[Compostteas] Some info re EM in response to D

Jeff Lowenfels jeff at gardener.com
Sun Jun 2 01:40:57 EDT 2002

I asked Dr. Elaine to respond with regard to EM. Her remarks are on target.
So far not one on this list has mentioned, say, protozoa. We can have all
the bacteria we want. Without something to eat them, and on up the soil or
foliar foodweb, there would be little reason for compost teas......

Anyhow, here is the response:

With respect to EM, when the group first came to the US, their cultures of
bacteria weren't appropriate for the US.  They then cultured indigenous
species, and the EM trials I have seen are very good for developing the
FIRST STEP in getting the life  back into the soil.

But, remember, the FOODWEB is more than just bacteria!!!!!

Please, remember that.  You start with getting the bacteria back into the
soil in the proper numbers for the plant you want to grow, because you have
to build the microaggregates, begin to build nutrient retention, start to
suppress the disease organisms.

But that's JOB ONE.  You have many more jobs to go!

Job TWO is to get the fungi back into the soil.  Fungi take the
microaggregates built by the bacteria and turn them into macroaggregates
that you can see with your eyes.  This is the foundation of your soil house.
Earthworms do the same thing, by inoculating fungi and setting up the
environment to help the fungi grow.  So, we get the foundations for good
soil structure started.

EM has no fungi.  Just bacteria and actinobacteria (used to be called
actinomycetes, but they ARE NOT fungi).  There are No Fungi in EM.

The actinobacteria are really hard on the beneficial fungi.  Very
inhibitory.  There are some pretty clear negative effects of Streptomyces,
the actinobacterium in EM, on VAM and ecto colonization.

There are no foods to maintain fungi in the EM amendment.  And JOB THREE is
to maintain the bacteria and fungi, by adding the correct foods.  EM doesn't
have fungal foods.

No protozoa, no beneficial nematodes, no mycorrhizal inoculum in EM.

So, EM is a great first step.  But only the first step.

But, being the, hum, how do I put this?  Ok, let's be blunt, cheap person
that I am, I would rather buy a little bit of a bacterial inoculum and
multiply it in the tea brewer.  Now, EM will not guarantee their product if
you do that, because they don't know which species you increased, or did not
increase.  Were the foods in your tea brewer the ones to grow the whole
diversity of bacteria in the EM product.  Questionable.

There are about 120 species of bacteria in EM.  How many species in compost?
Minimum number, 5,000.  Maximum number, in a good compost?  25,000 to maybe
30,000.  So, in terms of diversity, which do you want?  Hands down, compost.

But in terms of convenience?  EM.

Please realize that the EM product is most appropriate for the southwest.
If I lived in Illinois, I'd get the Agri-Energy bacterial inoculum.  Much
more appropriate for that part of the world.  And hands down the best, if
you are growing corn or wheat in the eastern part of the Mid-west.  Please
mention that I recommended their product, if you call them for info, OK?
Sometimes when I'm not glowing about someone's product in all situations,
all over the country, they get ticked at me.  I think that happened here.

In the western part of the mid-west, I think (ok, look out, think is fairly
different from I know, all right?  When I think something, it means maybe
there isn't a whole lot of  data to back the statement up.  When something
"is", then there's data to back up the statement).

Sorry for the tangent.  Western part of the mid-West, Mid-West Biological
Systems are the folks to talk to.

Bruce Tainio has a great inoculum for the areas in the mountain west.  He's
in Spokane.  New Era Farm Service has a great inoculum for the California
Valleys.  There are some many others.  Helena Chemical Company has a GREAT
inoculum -- a herd of beneficial bacteria, especially for those places where
chemicals have been really hard on the soil.  They recognize that they only
have some 15 to 18 species, but they are the species that quickly start to
form soil structure and suppress diseases.

So, which inoculum to choose?  The one most local.  They are more likely to
have the beneficial bacterial species adapted for your climate.

So, which is "better"?  This is rather nonsensical actually.  Which is
better?  Just breakfast, or all three meals?

Something like EM is like feeding yourself just breakfast.  You need lunch
and dinner too.  Maybe the midnight snack.

Compost tea is all the meals in one.  CT adds all those other beneficial
organisms, not just the bacteria.

With any bacterial inoculum, you then have to move on to find a fungal
inoculum.  A protozoan inoculum.  A nematode inoculum.  A mycorrhizal

You decide for yourself what you want to do.  Use the bacterial inoculum
because it's convenient, while you learn how to do compost tea correctly?
Sounds logical to me!

Elaine Ingham
President, Soil Foodweb Inc.  www.soilfoodweb.com
Affiliate Faculty, Southern Cross University, NSW

PLANT A ROW FOR THE HUNGRY: Through PAR, over 3 million pounds of food have
been donated by home gardeners like you to feed the hungry. Ask me how you
can join the effort.

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