This is the World Organic News for the week ending 13th of July 2020.
Jon Moore reporting!
Decarbonise the air, recarbonise the soil!
I know we all miss things in life, I’m guilty as charged. So imagine my surprise to have only just come across the process of fermenting organic waste rather than composting. In a strange way putting food “waste” through ruminants does this too and in 24 hours. But the formalised process is quite interesting.
The name Bokashi turns up all over the google search. From the Japanese for fading away, possibly it refers to an anaerobic fermentation process.
From the Wikipedia page: Bokashi (horticulture)
The basic stages of the process are:
- Organic matter is inoculated with Lactobacilli. These will convert a fraction of the carbohydrates in the input to lactic acid by homolactic fermentation.
- A household bokashi bin with a supply of fermentation starter, namely bran inoculated with Lactobacilli.
- Fermented anaerobically for a few weeks at typical room temperatures in an airtight vessel, the organic matter is altered and preserved, in a process closely related to the making of some fermented foods and silage. The preserve is normally applied to soil when ready, or can be stored unopened for later use.
- The preserve is mixed into soil. This exposes it to air, whereupon the lactic acid oxidises to pyruvate, a fundamental energy carrier in biological processes.
- The oxidised preserve is soon consumed by the indigenous soil life, ‘disappearing’ within a very few weeks at normal temperatures. Earthworm action is typically prominent, such that the amended soil acquires a texture associated with vermicompost.
This seems a good way or even a better way to deal with organic matter than traditional composting. Simply from a speed point of view. I’ll look into scaling the process after a few test runs. The benefits to earthworms and the other soil biota has my attention.
According to the same article the benefits are as follows:
The most important are:
- The fermented matter is fed directly to field or garden soil, without requiring further time to mature.
- As a result, virtually all input carbon, energy and nutrients enter the soil food web, having been neither emitted in greenhouse gases and heat nor leached out.
Almost too good to be true but enough to peak my interest. The lactobacillus is available from our local hardware at $19 for 5 kilograms. Finding a way to make this stuff on property would be also useful but I’ll work with what I have available now. To scale this up to a market garden size will take some thought. I could use 200 litre barrels and fill them with vegetable waste from the greengrocers or a restaurant, when they re-open, maybe. The problem with bringing things on farm is the provenance. Were they grown organically? What cides were used: herbicide, fungicide, pesticide and so on. Do I want to bring these things here? Obviously not. Do I set aside a dedicated garden to just grow material for the barrel? So many questions. More, much more research is needed.
Updates will be posted as they occur.
The Bokashi material feeds nicely into the rotations I’ve been working on to start next Spring. At this stage it looks like this:
- Garlic planted back in May to harvested in January followed by
- Broad beans to keep the ground covered and add nitrogen then
- Maize, probably a Hopi blue as it ripens into a cold wet Autumn but equally we could do sweet corn followed by
- Peas to keep the ground covered and add nitrogen then
- Potatoes and pigs to obtain food and feed then
- Vetch to keep the ground covered and add nitrogen followed by
- Cucurbits: Pumpkins, squash, cucumber etc and then the pigs then finally
- MUSTARD Cappuccino (Biofume) to control nematodes and to act as a green manure to set up the
- Garlic again as our predominant cash crop
I have moved from observation of weather and soil conditions to having a plan. The units are about 700 square metres each. I could drop the potatoes and vetch part of the rotation and have a four year process and almost 900 square metres per unit. Either way large amounts of organic matter will be slashed and planted into. The water holding capacity of the soil will increase over time. This will help during Summer as we have a cool temperate Mediterannean climate for the moment. January and February can be dry but we’re in the roaring forties so storms can arrive “out of the blue” or at least the south west.
The thought is to add the fermented bokashi “compost” onto the mustard two to three weeks before it’s slashed and the garlic planted into it. Depending upon how quickly the Bokashi system can be scaled up and having a feed source for the digester/s.
As the days lengthen here in the southern hemisphere, only just but lengthen they do, thoughts have turned to Spring. The fact that we’re in unseasonably warm weather probably helps. I suspect the depths of winter to hit us next month but if not then so be it.
Keep your ears out for a special bonus episode this week and an announcement that’s been building for some eight months.
And with that it only remains for me to say:
There’s a link to a Udemy course in the show notes entitled “Growing a No-Dig Garden” if you’d like some more formal assistance in your gardening. You can also go to or send people to Episode 207 where I discuss growing a quick response garden to get yours happening swiftly.
Remember in this unusual time, if we put in the ground work now, we can all change the world, even if its only a little bit to start with and we will begin the process of:
Decarbonising the air, recarbonising the soil!
Thank you all for listening and I’ll be back next week.
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