As the appropriately titled books by Dr. Higa suggests, Effective Microorganisms (EM) are a pretty big deal. In a world that’s slowly waking up to the unsustainable way of life adopted by the large majority of modern civilisation Dr. Higa is sat in the proverbial corner saying “I told you so”.
It was in 1980, when Dr. Higa was working towards reducing the amount of chemical and inorganic fertiliser used within agriculture, when he stumbled upon EM; a term he later coined. His aim was “Regenerative Agriculture” long before the term even existed. Dr. Higa was developing ways to grow food sustainably long before Kiss The Ground, long before Netflix and, for those fortunate enough to be under the age of 40, long before you were born.
The discovery, development and use of EM is nothing more than the acknowledgement of Mother Nature and the wonderful world she has created. EM is taken from nature, for nature! Our very need for EM is because of human intervention and the disrespect we have shown Mother Nature over the years. EM is natures way of creating a balanced, healthy and sustainable environment.
The use of EM today is our attempt at restoring the natural balance that has disturbed by human intervention, namely the use of chemicals, inorganic fertilisers and monocultures.
The observable world around us is increasing, thanks to advances in technology, meaning we are able to study things we didn’t even know existed 100 years ago. One new area of study is the world of microorganisms. One teaspoon of healthy soil contains billions of microbes, all of which we can now see, observe and even identify. These microorganisms are the base of the ecological pyramid upon which all forms of life are built.
The bigger and more diverse the base, the bigger the pyramid.
I won’t ruin the story of how Dr. Higa stumbled upon EM, you’ll have to read that in his book (An Earth Saving Revolution), but, the biggest discovery was the fact that microbes work better together. Diversity was the solution to EM’s success. Previous to Dr. Higa’s work it was assumed different microbes worked independently of each other but his work showed that aerobic and anaerobic microbes didn’t just coexist but actually worked together, synergistically. This discovery lead Dr. Higa to work with groups of microbes rather than individuals.
Knowing this he started to make real progress and see real world results. It was in the ability of different microbes, who had different functions and enjoyed different conditions that ultimately proved successful. Not only could these different microbes work together, but, Dr. Higa realised individual microbes would change their usual functions to suit the requirements of the group. Microbes could adapt to preform different functions when they found themselves in different environments with different supporting microbes along side them.
It was this ability to work synergistically and adapt to suit the environment that makes EM as successful and popular as it is today. With over 80 different microbes making up the mix there isn’t a natural environment on earth that wouldn’t benefit from the application of EM. These benefits have been realised the world over but it’s in the developed world where their uptake has been slowest.
The modern world has been conditioned to think a certain way. We use chemicals to grow and preserve food, we have replaced compost and recycling with a throw away culture and we think killing 99.9% of ‘bacteria’ is a good thing. This has lead to a certain level of scepticism when talking about technologies such as EM.
In the UK taking an alternative approach to using every day products is considered taboo, yet across the world the extraordinary claims made by those participating in these practices are hard to ignore. Human development and advancement has lead to a belief that ‘we’ know better than Mother Nature and that adopting a more natural even holistic approach is less effective. The reality is that Mother nature really does know best and we would do well to head her experience and follow her lead.