How to Clone an Ecosystem
Korean Natural Farming: How to Clone an Ecosystem with Indigenous Microorganisms (IMO)
By Robert Lundahl
LOS ANGELES, CA–Adam McWilliams, 25, is a recent graduate of TESC, The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. His father and I were college roommates of a sort, living on a 10-acre farm. It was the era following the end of the Vietnam war, and returning veterans sought solace from war and PTSD in the woods and in cannabis.
Times have changed, and today, Adam resides on a farm also, but this farm is a legal producer of the cannabis plant that offered relief to so many returning soldiers.
Adam studied ecological agriculture at Evergreen. I asked how his journey of discovery began.
Adam: “I got interested in agricultural systems because I felt so disconnected and in the dark about where my food comes from and yet I was completely dependent on this system all the time for my own survival. Once I learned about the biological ecosystem and chemical matrix existing inside of the soil that facilitates and determines the accumulation of nutrients in our food I was totally hooked and went down the rabbit hole.
The door that opened this knowledge was a program I took in college called ecological agriculture. This was my first introduction to soil science. However being in a class learning about this stuff wasn’t enough for me and I still felt like I wasn’t in the type of relationship I wanted always being locked away in a sterile classroom. I then discovered the methods of natural farming. This showed me how to interact with the beneficial microorganisms of the forest, make my own nutrients, and grow nutrient rich plants that feed my body and also feed the microorganisms that exist in the soil they are growing in. I could see soil get darker, softer, and smell more earthy after applying what I learned.”
Adam practices a method of agriculture known as Korean natural farming.
“I have been studying a method of biological farming called Korean natural farming. We collect indigenous microorganisms from biologically active leaf litter in undisturbed healthy forest environments local to your area. We place a wood box or grass woven baskets filled with rice in leaf litter riddled with fungal hyphae. After 3-10 days the fungi turn the rice into a solid loaf of fungi yeast and bacteria that have been thriving and adapting to your local environment for millions of years.”
Rather than concentrating solely on what’s above the ground, KNF focuses on what’s below. Its goal is building an ecosystem from an ecosystem that already exists.
Indigenous microorganisms offer a fingerprint of biology, all the biology in the soil, in a loaf of fungus, yeast, and bacteria that regulates the ecosystem of the forest. It is a world about which humans are only beginning to learn. Adam has learned to culture other decomposers to eat minerals and they, in turn, will be eaten by other microorganisms, as happens in the ryzosphere. Perhaps surprisingly, plants release sugars and acids. By its formula, the plant selects which microbe it wants at just the right moment and then attracts the microbes to them by feeding them.The roots of plants exude sugars and acids that attract and nourish these microbial ecosystems to thrive directly at the roots of the plant where they can accumulate these vast pools of nutrients from microbe excrement in great quantities. The plant is in charge and knows what it wants.
Adam explains how the ecosystem is “cloned.”
“We collect indigenous microorganisms from biologically active leaf litter in undisturbed healthy forest environments local to the area. We place a wood box or grass woven baskets filled with rice in leaf litter riddled with fungal hyphae.
The collection is then preserved with equal weight of brown sugar. This is our mother collection that is called IMO 1. We then dilute that in a little bit of water along with other nutrient solutions that we make ourselves and soak it into bran of wheat, rice, or any complex carbohydrate. This is a super nutrient rich source for them and they grow into the trillions of trillions.
There are 4 core stages to the process of making indigenous microorganisms. The final product is dusted onto your soil where the spores will hatch and create a living fungal network. If you have enough diversity there is serious potential for the bio-remediation of hydrocarbons, chemical pesticides, herbicides, chelation of heavy metals.”
The richly increasing soil interactions and microbial replication provide a hyper nutrient environment based on the interactions of adapted systems, reducing stress on the environment while giving plants what they need. It’s a system that can eliminate costly amendments and waste in outdoor grow operations
“Once the whole soil food web is stimulated with these organisms your nutrient cycling also goes haywire. The microorganisms are basically packets of living fertilizer as they replicate, eat organic matter and minerals, eat each other, and then consequently are pooped out by larger microorganisms in biologically available water soluble form where their nutrients are ready to be absorbed and assimilated by plant roots. It helps that the roots of plants exude sugars and acids that attract and nourish these microbial ecosystems to thrive directly at the roots of the plant where they can accumulate these vast pools of nutrients from microbe excrement in great quantities.
I have been practicing this type of biologically aware farming on a legal cannabis grow and our plants are already twice as tall as compared to last year and we haven't even started flowering. We have also experienced no pathogenic organisms because our beneficials out-compete them in the soil and on the surface of our plants.“
I asked Adam why natural farming is important and if he is optimistic given the onslaught of pollutants, waste products and chemical intrusion to natural environments.
The world looks different when you’re 25, today, than a generation ago; and it is, empirically, as the challenges loom larger. Some say a collective rethink on what we believe to be possible is a necessity, and KNF could be a starting point.
“(KNF) is a super inexpensive and extremely efficient way to cultivate nutrient rich food and medicine, McWilliams concludes. Microorganisms have the potential to break down a wide variety of poisonous chemicals that now riddle the earth from human activities. I saw lifeless soil in my backyard darken with fertility, hold more water, and become capable of growing plants.
The reason why it is wise to farm microorganisms rather then just plants is because they are what turn inorganic minerals into plant available nutrients. Because microorganisms are the smallest most abundant life forms on the planet and are on the bottom of the food chain they completely regulate the entire ecosystem literally from the ground up.
When fungus eat minerals in the soil and accumulate them in their bodies, other organisms eat them, digest them and secrete their now soluble nutrient rich wastes that plants will absorb through their roots and use those nutrients to grow their own bodies. Microorganisms not only feed plants but they also feed larger microorganisms, which feed insects, which feed most of the animals that walk and fly the earth.
This is a really simplified explanation and there are many different types of microbes that cycle nutrients in the soil, regardless microbes regulate the entire ecosystem. This is why we collect aerobic (oxygen breathing) fungi yeast and bacteria from the forest and repopulate the soil in which we grow our medicinal plants and food. The run off from our farm is good for the entire ecosystem and supports more life than just the plants we are growing. That is why I feel hope in it.”
Robert Lundahl, Writer
Robert Lundahl is an Emmy Award winning documentary filmmaker. He is the Principal with Agence RLA, LLC. Robert can be reached at this email address: firstname.lastname@example.org; Skype: robertundahlfilms.