Microbial Fertilizers in Japan

Tom Miles

Microbial Fertilizers in Japan
Michinori Nishio, National Institute of Agro-Environmental Sciences, Ibaraki, Japan
Food & Fertilizer Technology Center (FFTC) for the Asian and Pacific Region

This Bulletin discusses microbial products in Japan, where they are used on many farms, particularly by organic farmers who hope that these products will improve nutrient uptake by plants and the quality of their products. It discusses the use of charcoal and rhizobia to stimulate nutrient uptake, and the use of arbuscular mycorrizal fungi (AMF) to help establish vegetation on barren land. The range of commercial AMF products available in Japan is briefly described, and their use and effectiveness in Japanese agriculture.

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Utilization of Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi

More than 50% of upland and grassland soils in Japan are volcanic ash soils (Andosols), which transform phosphate into unavailable forms by chemical bonding with aluminum ions. Phosphate availability is therefore one of the strongest limiting factors on Japanese upland and grassland farms. At present, this problem is being overcome by a
heavy basal dressing of a mixture of superphosphate and fused phosphate. Although these heavy applications have contributed to a remarkable increase in yields of many crops, many vegetable fields have accumulated phosphate at levels which inhibit plant growth. On the other hand, most grasslands are still deficient in phosphate, because enough chemical phosphate is being applied only when they are reclaimed. Therefore, there are two types of Andosols in Japan; one contains a sufficient amount of phosphate, and one does not. In both cases, there have been attempts
to use arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) or vesicular-arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (VAM) for soil amelioration.

Utilization of Indigenous Amf by the Application of Charcoal

The idea that the application of charcoal stimulates indigenous AMF in soil and thus promotes plant growth is relatively well-known in Japan, although the actual application of charcoal is limited due to its high cost. The concept originated in the work of M. Ogawa, a former soil microbiologist in the Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute in Tsukuba. He and his colleagues applied charcoal around the roots of pine trees growing by the seashore, and found that Japanese truffles became plentiful. He also tested the application of charcoal to soybean with a small quantity of applied fertilizer, and demonstrated the stimulation of plant growth and nodule formation (Ogawa 1983).
His findings with regard to legumes were taken up for further study by the National Grassland Research Institute (Nishio and Okano 1991).

Stimulation of Alfalfa Growth by Charcoal Application

Stimulation of Nutrient Uptake by Charcoal Application
Relationship between Charcoal Application and AmF

Mechanism Whereby Charcoal Stimulates the Growth of Amf

a larger amount of available phosphate.

Utilization of Amf for Establishment of Green Cover on Barren Land
Utilization of the Commercial Amf Products in Vegetable Production

Brief Description of Commercial Amf Products

Effectiveness of Commercial Amf Products

Utilization of Phosphate Solubilizing Microorganisms

Experimental Evidence

Utilization of Microbial Materials in Organic Farming

The number of farmers following organic farming is increasing each year in Japan. The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries adopted guidelines for organic commodities in 1993. These define organic produce as being produced in fields to which no chemically synthesized inputs, except for those permitted, have been applied for at least three years. Since crop production with no chemical inputs at all is very difficult in Japan, many
farmers instead try to make minimal use of chemical fertilizer and pesticides. Produce grown in this way is
regarded as being related to organic food.

In terms of the plant nutrient supply, there are two types of organic farming. One provides plant nutrients from local resources, and the other uses commercial organic fertilizers. Most organic farmers in Japan use the latter type, i.e. commercial organic fertilizers, made from rape seed meal or soybean meal (both residues of oil extraction), meat and fish meal, bone meal etc. These supply sufficient plant nutrients to give relatively high yields. Local resources include green manures, composted livestock manure etc.

Utilization of Microbial Materials to Make &Quot;Bokashi&Quot;

Is &Quot;Em&Quot; Really an Effective Microorganism?

What is "EM"?

"EM Bokashi"

Utilization of Azolla in Organic Paddy Fields