamboo shoots and arrowroots are likewise good.  In southern tropical areas banana, mango, kangkong and bapoom are vigorous and strong.  Addtionally, the lateral buds of all plants contain hign concentrations of growth hormones, which is excellent for FPJ.

2. What to collect

It is recommended that you collect that are strong against the cold and which grow vigorously when spring arrives such as Mugwort and Dropwort. Both plants are abundant in Korea but are found everywhere.  Mugwort endures both heat and cold.  Herbicide weakens it for a while but it shrugs the effects off quickly.  We want to transfer this innate strength to our crops.  Koreans traditionally used Mugwort for numerous purposes, including cooking, medicines and baths. Dropwort is also readily available. As a medicine it alleviates fever, promotes urination and is full of calcium and manganese, which promotes good blood circulation and stimulates the peripheral nervous system. Dropwort will provide the similar benefits to crops if they are sprayed with Dropwort FPJ.   Therefore farmers should always have mugwort FPJ and dropwort FPJ ready.

Fast Growing and Vigorous

When making FPJ it is important that your ingredients come from plants which grow quickly. Quick growing plants have growth hormones which are very active, and these plants have a lot of energy. This characteristic can improve weakness in your crops and help your plants recover from health problems.

Bamboo shoots are a typical example. You can almost see the shoots growing after the rain they grow so quickly. And because they grow so quickly you have to be quick when you are picking them. You shoudl remove the soil but not the outer skin. Bamboo shoot FPJ, like MUgwort FPJ and Dropwort FPJ can be used to increase vegetative growth when diseases weaken crops.

Some other plants, beside bamboo shoots, which are great ingredients for FPJ include cucumber, strawberry and kiwi. With cucumbers the lateral buds are used. A cucumber grows from1 gram to 10 grams in just 10 days. However, it is weak against cold or disease.  During the last part of the harvest season you should cut about 50cm up from the root system and then hang the cucumber stem upside down in a bottle so that the cucumber juice flows out and is collected. This cucumber juice is also good for facial care.  It is said that the juice can be stored for up to three years with the juice retaining it’s original quality, without discoloring or losing its flavor.

On seasons

All FPJ ingredients have a particular season for their collection. This is also true for sea plants. For example, seaweed is best collected between March and April. If you cannot obtain a sufficient amount in one season prepare a lot in the previous year.  Note that FPJ made in spring is used throughout the year so make plenty to ensure you don’t run out. It is also recommended that use wild plants that have lived in the local area for generations.  These wild plants, available in large quantities, will be vigorous and full of energy which is the key to making good FPJ.

FPJ from the same plant

Apart from FPJ sourced from wild plants we can also used FPJ sourced from the plant we mean to benefit. We give back to the plant what it has produced. You can use what otherwise would have been waste, tomato lateral buds and leaves, squash and sweet potato vines, crops eaten by insects or overgrown, picked fruits or buds, unmarketable and other agricultural byproducts.

3. How to collect

Avoid excessive sunshine and rainfall

If the day is clear due to the hot rays of the sun, then the moisture level of the plants may be low.  When the moisture level is low osmotic pressure might fail to extract the juice even if you add more brown sugar.  If the hot weather continues but you really have to make FPJ you should water the plant one day prior to collection.

You should also avoid picking plants during or immediately after rainfall because rain washes away the lactic acid bacteria and yeast on the leaves. If you make FPJ at this time the juice can become sticky and thick and won’t ferment well. This is also why you should not wash the ingredients before fermentation. Picking plants two days after a rain shower is recommended. The reason for this is microorganisms have been washed away on the rainy day and haven’t had time to re-establish themselves the following day. However after 2 days without rain they are once again present in  heavy concentrations.  This is a good time to pick ingredients as the plant is full of moisture.

Just before sunrise

Plants should be collected just before sunrise as this is when the plants have the most nutrients. Plants have two metabolic processes; anabolism and catabolism. When the sun is up, anabolism is primary; from about 3pm to the next sunrise, catabolism is active. This means that in the early morning just before sunrise the plants contain the most nutrients and vitality. Plants with dew on them also give you more volume. In all cases it is best to make FPJ as soon as possible after picking the plants.

Visit the site prior to any expedition

It is usually a good idea to visit the site where you are going to pick plants during daylight hours since finding plants in the darkness before dawn will otherwise involve a great deal of difficulty.  Local knowledge is also of benefit. For example if the coming season is the season of the clematis berries then you should have already noted where they will fruit from the previous year.

I should also mention that Natural Farming techniques work best when performed by the husband and wife in partnership. This is due to the fact that women tend to be more careful and particular when gathering the necessary ingredients for NF inputs.

Make your wife crazy about Natural Farming! If you do then everything will work out very smoothly. You will be able to practice natural farming well and have plenty of plants in storage.  Natural Farming is something that a married couple can have fun doing together.

Since mugwort and dropwort is needed every year it is a good idea to plant a small amount of each plant in your field. Mugwort and dropwort are both very prolific plants so they will grow well when planted and you won’t have to travel far to obtain them.

Quickly snap the growing point

You should pick the growing point for making FPJ.  Opinions differ on how far below the growing point to cut.  If you cut far down from the growing point you will get obtain a great quantity of material but the growing point portion will be small.

For cucumbers, it is best to cut about 10cm down from the growing point.  However it is difficult to obtain sufficient quantity for processing with 10cm so some people cut 20cm down from the growing point.

It is best to use the picked plants immediately. As soon as you pick the plants its liveliness and energy begins to diminish.  If you wait too long before processing the plants will start to dry out. If you try to make FPJ with dried out plants you will only be able to extract a small quantity of juice.

Immediate use is problematic when one must go into the deep forest to obtain, for example wild grapes or wild clematis, since bringing your plant cuttings back home will take some time.  Under these circumstances you should take some FPJ with you. When you pick the fruits dip them lightly in FPJ as this will form a film on the surface of the fruit preventing the escape of nutrients and energy.

Some notes on materials

You should use either a clay pot or a wooden container made from Japanese cedar. Avoid using stainless steel, iron or plastics.

A clay pot is good because it is not prone to temperature changes, particularly in summer. However the disadvantage of a clay pot is that when it is large it is very heavy and difficult to move or wash after use.  Therefore choose a jar which is not too heavy to manage.  A jar with a small opening is also good since less air will contact the juice and this will promote fermentation. Another reason for a small opening is that when the liquid rises to the top and all the ingredients are fully soaked, the liquid should rise above the level of the ingredients. If this does not occur then the surface will become dry and encrusted and fungus may appear.

For Japanese cedar containers sizes between 18L and 36L are adequate. It is also convenient to use a wine barrel with an outlet valve at the bottom since this makes retrieving the solution easier.

It is also a good idea if you have jars and containers of different sizes as different FPJs may require different container sizes. To practice NF properly, you will need 5-10 containers of various sizes. Most of the other inputs will also need containers.

If you cannot obtain a clay pot or a cedar barrel  you may use glass or plastic containers though the quality of the NF input will not be as good.

Finally, do not forget to shade glass containers with black cloth or paper, since the rays of the sun should be blocked.

Brown Sugar

Large amounts of brown sugar are used for making FPJ. Remember that when the ingredients have a lot of moisture (as in summer citrus fruits, fruits, flowers etc.) you will need to use more brown sugar. Generally the amount of usgar you need to use is 1/3 to 1/2 the weight of the ingredients.  When using ingredients with a lot of moisture you should use 1/2.  Should you be using Philippine crude sugar, you will need to add still more.

If it is totally impossible to obtain brown sugar then you may use white sugar. However, since white sugar has been refined it contains fewer vitamins and minerals. Consequently, the fermentation process will be different and the FPJ will be of low quality.

Even better than brown sugar is crude sugar. You can also mixed sun dried salt with sugar, though refined white salt should be avoided. Molasses is unsuitable as it contains too much water and so is not good for generating osmotic pressure.

Using a stone weight to extract air

After putting all the ingredients into a container you will need to use a stone, or similar weight, to extract the air. Since the plant juices are extracted by osmotic pressure, not by physical pressure some compression is needed to bring the the brown sugar and the ingredients into close contact. Place a stone on top of the ingredients, the size of which will vary according to the thickness of the ingredients and their sugar content.

Alternatively, you can use a plastic bag filled with water. This method has the advantage of spreading the weight evenly over the surface and  perfectly adhering to the plant material. The disadvantage is that you must ensure that the bag does not get ripped. So you should use thick plastic bags, or place one bag inside another.

The weight should be removed after the air has been extracted; maybe after a day.

Cover lid

A cover is needed to prevent insects getting in.  Porous paper is ideal as the cover must let air in and out.  Newspaper is not good because of their surface ink. You may use cloth but it is easy for small animals to get in and for dust to accumulate in wrinkles in the fabric.

Don’t forget to write the preparation dates and the ingredients on the paper as you will need this information.

5. How to make FPJ

1.  Collect the ingredients.

2. Shake the dirt off the ingredients but do not wash the ingredients as you will also wash away the microorganisms. If the size of the plant material is too unwieldy cut them into 5-10cm pieces. Doing this will increase the surface contact area and promote the action of osmotic pressure.

Note! Always remember not to mix different kinds of ingredients in one container. The rule is one ingredient to one container.

3. Measure the weight of the plant ingredients. Measure the weight of brown sugar. The weight of brown sugar should be between 1/3 and 1/2 the weight of the plant ingredients. You should adjust the amount of brown sugar to take into account the moisture of the plant materials you are using.

4. Put all the ingredients, plant material and brown sugar, into a large wide container and mix it altogether with your hands.  When the ingredients are fully mixed, cover with a newspaper and leave it for 1-2 hours.

5. Put all the ingredients into a clay pot. The ingredients should fill about 3/4 of the jar, not too much less or too much more.  This 1/4 space is not useless, rather it is the required amount of space for air to react with the ingredients to the correct degree.

6. Place the weight (stone or puncture resistant plastic bag filled with water) on top of the ingredients.

7.  Put on the cover (Ian: presumably paper) and tie it onto the jar.

8. Remove the weight after one or two days; after the air has been expelled from the ingredients. Put the cover back on.

9. Place the the jar in a cool, shaded place. Do not open, move or stir the ingredients while fermentation is taking place.

Using Salt

If the juice is not extracted well you can add sun-dried salt.  Doing this will promote extraction, though it will also make the final product unfit for human consumption. When you use salt make sure the amount you use does not exceed 1/3 of the amount of brown sugar you used; for example if you used 9kg of sugar you should use no more than 3kg of sun dried salt.

6. How to use FPJ

According to the nutritive cycle

Natural Farming applies fertilizer in accordance with the Nutritive Cycle Theory  proposed by Oino Ueyas. This theory states that crops need different nutrients at different stages in their life cycle. Given that, let us see which FPJ suits which stage.

From germination to early growth: Dropwort, mugwort, bamboo shoot FPJs are good. They will help crops become cold resistant and grow quickly and strongly.

During the vegetative growth period:  The crops are developing their volume at this stage, which means they need nitrogen. Arrowroot, bamboo shoot and reed FPJs are good.

During the changeover period: The crops need a lot of phosphoric acid (P) at this stage. Mulberry, grape, raspberry FPJs made from unripe fruit (unripe is when they have more acid) are good.  This is similar to a pregnant woman’s craving for sour foods.

Reproductive growth: The crops need a lot of calcium (Ca) at this stage. FPJs made from fully ripened clematis, apple, peach and grape are good.

General Use

FPJ’s are normally used at dilutions of 800 to 1ooo. When used with other inputs the solution should have still more water. And during the period from germination to the infant stage crops FPJs should be used at the lower concentration level (i.e. at an FPJ to water dilution ratio of 1:1000).  If the leaves are smaller make it even milder. During the reproductive growth stage it is better to to use the stronger solution (1:800) and spray on the leaves and fruit.

Dropwort and Mugwort FPJs are good for helping plants recover from the effects of storms, typhoons and sudden cold spells etc. FPJ will help plants with damaged leaves to recover and regain the optimum balance of microorganisms on their leaves. As such it will help farms recover from natural disaster. For all such emergency treatment you should use FPJ made from dropwort and mugwort.

It is better to use FPJ mixed with other inputs, such as OHN Oriental Herbal Nutrient, to obtain synergized effects. However, in emergencies you should avoid using strong concentrations, even though your need may be great. You should instead start with a weak solution and slowly move to a stronger solution as your plants recover. The reason for this is when the crops are weak their absorption power is also weak. You should also vary the dilution rate according to the weather, stronger in wet season and weaker in dry season.

FPJ as  a beverage for human consumption

FPJ is good for human health. FPJ made frommugwort and dropwort at effective treatments for constipation and arthritis.  FPJ made from bamboo shoots is good for people with weak physical conditions. Clematis and Japanese cedar FPJ are effective in alleviating liver and bowel diseases. People have said that they have been freed from several aches and pains from drinking FPJ.

Natural Farmers use FPJ as a beverage. Also if you get used to drinking NF drinks then you will drink less carbonated soft drinks. Phosphoric Acid, which is a key ingredient in carbonated drinks, flushes calcium out of of your metabolism. Therefore by choosing to drink FPJ instead of carbonated drinks you can prevent calcium depletion and the onset of osteoporosis.  If you raise your children by giving them FPJ to drink as opposed to alternatives, then your children will avoid minor and frequent bouts of illness. I am not exaggerating when I say that FPJ will protect the health of your whole family; it is the king of all medicines.

FPJ restores your body’s energy and also enhances your body’s activity thresholds.  FPJ revitalizes crops and trees so dried out and wasted that they seemed on the verge of death. The juice can also help treat the weakened digestive systems of cows, pigs and chickens when fed to them with brown rice vinegar (BRV).  Very quickly the animals will regain their appetite and vigor.

The effectiveness of FPJ can be enhanced by adding BRV. The combination of FPJ and brown rice vinegar is not only good for your body but is also has a very fresh taste. If you drink this FPJ twice a day (morning and night) then it will be very helpful in protecting your health. You can also experience beneficial health effects if you cook meat products after marinating them in FPJ.

7. Fermented Fruit Juice

Fermented Fruit Juice  (FFJ) is a kind of FPJ that is made from fruit. According to Mr. Shibada Genshi, the foremost enzyme researcher, fruit enzyme is like making honey in a cedar wooden container. Fermented fruit juice  (FFJ) is produced in almost the same way as FPJ. However if FPJ is ying, then FFJ is yang.

How to make FFJ

1. Prepare about 6 different fruit types (in all cases more than 3). The fruit should be fully ripe, either picked or fallen. Clematis (best) , figs, strawberries, grapes, wild berries, mulberries, carrots, apples and cherries are good. When there is insufficient fuit available you may add supplementary ingredients such as spinach roots, wild yam, dasheen, potato, chines cabbage, cabbage, cucumber, zucchini and chinese radish. (However, use persimmon only for persimmon and citrus for citrus. These two FFJs are not good to use on other crops because of their cold and sour character0.

2. For 1kg of fruit, prepare 1.2-1.3kg of brown sugar in summer, and 1kg in winter.

3. Wash the container and then disinfect it in the sun.

4. Spread the brown sugar on the chopping board and dice the fruit in order, starting with the fruit with the highest sugar content. After dicing the fruit put the sugar on the fruit and place them in a container, the sweetest fruit goes in the bottom. Do this very quickly to prevent the loss of essential substances. The ones that are difficult to dice, such as grapes and strawberries,may be slightly crushed with clean fingers.

5. Use half the sugar while dicing and pour the remainder in at the end.

6. Stir slightly, about 2-3 times with a cedar wooden stick.  Stir less in summer and more in winter.

7. Cover the container with porous paper and tie it down.

8. In summer fermentation will be complete in about 4-5 days, in winter it will be about 17-18 days.

9. After completion,sprinkle some sugar and store in a cool shaded place. There will be some sugar on the surface after completion; if it is hard like ice, the FFJ is a success.

How to use FFJ

use FFJ diluted 1000 times after the changeover period of your crops. It is excellent for reenergizing, whether for crops, livestock or humans. It will also keep your family healthy when consumed regularly.

Korean Natural Farming Indigenous Microorganisms IMO

The following article is taken from Korean Natural Farming Handbook p.91 to 105.  Some of the English was somewhat clumsy and so the article has been edited lightly.

Indigenous Microorganisms(IMOs)

1. Why indigenous?

Natural farming rejects foreign microorganisms. It also rejects microorganisms that are produced mechanically or artificially or refined simply to increase their market values. No other microorganism adapts with the same strength and effectiveness as indigenous microorganisms that have lived in the local area for a long time.  Domestic farmers who are used to buying commercial microorganisms are amazed at the effectiveness of homemade indigenous microorganisms (IMO). The spread of IMOs and Fermented Plant Juice (FPJ) is giving a new vision for environment friendly agriculture in Asia. We can make microorganisms, widely considered to be one of the most important materials in sustainable agriculture, at home.

IMO is the basis of making fertile soil.

Farming is inconceivable without soil. Therefore adding strength and fertility to soil is the number one priority. What then is fertile soil? Current research indicates that 0.1 hectare of uncontaminated land holds around 700 kg of microorganisms, although this varies depending on how much organic material  is contained in the soil. Of this, 70-75% is fungus, 20-25% is bacteria and 5% is small animals. If we assume that around 80% of their body mass is water then the dry weight would be about 140kg.  Of this dry weight Carbon (C) accounts for 70kg and nitrogen accounts for around 11kg. Given that the suggested nitrogen fertilizer input for 0.1 ha is 10kg we can see that the amount of naturally produced nitrogen in the soil is equivalent.

100 million to 1 billion microorganisms live in 1 gram of soil. In the space of 1 human footprint are to be found 3,280 aphids, 479 fleas, 74,810 nematodes and 1,485 small earthworms. All these organisms live in balance, helping the growth of plants on the land’s surface.

For environmentally friendly agriculture to be successful we need to replicate these conditions as much as possible. In order to bring soil into balance as described above strategies for creating adequate conditions and food for microorganisms and small animals is essential. When you cover hard packed soil  with straw mats and straw for 7-10 days you will witness white fungus proliferating and the soil itself becoming soft and wet.  These conditions never fail to attract earthworms. Thus adding expensive purchased microorganisms to the soil is unnecessary, with some minimal input from humans the soil can recover its strength on its own. In a proper environment (Ian:not sure what this means) fungus microrganisms grow first. Their growth attracts nematodes, which in turn attract earthworms, mole crickets and moles. These organisms and animals restore the balance to soil, improve it’s structure and condition and so help the growth of plants.  90% of the organisms beneficial to plants live within 5cm of the soil’s surface.

When the land is covered by organic material such as rice straw an ideal ratio of shade to sun, 7:3 is created.  Under such conditions water is kept from evaporating and the soil is protected from direct sunlight.  In order to create such an environment a variety of methods are utilized including rice straw or leaf mulching, wild grass cultivation mulching and rye sowing.

You will see from looking at mountains and fields in nature that the land becomes fertile from top to bottom, not bottom to top. Therefore it is recommended that organic fertilizers and organic materials be applied to the surface of the soil in the form of mulching.

Material Circulation

Microorganisms do most of the material circulation in nature (Ian: this is also referred to as the soil food web). These microorganisms break down materials by decomposition as well as creating new materials.  Seemingly nothing is impossible for microorganisms.

Microorganisms in soil are responsible for two main functions.

The first function is to decompose and convert complex organic compounds such as dead plant and animals, numerous secretions and excretions and organic fertilizers into simple compounds such that material circulation is possible.  Inorganic nutrients are also decomposed by organisms and become highly activated and easily absorbed by plants . Weak microorganism action means improper material circulation.

The second function is to synthesize complex compounds and organic compounds. Microorganisms produce a wide variety of such compounds including antibiotics, enzymes and lactic acids. These suppress various diseases and promote chemical reactions in the soil. In the absence of enzymes complex chemical reactions cannot occur at high speed. For example when sunlight strikes leaves it takes less than 1 second to produce one molecule of carbohydrate. Most chemical reactions in the soil and in plants are not likely to occur without enzymes acting as catalysts.  Some microorganisms self synthesize nutrients using energy from sunlight, some fix nitrogen obtained from the air and so enrich the soil.

Many more microorganisms and functions exist which we are not aware of.  Modern scientific knowledge has revealed less than 10% of the soils microorganisms. The soil and the microorganisms which inhabit it remain for the most part a mystery.

Commercialization of microrganisms

As more research is done on microorganisms so there is ever greater pressure to commercialize them. The result has been that large amounts of microorganisms are imported from foreign countries an sold on the domestic market. This is regrettable.

One core issue is how microorganisms can be commercialized. Commercialization is only possible when you can be assured of continued sales and demand.  However this also means that the effectiveness of commercially sold microrganisms be short lived.  And so it is that commercialized microorganisms are indeed short lived  and effective only in the short term. Such microrganisms are short lived because they perish in local soil to which they are not accustomed.

As more emphasis is put on environment friendly agriculture an ever increasing number of of these microorganism products will appear on the market. As a farmer myself I would likely to clearly communicate to farmers that “the best microorganisms come from the local environment and so what you need is all around you and readily available”.

Power of the Indigene

IMO’s have evolved over thousands of years to survive and adapt to the conditions in the local environment. They can withstand the extreme climactic conditions that the environment throws at them. Within their home environment they will perform their function powerfully. Artificially made or imported microorganisms will not perserve in harsh environments to which they are not accustomed and so will die, resulting in short term effects only.

Microorganisms that are made in factories or greenhouses where temperature and moisture are kept constant are only effective in similar environments but NOT where the environmentt is different of subject to change. In the greenhouse there are no typhoons, droughts or floods, but farming has to deal with all kinds of unexpected environmental conditions.  Korean Natural Farming suggests therefore that farmers grow and use local microorganisms at ambient temperatures. I firmly believe that there is no better alternative to using  locally available IMO’s on your fields.

Restoring nature to its pristine state

Some farmers percieve microorganisms to be like fertilizers and vitamins. Acting on this they add microorganisms to the land at a time they think suitable in pursuit of short term effects. In the short run this can give them the results theyu seek. However, in the long term, it can disrupt the balance within a pristine ecosystem of microrganisms.

Korean Natural Farming does not recommend using micro-organisms for a particular function. We believe it is better to restore the pristine state in order to obtain resilience in diversity and restore the soil’s primitive power.

We have to understand that ever more complicated and mechanical, i.e artificial, ways of thinking in farming is only making farming more difficult. The philosophy of restoring the pristine by contrast is very similar to the “Tao” of Lau Tzu. [Ian: An appreciation of nature as a designer is evident in the 'new' discipline of biomimicry.]

Plants excretions differ in quality and amount according by season and by age. In turn, the type and amount of microrganisms that live on these excretions also change across seasons.

Bamboo Forests and Leaf Molds abound in IMO

If you look at brushwood fences, bamboo forests or mountain valleys where leaves are piled you will find the white growth of microorganisms. Microorganisms find their best living environments on their own. Farmers in the past would make fertilizer by collecting soil containing decomposed leaves or grass sheets. Below the decomposed leaves or grass sheets IMO abounds.

IMOs are easily found and collected in bamboo forest, deciduous forests, grass roots, decomposed leaf molds etc. In Korean Natural Farming we collect, grow and utilize these IMOs in many different ways.  This treasure exists within our grasp, wherever we may be.

2. Using IMOs

Loss of diversity in microorganisms means that plants lose resistance to diseases. Continued use of indigenous microorganisms not only makes soil and plants healthy but also prevents diseases.

Use IMOs continuously

After practising Korean Natural Farming techniques for 2-3 years you can get lazy with regard to collecting and making IMOs. This laziness begins with the premature assessment that the fields have improved to the point where the effort is no longer necessary.  From there it is a short step to the decision that a little bit of rice wine or lactic acid bacteria will suffice. However, this is far from true.

The MOST important thing in the soil is the primitive diversity and power of indigenous microorganisms. Farmers who fail to use IMOs properly cannot expect to see continued results. Relying on  few substances such as rice wine, despite its being natural, can contribute to disturbing the balance.

Diversity is essential

Modern science was faced with a dilemma as it found out more and more about microorganisms. At first microorganisms were classified into two categories; the good and the bad.  Scientists tried to selectively use what they considered the beneficial ones. Many of the bacteria products you see on the market today are the results of such efforts. However further research has revealed that it is very difficult to classify microorganisms as either good or bad. Additionally, it is extremely difficult to achieve sustained, long term, safe effects using selective microorganisms. It would be fair to say that “the use of indigenous microorganisms is both the simplest and the wisest method”.

Use the tough guy

Anyone who has used IMOs has observed the difference in performance levels of IMOs collected from different regions. IMO’s on the sunny side and the shaded side of the same mountain display differences. They also differ according to the altitude at which they are collected and according to soil fertility.  If you wish to add some tough guys into your locally collected IMO add some collected from high mountains or uncontaminated pristine nature with high vital energy.

The power of diversity

The more sterilized your soil is the fewer microorganisms it will have. This ‘vaccuum of power’ is an invitation for disease causing bacteria to propagate explosively. A web of lively and diverse microorganisms provides the necessary checks and balances preventing this from occurring.  Diseases do not come to you, you invite them in.

If you wish to use diversity to improve your rice crop then you should collect microorganisms that dissolve silicic acid.  Rice absorbs large amounts of silicic acid.  The plant uses this to harden its body. [Ian: the silica content of rice husks and such is so high that research is being conducted on how to use the silica from rice for silicon chips and solar panels. It also causes breathing problems when rice husks are burned in the open air].  Reed,bamboo, purple eulalia lophatherum gracile have similarly hard bodies. The roots of these plants produce a special root acid that dissolves (and absorbs) silicic acid. Thus if you collect leaf or soil from around these plants  it will greatly improve your rice crop.

In the nothern hemisphere the north face of a mountain has lot of psychrophiles (organisms capable of growth and reproduction in cold temperatures), while the south face has mesophiles and thermophiles (medium and high temperatures respectively). On the north face there are no high temperature bacteria  with a fermentation temperature above 70 degrees C,  however you will have  a chance to find them on the south facing slope. Low temperature bacteria will help your crops in cloudy weather, long periods of rainfall and low temperatures. Conversely, high temperature bacteria will help your crops in sunny weather, droughts and high temperatures.

So what do we do? We collect leaf mould and soil from all four faces of the mountain, from the summit, the valley and the drench. [Ian: I assume that the drench is a part of the mountain which is continually waterlogged.] We then mix it and culture it in rice bran.

3. How to collect IMOs

IMOs can be collected using a variety of methods. It can be collected from hills and mountains using steamed rice with low moisture (i.e. hard boiled) , decomposed leaves and bamboo stumps. It is also possible to collect, to a certain extent, particular types of microorganisms.

Collecting from the forest

1.  Fill a wooden lunchbox (preferably made from Japanese cedar) with hard steamed rice. [Ian: I assume Japanese cedar because it is waterproof and decay resistant. I see it used in Onsen a lot.] This rice should not be packed deeper than 7cm to ensure air permeates through to the bottom, preventing anaerobic bacteria from proliferating. Aerobic microorganisms are more commonly recommended.

2. Cover the lunchbox with rough paper (so that the air can get through) and tie it to the box with a rubber band.

3. Bury the lunchbox in the local bamboo field or in decomposed leaf moulds in the hills. Cover it with leaves, Ensure that the leaves are in contact with the paper such that the paper touches the rice surface.

4. Lay down a plastic sheet on top of the leaves above the lunchbox to prevent the rain from getting in.

5. At 20 degrees it will take about 4-5 days (faster when hotter) for the IMOs to fill the box. At this point in time you should move the rice (called IMO1) to a clay pot.

6. Mix the rice with an equal amount of crude (or brown) sugar. The resultant mixture is called IMO2.

7. Cover the clay pot with paper and secure it with a rubber band.

Collecting from leaf mould

1. Go to the hills, forests, valleys and you will find leaf moulds full of white hypha. [Ian: Hypha is also called mycelium and Paul Stamets, the world renowned Mycological expert uses this term.] Collect this IMO mould. Deciduous forests are better as evergreen forests have fewer microorganisms.

2. Dip hard steamed rice in a solution of FPJ [Fermented Plant Juice-coming soon on this blog] diluted at 1:1000 with water. Warm it and then leave it to cool.

3. Mix this rice with the leaf mould. Leave for one night.

4. Add this mixture to rice bran for propagation. Cover the rice bran with rice straw to promote IMO growth.

5. You can add FPJ,  FAA [Fish Amino Acid],mineral A, etc to boost the process.

Collecting from bamboo stumps

1. Choose a bamboo tree in the centre of the bamboo forest.  Cut it down. Cut into the trunk 10cm up from the ground. Cut obliquely with the deeper part of the cut being lower then shallow so that the bamboo sap will not leak out. You should be left with a hollow bowl on top.

2. Fill the bowl with hard boiled rice, the rice should be filled higher than the brim.

3. Put a wooden lunchbox (Japanese cedar) ove the stump.

4. Cover the lunchbox with leaves.

5. Cover with a plastic sheet, and then put a weight on top of it so that it won’t get blown off.

6. After 3-5 days the rice wil be stained  red, white, yellow and black, and all sorts of bacteria will be present. Juice from the bamboo will also be collected.

7. Cut the stump. Pour the rice into a clay pot (this is IMO 1).

8. Mix the rice with an equal amount of crude (or brown) sugar (this is IMO2).

9. Cove the clay pot with paper and secure the paper with a rubber band.

Collecting from the rice paddy

1. After the rice harvest, cover the rice stump with a filled rice lunchbox immediately after cutting. The lunchbox faces downwards.

2. Cover with steel wire to stop mice getting in.

3. Cover with a plastic sheet to stop rain from washing it all away.

4. After approximately 1 week the IMO will have worked their way into the rice.

5. Pour the rice into a clay pot (this is IMO1).

6. Add an equal amount of crude (or brown) sugar (this is IMO2).

7. Cover the clay pot with paper and secure the paper with a rubber band.

When you collect microorganisms from rice paddies, as opposed to other locations, you can obtain a lot of anaerobic (i.e. non air-breathing) microorganisms. In particular you can collect a large quantity of Bacillus Licheniformis (which actively breaks down protein, fat and carbohydrates) and Bacillus Subtilis (which  breaks down strong fibres such as rice straw, straw and reeds). Both of these microorganisms have outstanding decomposition power. However, when the fermentation temperature rises above 70 degrees C they not only convert protein into amino acid but also amino acid into ammonia. Should this occur then the nutrients turn to gas and are lost to the atmosphere. [Ian: Ammonia is also a powerful greenhouse gas]. Therefore, fermentation temperatures should be maintained at or below 50 degrees C.

Lactic acid bacteria feeds on the sugars and amino acids made by Bacillus Licheniformis and Bacillus Subtilis. Adding lactic acid bacteria lowers the temperature.

4. How to cultivate IMOs

Propagation of IMOs

1. The work must be done indoors shielded from direct sunlight; in greenhouses or warehouses.

2. Dilute IMO2 500 times with water and mix with rice bran or flour.  The moisture level of this mixture should be 65-70%. It should be a little wet to the touch. When adding water to control moisture also use diluted FPJ, FAA, Mineral A etc. for better results.

3. Pile the resulting rice bran mixture 30-40cm deep (50-70cm in a cold climate). It should not be on a concrete floor but in contact with a soil floor.

4.  Firmly cover with a straw mat, ensuring that the temperature does not rise over 50 degrees C. To ensure this does not occur turn 3-4 times.

5. Cultivation speed can vary depending on the outside temperature, but it usually takes 5-7 days for the surface to be covered with whitish IMO spores. When the temperature stops rising the fermentation process is finished and you have IMO3.

6. Mix one part IMOs3 to 1o parts rice bran

7. Now mix one part IMO3 with one part soil. 50% of the soil should be from the crop field and 50% should be from fresh new soil (mountain soil, red fine clay, etc). Doing this will ensure that the wild IMOs will harmonize with field IMOs.

8. Controlling moisture preferably with natural farming inputs.

Liquid Cultures of IMOs

1. Fill a pair of pantyhose or a fine net with IMO3. A room temperature of around 20 degrees C and a PH between 6 and * is sufficient.

2. You will then need a 250L opaque container with an air compressor.  Add 0.5L Lactic Acid Bacteria (LAB), 2L Fermented Plant Juice (FPJ), 700-800 grams of brown sugar to 150-160L of water.

[Ian: Though the book seems to omit this important detail I can only assume that the net containing IMO3 is dipped into the water and the compressor turned on. This would similar to what is described on p.137 of the book Teaming with Microbes in relation to brewing 'actively aerated compost teas':

"some people put their compost in a porous bag before they put it into the tea brewer rather than allowing it it mix freely in the water. A pair of large sized pantyhose works well as such a compost sock."

There appears to be a lot of crossover details between making IMOs and making actively aerated compost teas. the main differences seem to be the source materials and the IMO fermentation process as opposed to composting. ]

3. Depending on the the culture temperature the fermentation process takes between 5 and 7 days in Spring and Fall and 10 and 30 days in winter. Depending on the cultivated state the resultant mixture can smell either sweet or nasty, a sweet smell is desirable.

4. Often a sludge will appear on the surface. This sludge is composed of microorganism corpses. This can occur when food or air is lacking in the solution. If it occurs add more air, or add FPJ.

5.  Replacing the IMO in the sack every once in a while can also be beneficial.

6. Depending on need use 40-50 litres of the liquid at any one time,  refilling the tank with water while adding more food for microorganisms. The basic dilution is 1000 times, but can be as strong as 500 times  depending on the need.

[Ian: My reading of this is that the liquid in the tank should be diluted on the order of 1 part to 100o of water. Keep in mind these input instructions are designed to supply a working farm with all its fertilizer so the amounts would be huge for a garden or allotment.]

Chemical fertilizer can be added to the solution. The solution can then be used 7-10 days later after the IMO has had time to act on the chemicals. Adding too much chemical fertilizer at once can stop the fermentation process. Therefore it is important to introduce the chemical fertilizer to the tank in adequate amounts slowly. The yeast bacteria so abundant in FPJ are excellent decomposers of chemical fertilizers; converting them to easily absorbable mineral forms. Using chemical fertilizer in this way will greatly reduce soil degradation and the nutrients will also be better absorbed by plants.  To duplicate the effect of nitrogen use ammonium sulphate or urea. To duplicate the effects of phosphorus, use superphospate or double superphospate. To duplicate the effects of calcium use quick lime.

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