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Nutrient Cycling and (EM) Effective-Microorganism Technology
Hadi Bux Leghari 
M.Sc. agri.(honors)Plant Pathology

The nutrient elements undergo several natural transformations and interactions in soils and the environment. These processes are important because most plants are only able to take up certain chemical forms of each nutrient. 

Therefore, many of the soil processes can render the nutrient elements unavailable or slowly available for plant uptake. While each nutrient element may differ in the transformations it undergoes, some important common processes are listed below. An understanding of these processes can help you to understand the fate of added fertilizer.

1. Mineralization - The largest source of nutrients in most soils is contained in organic compounds. Mineralization is the process by which organic nutrients are converted to inorganic forms, which plants can take up. For example, the nitrogen contained in protein is mineralized to ammonium. This process is microbially regulated (i.e. bacteria and fungi), and, therefore is affected by environmental factors such as temperature and moisture, which affect the activity and population of the microbes.

2. Immobilization - Addition of organic materials, which contain a small proportion of nitrogen and other nutrients (for example, wood chips) can cause the soil microbes to take up nutrients from the soil and reduce the amount of nutrients available for plant uptake. Frequently, the addition of woody materials without added nitrogen fertilizer can result in short-term nitrogen deficiency in plants. The general rule is that organic materials with an organic carbon to nitrogen ratio of greater than 30 will cause nitrogen immobilization. Addition of supplemental fertilizer nitrogen or an organic material with a high proportion of N can reduce the risk of nitrogen immobilization in the soil.

3. Cation exchange - The surfaces of small clay or organic particles (humus) often have a net negative charge on them. These negative charges can attract and retain nutrients, which have a positive charge on them. Many of the nutrient elements exist in the soil solution as charged molecules called ions. An ion with a positive charge is called a cation and an ion with a negative charge is called an anion. Common nutrient elements, which exist as cations, are potassium (K+), calcium (Ca+2), magnesium (Mg+2) and ammonium (NH4+). These cations are held on exchange sites and can be taken up by plants. The cation exchange capacity of a soil is a good measure of the ability of a soil to hold nutrient elements and have high soil fertility.

4. Leaching - The movement of water through soil can result in the transport of nutrient elements down out of the rooting zone of the plant. This process of nutrient loss is called nutrient leaching and can be of serious environmental concern in areas where nutrients can enter groundwater. Leaching of nutrients also reduces the efficiency of fertilizer use since the nutrients will no longer be available for plant uptake. The forms of nutrient, which usually leach, are those, which are not readily retained by soil through processes such as cation exchange. Leaching of nitrogen usually occurs when nitrogen is in the nitrate (NO3-) form. Phosphorus does not usually leach through soil, except for soils with a high sand content, because it readily reacts and is retained by other soil components.

5. Gaseous Losses and Gains of Nutrients - losses of nutrients through transformations to gaseous nutrient forms include the processes of volatilization, denitrification and oxidation/reduction. Ammonia volatilization occurs when ammonium-based fertilizer is added to the soil surface and the ammonium is converted to ammonia gas. This process usually occurs under hot, windy conditions in high pH soils. Denitrification is the process by which nitrate is converted to gaseous nitrogen forms. This process is favored in wet soils with a large amount of organic matter present. Under extremely wet conditions, nutrients can also be reduced into gaseous forms. The release of hydrogen sulfide (H2S) from low-lying wet areas is an example. The biological conversion of gaseous nitrogen to inorganic nitrogen in the soil is called nitrogen fixation and results in a gain of nitrogen in the soil. Legume plants, such as beans, sesbania, berseem, cluster bean, pulses, etc. form a symbiotic relationship with bacteria located in the plant roots in which the bacteria fix the nitrogen from air and the plant supplies carbohydrate to the bacteria. The relationship can be inhibited if nitrogen fertilizer is added to legume plants.

6. Soil Acidity or pH  - Soil acidity is an important soil chemical characteristic primarily because it affects the availability of plant nutrients and plant growth. Other effects of soil acidity include effects on soil microbial activity, on exchange capacity, and the physical structure of the soil. An understanding of the concept of soil acidity can assist you in your fertilization program and help you to determine whether you may need to correct acid or basic conditions in the soil.

Organic versus inorganic - Fertilizers and other nutrient amendments can contain plant nutrients in either an inorganic or organic form. Most plants only absorb inorganic forms of plant nutrients, and, therefore, organic nutrients must be converted to inorganic forms to become available to the growing plant. 

The process by which organic nutrients are converted to inorganic nutrients is called materialization. Fortunately, if the soil contains many microorganisms, which decompose and mineralize organic nutrients. The rate at which this process occurs will be affected by such factors as climate, soil texture and the amount and composition of the organic material added.

Woody materials high in lignin will decompose slower than green materials high in organic nitrogen. Inorganic salts such as ammonium nitrate, release inorganic nitrogen that is immediately available to the growing plant. Organic sources of nitrogen, such as manure, are converted to inorganic nitrogen more slowly and the nitrogen from the manure will be available to the growing plant over a longer period. 

One advantage of this longer-term release is inorganic nitrogen in the form of nitrate can be leached down in the soil and be lost for plant uptake and possibly contaminate groundwater. If inorganic nitrogen is added to the soil in excess of plant needs then leaching can occur. Organic nutrient amendments can be considered as slow release fertilizers. A notable exception to this rule is urea, which is a manufactured organic form of nitrogen. Urea is rapidly converted to ammonium when added to soil.

What is EM Technology?

EM is an abbreviation of Effective Microorganisms; it is a technology that applies effective microorganism. A mixture of groups of microorganisms has a reviving action on humans, animals, plants, and the natural environment. It is a concept which is, environment friendly and cost effective through waste recycling developed in the fields.

It contains lactic acid bacteria (Lactobacillus plantarium, L. casei), photosynthetic bacteria (Rhodopseudomonos plustris, Rhodobacter Sphacrodes), yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) and others may consist of those found locally.

Many problems of environmental pollution have resulted from excessive applications of pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers in the traditional farming system. This is endangering the existence of human being on the earth. Therefore, the concept of nature farming or organic farming has become increasingly important. Recently, application of microbial inoculants is introduced to the nature farming system. MI (Microbial inoculants) applications have been approved effective in many aspect and played important roles in promoting crop productions and purifying the environment. 

EM promotes germination, growth, flowering, fruiting and ripening in crop plants. EM enhances the photosynthetic capacity of plants. EM increases the efficiency of organic matter as fertilizers. EM develops resistance of plants to pests and diseases. EM improves the physical, chemical and biological environments of soil. EM suppresses soil borne pathogens and pests.

It can convert all kinds of crop residues, Farmyard manure, poultry manure, and sugarcane filter cake or press mud and solid municipal waste into high quality biofertilizer within 10 days. Increasing the utilization efficiency of solar energy from maximum crop production as the actual utilization rate is less than 3% as against 10-20%. The best opportunity for increasing biomass production is to utilize the visible light, which cannot be used by chloroplasts and the infrared radiation energy.

In the presence of organic matter, photosynthetic bacteria and algae can utilize wavelengths ranging from 700-1200 nm. Fermenting microbes could also breakdown organic matter, thereby releasing complex compounds such amino acids for utilization by plants. This enhances the efficiency of organic matter in crop production.

Banana cultivation with EM- Technology 
Given the importance to banana industry in Pakistan, Asim Agriculture Farm has taken serious view and decided to adopt effective microbes along with organic manures and various other cultural practices that are instrumental in increasing the productivity of banana crop in our climatic conditions.

Banana is heavy surface feeder crop, as feeding roots lie in the upper 6 layer of soil, hence it require heavy manuring. The application of irrigation water through fermentor resulted an increased leaf area index followed by thick green color and huge number of earth worms and other biological entities developed inside the soil which are serving as the natural tilth of the soil, the roots of banana plant taken up nutrients and water easily with increased biological activities. 

This practice has reduced our cost in terms of working with tools, chemical synthetic fertilizers and labor. Banana fruit produced increased number of hands, size of finger and color of fruit only after application of effective microbes.

Sugarcane cultivation with EM- Technology:

Sugarcane is an important cash crop in Pakistan. Sugarcane is the main source of sugar production in the world. Asim Agriculture Farm has achieved higher yield of sugarcane by using EM technology, Sugarcane recovery percentage of em-treated sugarcane variety (PR-1000) was 11.5% whereas, the recovery percentage of un-treated sugarcane was 8.1%.

The Yield of sugarcane of em-treated sugarcane were 1900 maunds/acre from 47 acres whereas, the yield of sugarcane of un-treated were 1500 maunds/acre from 50 acres. Organic manure for mango orchard grown in mulch culture along with EM-Technology This report presents effective microorganisms application guidelines for a ring, mulch culture system for mango orchard. 

As we all know we are passing through the cutting edges of water shortages our existence seems difficult as time goes if we were not able to evolve the Information on the sequence of operations in the mulch system on mango tree is included. This information has been developed from results of research in Asim Agriculture Farm Tando Allahyar.

1.  Digging, (6 deep and 3 away from the main trunk) shaping and pressing of rings. (According to the canopy).
2.  Application of Farm Yard Manure or press mud composted (Bokashi) 
3.  Application of EM-Technology (fermented irrigation water or drops) and 
4.  Mulching

a) This has increased biological life inside the soil. (Earthworms and certain other microbes) 
b) The roots of mango trees have a tendency to move with water films and available nutrients inside the soil. The application of bokashi and irrigation through fermentor helped a lot in root hair development (1 to 2 below the ground level) within a circle. Most of the water and nutrients are taken up by the root hairs. 
c) The organic compounds are decomposed by the action of effective microbes into inorganic molecules which are taken up easily by the mango tree consequently the vigorous vegetative growth give a healthier look of mango trees. 
d) These effective microbes are serving as the sterilization agents. 
e) Mulching keeps proper moisture, weed control and more importantly a safe house for mango tree rhizosphere.

The 21st century has dawned, with renewed hope for a better livelihood for the populations of this earth. Hence the themes often discussed at international forum on human welfare and agriculture range from sustainability, food security and safety to the provision of a productive and healthy environment to humankind and its future generations. Hence there is often a great deal of optimism about the possibilities of solving the multitude of problems in relation to the provision of food and a clean healthy environment for all.

Although the picture being painted seems rosy with numerous possibilities, the reality is not that simple. The future is not too optimistic. The post war agricultural revolution has brought about problems of pollution, which are increasing in magnitude, although the agricultural development projects have increased yields in both developed and developing countries.

The problems also arise from over production of agricultural commodities in the developed countries, while inadequate production and unequal distribution of food and resources in the developing countries is a common phenomenon. There is excessive pollution caused by industrialized agriculture, loss of biodiversity and increased incidence of pests and diseases. The use of genetically modified organisms has raised concerns about food safety. 

All these problems need solutions to maintain and possibly enhance the quality of the environment and provision of food for humankind and also all forms of life on earth The potential of EM in agriculture and environmental management is significant. The technology can be used easily and economically to enhance productivity of agricultural systems, especially organic systems and in mitigating environmental pollution.;

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