BokashiThe purpose of Bokashi
‘Bokashi’ is a fermented organic fertilizer.  In the previous edition, the importance of making good quality compost for the purpose of improving soil fertility had been mentioned.  That is the basis of producing a healthy crop and also the foundation of sustainable agriculture.  However, plants require the necessary nutrients to grow and to produce flowers and fruits.  Just as in human beings, we need a house to stay in, as well as foods to eat in order to stay alive and to carry on our daily activities.  But our state of health is much depended upon the types and quality of the foods we consume.  Especially at the early stage of growth, if contaminated foods are regularly consumed, the risk of developing into some forms of health disorder in the later stage of life is higher.  The types of fertilizers used also affect the healthiness of the plants.  The tendencies of suffering from certain nutrient deficiencies and low resistance to diseases are common in plants that are fertilized solely by chemical fertilizers.  

fishmealBokashi is made from fermenting protein rich organic raw materials such as animal manure, oil residue, fish refuses and fishmeal, meat meal, bone meal etc.

There are two types of organic fertilizers.  One is by just mixing together different kinds of organic raw materials and it is static in the sense that no fermentation occurs.  Whereas Bokashi is an active living fertilizer with abundance effective microbes.  In 1gm. of Bokashi, there are more than 1 billion of actinomycetes.  In 1gm. of ordinary soil, there are in the region of 10 thousand to 100 thousand.  In healthy farm soil where the occurrence of soil bound disease is rare, there are about 1 million.  As you can see, the amount of microbe’s presence in Bokashi is enormous.  Bokashi is like a mass of actynomycetes.  Besides actynomycetes, the amount of effective microbes, yeast and fungi is 1000 to 10000 times more than in ordinary soil.  These microbes will propagate and die in a very active and short cycle leaving their protein rich bodies as nutrients to the plants.  So Bokashi actually multiplies its nutrient value like a fertilizer factory in the soil.  That is why it is called a living fertilizer.  Moreover, Bokashi contains glucose, high-grade alcohol, amino acids and minerals, which are produced in the process of fermentation.  These also serve as nutrients for the propagation of the soil microflora.  These microflora and the enzymes they produced will further decompose organic matters in the soil and similar nutrients are produced.  This cycle will greatly improves the biological condition of the soil.

Why Bokashi
The wrong usage of non-fermented organic fertilizer may cause growth disorder such as root damage in nursery.  Raw organic materials contain saccharides, fat and other low molecular organic matters, which are highly decomposable.  These readily decompose in the soil and consume a lot of oxygen and release carbon dioxide.  This will create an acute shortage of oxygen to the roots and impair their functions as well as their growth.  The growth of the plant is impeded and withers in serious cases.  This is especially important in the case of seed germination and at the early stages of growth, where a lot of oxygen is required.  The effect of oxygen shortage and excessive carbon dioxide can be very serious.  The intake of nutrients and water are inhibited due to the damage to the roots.  To avoid this from happening, it is necessary to apply organic fertilizers that are properly fermented.  In the cases of plant based organic raw materials, harmful substances such as lignin, tannic acid, oil and fats, terpene and others are presence.  These substances are harmful to the roots and also inhibit germination.  Fermenting the organic raw materials before using can eliminate these problems.  As plants based organic raw materials are slow in decomposing in a natural manner, nutrients required at the early stage of growth are not sufficiently available.  Through fermentation, some parts of the nutrients are made readily available at the early stage of growth and the remainders are gradually taken in at the later stage of growth.

Characteristics of Bokashi
Bokashi works slowly and gradually like a melting candy.  Unlike chemical fertilizers which are highly soluble and induce a short but excessive intake by the plants.  The properties and decomposition factors of the various nutrient compositions of the chemical fertilizer differ. Thus the intake of nutrients is usually unbalance even at appropriate application.  The population of microbes, the amount of organic matters, soil temperature etc. are factors that affect the balance of intake and are difficult to control.  In the case of Bokashi, the nutrients content of the various raw materials used breakdown evenly through fermentation and thus enables a balanced intake of nutrients by the plants.  Excessive nitrogen intake and the shortage of phosphate, potassium and other trace elements, which is common in the use of chemical fertilizers, can be avoided.  Furthermore, organic acids such as citric acid, lactic acid, acetic acid and others are produced during the decomposition of Bokashi in the soil can help insoluble phosphate, silicate and other minerals to become soluble and thus enhance the supply of nutrients.

Recently, it was reported that consuming vegetables with excessive nitrate salt content could produce compounds that cause cancer.  Excessive use of chemical fertilizers can result in the high content of nitrate salt in the vegetables.  On the other hand, since the use of Bokashi is less likely to bring about an excessive unbalanced intake of nitrogen, it is an excellent fertilizer in the aspect of food safety.

malaysiaImproving the quality and healthiness of the plants
The nitrogen content of Bokashi made mainly from animal organic matters, which consist mainly of protein, is in the form of amino acids through the process of hydrolytic fermentation.  Proline, a type of amino acid, plays an important role in rising the content of sugar in the plant.  However, if protein is broken down through an anaerobic decomposition or putrefaction, indole and ammonia are produced instead of amino acids.  It is only effective as a source of nitrogen but does not increase the sugar content of the plant.  That is why it is important to make Bokashi with the use of hydrolytic enzymes such as BYM-enzyme.

Fermentative products such as nucleic acid, the vitamin B group, UGF (Unknown Growth Factor), hormones and others , produced by the natural yeast, play a very important role in maintaining the healthy growth of the plant.  It is known that the plant directly takes in some of the amino acids, asparagine, creatinine, and glucose, which are produced in the process of decomposition of various organic matters.  This will stimulate the physiological function of the plant and promote fast and healthy growth.  At the same time, organic salt, choline, betaine, trimethylamine and others, produced during fermentation also promote healthy growth.

Selection of raw materials
Suitable raw materials should be selected for different requirements of the crops.  For example, fishmeal, meat and bone meal, blood meal, rapeseed oil cakes and rice bran, which contain proline, should be used for fruits and fruiting vegetables which require a higher sugar content.  Crops such as cucumber and chili, which has high content of chlorophyll in the fruit itself, require a higher amount of magnesium.  Raw materials such as rapeseed oil cake, cottonseed oil cake and other oil cakes, which have high magnesium content, should be selected.  For tomato, cabbage and Chinese cabbage that require high amount of calcium, bone meal, leather waste and wool waste are ideal. For flowers, which aim for vigorous reproductive growth as well as bright colors of the petals, oil cakes, bone meal, fishmeal should be selected for a balanced content of magnesium, calcium and phosphate.  In the case of rooting and leafy vegetables where a higher sugar content is not required, cheaper materials such as chicken manure can be used for lowering the cost of input.  Besides the above-mentioned raw materials, soil with high CEC (Cation Exchange Capacity) such as clayish soil is required.

Combination of raw materials
Soil ….. 500kg.
Organic raw materials ….. 500kg.
Rice bran ….. 30kg.
Sugar ….. 3kg.
BYM-enzymes ….. 3kg.

Piling of Bokashi

  • Mix all materials together except sugar.
  • Dissolve sugar in water and mix in evenly.
  • Adjust moisture level to about 50% evenly. (At this level, the mixture becomes a lump when squeezed but will break up easily)
  • Pile up in a heap and cover with “gani sack”.

Within 24 hours, the fermentation temperature should go up to 45~50°C.  Turn the heap and cover it again.  Fermentation will start again.  Turning should be done once everyday for another three days.  After the fourth turning, the heap should smell amino acid, which is similar to the smell of soy sauce.  It is ready for use.  Spread the heap up into a thin layer to air dry for keeping.

Usage of Bokashi (Basal  +  Additional)
Tomato, watermelon, pumpkin, etc. ….. 300gm/m2 … / + … 150gm/m2/20days
Cucumber, melon ….. 600~800gm/m2 … / + … 200gm/m2/14days
Brinjal, chili, leafy vegetables ….. 800~1000gm/m2 … / + … 250gm/m2/14days

For fruit trees, 4~6 tons per acre per year depending on the age of the trees.  Application should be divided up to at least 4 times a year.  Raw materials should also be selected for flowering and fruiting.  In-fact Bokashi is most suitable for fruit trees especially those with surface roots like durian due to its gentle and mild nature.  It will also greatly enhance the intake of phosphate and other trace elements, which are very essential in proper flowering and fruiting.  Though the application seems to be on the high side, it is very much viable if it is self-made and considering the high price of imported organic fertilizers.  The higher yield and better quality also justify its usage.

Use of BYM-enzymes for the treatment of waste from poultry farms and pigs farms is very ideal.  It will greatly reduce the foul smell and hasten the fermentation of the waste, making it into a high quality and effective fermented organic fertilizer.  This will also increase the production capacity if the farm is treating its waste commercially as organic fertilizer.

Essay by Steven Leong