First things first: My first experiment with lab-produced microbes took place in June 2013. And, I am still learning. One lifetime is not enough to unravel the mysteries hidden in a fistful of soil. But meanwhile, I thought of sharing this info with you which helped us transform our eight-acre community garden into completely organic. I am open to inputs, corrections and suggestions on this topic. For all I know, I have been able to merely scratch the surface.
The journey began with a purpose. I didn’t have much information on how to go organic the whole hog but was hell-bent on saying a firm ‘NO’ to the contractor who sprayed 600 litres of diluted pesticides to our garden. The effect was so horrible that according to one neighbour, her pet used to develop blisters after rubbing its body on the lawns. One can well imagine the effects on little children, birds and bees and other insects. I often wonder why on earth we are so silent and patient about this crime going on around us but get so unnecessarily worked up about trivial issues. Well, that’s a topic for a different day.
These are a few tips and contacts that you can give a try by launching a pilot project in your garden. What I have been able to gather here are tips that will boost the growth of your plants—ornamental or kitchen garden—and prevent infections significantly. My own balcony garden has hardly developed infections over the years. The effect was equally spectacular when I started growing leafy veggies. All I do is to feed sufficient enriched compost to the potmix and water the growbags adequately.
These are lab-produced microbes which I buy from Gandhi Krishi Vignana Kendra (GKVK), Hebbal. The scientific fraternity felt the need to take refuge in a petri dish to culture these microbes because of the unprecedented depletion of these silent soldiers in the soil. We all know who the criminals are: pesticides and synthetic fertilisers, so on and so forth. By adding these microbes to the soil, we will only help it regain its strength and offer immunity to the plants of all kinds.
Trichoderma viride: A biofungicide that keeps fungal pathogens in check. It’s found naturally in soil. But a few kilograms of it manually added to each acre speeds up microbial activity and brings down fungal infections.
Azotobacter: A type of bacteria, a bio-fertiliser, plays a major role as a nitrogen-fixing agent. Although 78% of air is made up of nitrogen—one of the macronutrients needed for the plants—it needs these microbes to take it directly to the roots.
PSB (phosphorus solubilising bacteria): Even though chemical phosphate fertilisers are loaded with phosphorus (P), an essential macronutrient, roots fail to absorb it as it becomes immobilised. It takes these soil inoculants to increase the uptake of phosphorus for high yield.
Rhizobium: Many farmers in Karnataka use this nitrogen-fixing bacteria to increase the yield. Especially helpful in boosting the growth of beans varieties.
Microbial Consortia: GKVK also sells this mix of microbes which has all the above microbes, pseudomonas and much more. This is what Wikipedia says about pseudomonas: “Since the mid-1980s, certain members of the Pseudomonas genus have been applied to cereal seeds or applied directly to soils as a way of preventing the growth or establishment of crop pathogens. This practice is generically referred to as biocontrol”.
All these microbes are produced and packaged in GKVK’s Department for Popularisation of Biofertilisers. The staff is quite helpful. It’s a little hard to locate the office. Just remember that it is close to the Botanical Garden and any student can help you locate it. Each kg of microbes costs around Rs 80 with a shelf life of six months.
My method: I did some tweaking with the quantity of microbes for my small garden. The first time it went horribly wrong as I overloaded the soil mix with the consortia. These days, I just add a fistful of these microbes to 100 kgs of potmix. It has to be moist to help the microbes multiply quickly. After 15 days, I mix it well all over again and go ahead with planting. The microbes do all the work and help me harvest leafy veggies more than my family can eat.
Are these organic?
These microbes are available in the natural environment. Any soil that has not been polluted with pesticides and chemical fertilisers has them in abundance. In a scientific lab, they are produced in large quantities to help farmers apply to their fields so that the microbes recolonise quickly. They are not chemicals. For any further queries, please get in touch with the GKVK staff. Else, please leave your comments on the blog so that I can collate them and get them answered by scientists.
Yes! GKVK also sells this. Give it a try.