Whether you are into organic gardening, natural farming, or permaculture, you believe in certain practices and goals, such as using techniques and materials that are fully sustainable, supporting our planet through biodiversity, and creating the healthiest and most robust soil possible. When you first started your journey down this path, you learned about the absolute necessity of composting and its unequaled benefit in increasing garden health. Perhaps you live on land that had high levels of toxic elements when you bought it, and you introduced effective microorganisms to bring the soil back to health. Perhaps you have experience with fermented plant juices or fermented fruit juices as methods of increasing plant production. Whatever the case, there is still another level to explore: indigenous microorganisms.
What are Indigenous Microorganisms?
As explained by Kumar and Godal in their study Effective role of indigenous microorganisms for sustainable environment, “Indigenous microorganisms are a group of innate microbial consortium that inhabits the soil and the surfaces of all living things inside and outside which have the potentiality in biodegradation, bioleaching, bio-composting, nitrogen fixation, improving soil fertility and as well in the production of plant growth hormones.”
Super Charge Your Soil
Culturing and using indigenous microorganisms (IMO) in our gardens is an effective way to super-charge the soil microbiome. The key word here is “indigenous.” Microorganisms in the soil microbiome are hyper-localized. This means the microbial life in the soil can be radically different in a grassland than a forest. Even when those two are situated side by side, the differences can be astonishing. Microbial life in the soil can also differ radically by elevation on a slope. This is true even when the mineral composition of the soil is the same. Even the natural succession of an ecosystem over time alters the microbiome significantly.
Therefore, collecting and culturing microorganisms from different spots relatively close to your land will increase the diversity of your garden’s soil microbiome. Additional explanation of Beneficial Indigenous Microorganisms can be found here. Depending on how much time you’re willing to dedicate to making a super-charged solution, you can also ferment and add any number of juices to create a highly individualized mixture. The Unconventional Farmer provides a thorough explanation of how to collect microbes and prepare a BIM solution at home here.
While the concept of utilizing microbes to improve the health and vitality of your crops may seem unusual in our current age of antibacterial awareness, the truth is that our plants thrive off of the right balance of good bacteria present in their soil.
Understanding the Benefits of IMO
Those of you looking for the scientific studies that prove the benefits of adding IMO to the garden soil will likely find yourselves disappointed, as there are few. The attention given to study of soil microbiomes has been almost non-existent until recently. This is especially true in terms of links between use of indigenous microorganisms and productivity in specific plants.
Although, one notable exception is the practice of “Korean Natural Farming”, which credits indigenous microbes as the “basis to making fertile soil.” Centuries of practice in Asia and the growth of organic and natural farming, permaculture, and edible forestry around the world has resulted in many anecdotal testimonies to the benefits of incorporating specific microbes into your gardening and fertilization routine.
More recently, scientists have begun studying microbiomes and techniques involving the use of microorganisms by these farmers and gardeners. So far, most of the studies focus on the effectiveness of IMO on soil microbial diversity and abundance. Findings include the need for both organic matter, moisture, and oxygen in the soil for effective application of indigenous microorganisms, which should come as no surprise to our readers. It should also be no surprise that studies show an increase in disease suppression with an increase in diversity and abundance of soil microbiome.