Indigenous bio-organism fertilizer which any farmer can self-produce requiring simple process of fermentation. (Photo: Permaculture Travelling)

Most of the things that a typical farm needs such fertilizer, pesticide and insecticide can and should be self-produced locally and using materials available within the farm compound. For example, leaf of a neem tree native to India, Pakistan but also growing in other Asian countries including Malaysia can be use to make indigenous micro-organism (IMO) fertilizer, pesticide and insecticide by mixing it with fruits and molasses.

The process is simple and to produce bio-fertilizer sufficient for a typical farm, these are the ingredients you needed (via Permaculture travelling):

  • 20kg neem leaves
  • 10kg citronella leaves
  • 10kg molasses
  • 10 gallons water
  • IMO starter culture

To speed up the process and to add some extra nutrients we added 2 large buckets of a finished fermented IMO fertiliser (pictured above). The IMO starter we used was supplied by the Thai government. It will take around 3-4weeks to ferment into a useable product.The IMO fertiliser is simple to produce and very easy for an Asian farmer to make. The recipe is:

  • 20kg mangoes
  • 10kg molasses
  • 10 gallons water
  • IMO starter culture

This is left to ferment for approximately a month, after which you have a great fertiliser. The molasses provides the food for the microorganisms to grow. There is many other IMO preparations which can be made.

Why indigenous micro-organism good for your farm?

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.

Apart from producing IMO yourself, you can also collect it from the forest, leaf mould and even paddy field. To learn more visit Rooftop Ecology’s blog.