environment / Though still somewhat lesser known among gardeners and composters, effective microorganisms (EM) are used at institutions like the Honolulu Zoo to compost animal poop and manage the odor. That’s often the hook for EMs–controlling animal smells. Jonathan Yee, owner of Bokashi Center, read about EM-1–a patented cocktail of beneficial microbes–and tried it. “We had healthier ducks, the mortality rate was very low…and the smell was reduced.”
EMs can be fed to animals in small doses–it’s purportedly healthy in the same way yogurt’s active cultures are good for humans–and sprinkled over their feces to control odors.
Aside from odor management, EMs are also promoted for healthy gardens. “It helps ward off disease and help the plant better absorb nutrients from the soil,” Yee says. He makes a dry and more economical form of EM-1, called bokashi, by fermenting wheat mill run (the by-product of grinding flour), molasses and water and inoculating the mixture with EM-1. Applying bokashi to a garden in addition to compost is supposed to keep a vibrant microbial ecosystem in the soil.
Bokashi is also useful for composting, especially for food waste. Sprinkled over kitchen scraps, it helps them break down faster, and instead of the rotten smell that can emanate from food scraps, the smell is more ‘fermenty’–like old wine or (really old) kimchee. After a few weeks, the compost is ready to be buried in your garden.