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Korean Natural Farming

Introduction

Korean Natural Farming is a technique of organic farming that is popular in Hawaii. The crops produced using this technique are larger, more vibrant, and contain higher levels of nutrition than those produced using conventional farming techniques.

The information presented in this article is hopefully interesting, but more importantly you need to understand its implications. The nutrition level of the food that you buy in your typical grocery store, that has been grown using conventional farming techniques, is dramatically lower than you might realize. Becoming an informed consumer is critical. Understand how the food you eat is grown. Your health depends upon it.


What is Natural Farming

In Natural Farming there are:

  • No chemical fertilizers, insecticides, herbicides used
  • No mechanical tilling of the soil

Natural Farming utilizes natural resources made locally by farmers themselves with natural farm by-products, aided by locally available indigenous microorganisms.

Natural farming does not use pesticides or herbicides.  These two chemical brews not only kill insects and unwanted types of plants, but they also destroy the helpful microorganisms that need to exist symbiotically in the soil in order to bring nutrition to the root structure of the plants.

Natural Farming utilizes the Nutritive Cycle Theory to provide the appropriate amounts of the appropriate inputs, at the appropriate times.

According to the Nutritive Cycle Theory, base manure should not be given. If it is given, the plant will not absorb the albumen (endosperm), which has historically been the nutrient of seeds.

Seeds are treated with Seed Treatment Solution (SES). SES is a liquid that is created by the farmer based upon directions that can be found in Cho Han Kyu’s Natural Farming book, chapter 4, section 1 Seed/seedling treatment. After SES treatment, the only additional requirements for germination are an ample supply of oxygen and proper temperature. The seeds will then sprout on their own, requiring only the nutrition of albumen. Fertilizers are not given. This promotes the growth of the main roots, side roots, and root hairs.

Additional manure is provided later, but it is made up of a mixture of compost and fermented plant juice (FPJ); no chemical fertilizers are ever given.

In Natural Farming, there is no tilling of the soil. Indigenous Micro-organisms (IMOs) which are made up of aerobic and anaerobic bacteria and fungus, all gathered from the local environment, are cultivated and used in conjunction with earthworms, mole crickets, and moles; as natural tillers of the soil.

After 2 to 4 years the soil inflates and becomes soft and porous like a piece of cake. This is because of all the creatures that are now living within the soil. They coexist symbiotically with the plants that are living there, receiving nutrition from the root secretions of the plants, and providing nutrition back to the plants in the forms of amino acids, fatty acids, vitamins and enzymes; as well as providing protection to the plants against disease.

Tragically all of these advantages are destroyed when using Conventional Farming techniques. With a resulting disastrous effect to the nutrition levels in the foods that are produced.

LoamySoil1LoamySoil2

Since Natural Farming does not allow the use of herbicides, weeds are controlled by other methods. First, by not tilling the soil, the weed problem is reduced to begin with, but the overall strategy that is used to control weed growth, is to leave the weeds to germinate, and then control them before they reproduce.

To control the weeds, mulching is applied. Rice straw is the best to use for mulching due to the number of microbes that live on it. Rice straw suppresses weak seeds from germinating, holds in moisture, maintains optimum temperature, and it is a good environment for cultivating microbes.

The method used to stop the growth of the weeds is Brown Rice Vinegar (BRV). By using BRV weed growth is dwarfed.

For orchards, there is no mulching. Naturally occurring wild grasses (rye or clover) hold in moisture, shade the soil from the sunlight, provide a home for microorganisms and small animals, allow air to penetrate deep into the soil, prevents soil erosion, and makes nutrients. This is called “wild grass mulching”.

Natural Farming recommends to not tightly space the plants within the growth area. By providing the plants with plenty of space, they do not have to compete for sunlight or air.


Nutritional Analysis and Yield Comparisons

 Nutritional Analysis of an Apple in 1914 and in 1997

Mineral

1914

1992

% change

Calcium

13.5mg

7.0mg

-48.15

Phosphorus

45.2mg

7.0mg

-84.51

Iron

4.6mg

0.18mg

-96.09

Potassium

117.0mg              

115.0mg              

-1.71

Magnesium

28.9mg

5.0mg

-82.70

Source Lindlaar 1914, USDA 1997

 Reduction in Nutrition of Food between 1963 and 1992

  • Fruits
    -
    Vitamin A : - 66%,   Fe : - 57%
  • Vegetables
    - Mg : - 35%, P & K : + 10-20%
  • Leafy Green Vegetables
    - Ca : - 57%
  • Grains
    - Ca : - 46.5%
  • Meats (beef, chicken)
    - Vitamin A   : - 70%
    - Thiamine   : - 42%
    - Fe           : - 28%

Source USDA 1997

Quality Comparison

From “Studies on Quality, Storability, Cooking and Processing for Natural Farming Products” published by the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute.

     Protein content of Natural Farming (NF) polished rice was 14% higher compared with conventional farming.

      Protein content of NF wheat flour was 60% higher, crude fat 67% higher, and crude ash 200% higher.

      Amino acids content of NF unpolished and polished rice were 7-20% higher.

      Gluten content of NF whole wheat and wheat flour were 200% higher.

      Crude fat content of NF cabbage was 10.5% higher and the sugar content was 19.3% higher.

      Protein content, total sugar and crude ash of NF onion were 38.8%, 23% and 10.6% higher.

      Crude protein, lipid, total sugar and ash content of NF cucumbers were 33.3%, 60%, 48.7% and 46.3% higher.

      Protein content of NF potatoes was 25.4% higher.

      Nitrate content of conventional farming cabbage, cucumber, green pumpkin, leaf of perilla, lettuce, grape and small green welsh onion were 28%, 25%, 1500%, 760% 6%, 80% and 11.4% higher than NF respectively.

      Crude fat and total sugar content of NF grapes were 300% and 15.5% higher.

Clearly current farming techniques are producing foods that are nutritional deficient, and the average person is not even aware of this.

cauliflower

lettuce

strawberry

Higher yield

From an economic feasibility analysis performed by Mr. Ramli Burhanuddin, Deputy Director, Ministry of Agriculture, Malaysia.

Crop: Okra
Parameter Natural Farming Conventional Farming
  Yield/hectare (MT/HA) 24   20  
  Gross income (RM/HA) 19200   16000  
  Production cost (RM/HA) 8038   12769  
  Net income (RM/HA) 11161   3230  
  B/C ratio 2.4   1.03  
Crop: Yam
Parameter Natural Farming Conventional Farming
  Yield/hectare (MT/HA) 26.63   17.59  
  Gross income (RM/HA) 21304   14074  
  Production cost (RM/HA) 5527   7279  
  Net income (RM/HA) 15778   6796  
  B/C ratio 3.9   1.9  
Crop: Brassica sp
Parameter Natural Farming Conventional Farming
   Yield/hectare (MT/HA) 18   15  
  Gross income (RM/HA) 18000   15000 
  Production cost (RM/HA) 4823   7499  
  Net income (RM/HA) 13177   7722  
  B/C ratio 3.7   2  



Nutritive Cycle Theory

Optimum growth can be assured only when the optimum amounts of the precise nutrients needed, are given at the proper stages of development.

Nutritive Cycle Theory defines four primary growth periods for plants:

  • The vegetative growth period = The infantile phase
  • The cross-over period = The juvenile or adolescent phase
  • The reproductive growth period = The adult phase
  • The before harvest period = Maturity or old age

Plants need the proper nutrients for the particular stages that they are in, in the same way that humans do. Just as children have unique nutritional requirements, and need appropriate types and quantities of food for their age and stage of development; plants too have specific nutritional requirements for their specific stages of growth and development.

By understanding the growth period that a crop is in; be it vegetative growth, flowering (cross-over period), fruiting, coloring (adult phase), or maturing (old age) - if a problem emerges, a correct diagnosis can be made, and the proper treatment can be implemented. Within Natural Farming the principles of the growth cycle are understood and the causes of the abnormalities are searched for.

By applying Nutritive Cycle Theory, Natural Farming is able to define the amounts and types of nutrients that are needed at each stage of a crop’s development. The concept of a changeover period (floral differentiation) in the growth cycle of a crop, is an extension of the human concept of morning sickness, and is unique to Natural Farming.

Definitions of all the acronyms used below, and how to prepare them, can be found in Natural Farming Agriculture Materials by Cho Ju-Young, which is available through www.naturalfarminghawaii.net.

Nutritive Cycle Prescription

A. Healthy Soil Foundation Establishment

  1. Cover Crop (corn or Rice) for mulching
  2. Charcoal for IMO Housing 330 lbs
    Divided (1/3) for 3 years
  3. IMO #4: 330 lbs. per 1/4 acre of land
    BRV (Brown Rice inegar) 1:500
  4. FPJ (FDermented Plant Juice: Mufwortr/Dropwort = Watercress/Purselane) 1:500
  5. OHN (Oriental Herbal Nutrient) 1:1000
  6. Maltose 1:500
  7. Sea Water 1:20-25
  8. Mineral A 1:1000
  9. Mineral B 1:1000

If you want to grow Root Crop, 1st use M-A, 2nd time use M-B

  • For 1/4 acre, use 1 ton (1000 liters) of water.
  • It will soak down to 20 cm (8 inches) deep.
  • If dry weather, add more water to above solution.

B. Seed/Seedling Treatment

  1. BRV 1:500
  2. FPJ 1:500
  3. OHN 1:1000
  4. Optional: FAA 1:1000 if seedling is weak or small
  5. Optional: CaPO4 1:1000
  6. Maltose 1:500
  7. Sea water 1:30 dilution
  8. Red Soil Powder Separate Spray

C. Type II (Vegetative Growth Period) Treatment

  1. BRV 1:500
  2. FPJ 1:500
  3. OHN 1:1000
  4. FAA 1:1000
  5. CaPO4 1:1000
  6. LAB 1:1000
  7. M-C 1:1000
  8. Soap Water #3 Separate Spray
    Foliate Spray: 25 gallons per 1/4 acreGround Spray: Add more water

D. Change Over (Transitional) Period Treatment (once/wk)

  1. BRV 1:500
  2. FPJ 1:500
  3. OHN 1:1000
  4. FAA 1:1500-2000
  5. CaPO4 1:1000
  6. WSCa 1:1000
  7. LAB 1:1500-2000
  8. M-D 1:1000
  9. Soap Water #3 Separate Spray

E. Type III (Reproductive Growth Period) Treatment

  1. BRV 1:500
  2. FPJ 1:2000-3000 (Acasia Flower, Fruit Enzyme)
  3. OHN 1:1000
  4. FAA 1:1500-2000
  5. CaPO4 1:1000
  6. WSCa 1:1000
  7. FOW (Fermented Ocean Water = 1:30 Ocean water + 1:200 Rice Washed Water (=LAB) + 1:500 FPJ)
  8. M-A 1:1000
  9. Soap Water #3 Separate Spray

F. Enhancement of Ripening

  1. (BRV 1:500)
  2. OHN 1:1000
  3. CaPO4 1:1000
  4. Ocean Water (FOW is better, but must be used immediately)
  5. Ocean Water

10-15 days prior to Harvest
Foliate Spray: 25 gallons per 1/4 acre
Ground Spray: Add more water


IMOs (Indigenous Micro-Organisms)

Organic farming techniques commonly recommend the use of microorganisms. Natural Farming however, is unique in that it emphasizes the importance of using indigenous microorganisms (IMOs) that have been gathered locally and cultivated by the farmer themselves.

Crops have root secretions of 30kg to 40kg per ¼ acre. The plant secretes materials made thru the photosynthesis process. The plant controls the type of secretion that it produces, which in turn controls the type of IMOs that will live on the plant and in the vicinity of its root structure. These root secretions feed the microorganisms. The plant also provides water and oxygen for the microorganisms. In return the microorganisms decompose organic matter and secrete amino acids, fatty acids, vitamins, and enzymes; and they also help protect the plant from disease. In Natural Farming, adding strength and fertility to the land is the number one priority.

Once the microorganism ecosystem of the soil has been restored, the naturally occurring nitrogen is sufficient to meet the generally suggested requirements of 11 kg of nitrogen per ¼ acre. The following explanation can help you understand how this requirement is met.  There are about 700 kg of microorganisms living in ¼ acre of healthy restored soil, depending somewhat on the amount of organic material in the soil. 70-75% are fungus, 20-25% are bacteria, and 5% are small animals such as centipedes, aphids, fleas, nematodes, hilgendori, larva of flies, small earthworms, wood louses, and slipper-animalcules. Assuming these organisms are 80% water by weight, then their dry weight is 140 kg, with 70 kg of that being made up of carbon, and 11 kg nitrogen. Therefore with a healthy micro-organism ecosystem in the soil, you automatically meet the suggested nitrogen requirements.

 

Root secretions: from genes and molecules to microbial associations

Authors Meredith L. Biedrzyckiand Harsh P. Bais
Both authors are affiliated with Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, University of Delaware, and the Delaware Biotechnology Institute

“Previous research by Broeckling et al. (2008) demonstrated that, in both model species, Medicago truncatula and A. thaliana, plants were able to maintain resident soil fungal populations but were not able to maintain non-resident populations, demonstrating that root exudates are able to regulate some soil microbe populations. Micallef et al. (2009) continued this line of research and demonstrated that bacterial populations are also influenced by root secretion compounds as they found that each of the eight accessions tested has distinct and reproducible bacterial community associations. These bacterial community associations differed in the species present and in the abundance of the species associated with the A. thaliana roots. Although a direct link was not examined, strong evidence has been presented to support that differences in bacterial community assemblages is a result, in part, of root secretions compounds.”

“It has long been known that microbial communities in the soil contribute valuable nutrients to plants (e.g. rhizobia and Azolla-associated cyanobacteria provide nitrogen to legumes and to rice, respectively). In addition, beneficial microbes can also protect plants from disease, as shown by the recognized ‘suppressive soil” effect (Schroth and Hancock, 1982). Yet relatively little is known about the diversity of microbes that associate with plants, i.e. the microbiome, and their combinatorial interactions and effects on performance and plant yields.”

From the Journal of Experimental Botany, Volume 6, Issue 6, pp 1533-1534.

Some of the important bacteria we want are: photosynthetic bacteria that assimilate carbon; Asotobacter that assimilates nitrogen; actinomyces that suppress diseases; yeast fungus that break down saccharide; lactic acid bacteria that break down organic matter at anaerobic condition; and of course the IMOs, a mysterious mixture of known and unknown life forms that exercise enormous power. Being a compound of infinite kinds of bacteria, IMOs deny the traditional classification of “good” and “bad” bacteria.

All these microorganisms must be collected near the farm, from an open field, and cultivated at room temperature. Factory made or market purchased bacteria, are invaders from the perspective of the local microorganisms. They actually disrupt the natural balance.

Insecticides, pesticides and herbicides wipe out the microorganisms in the soil, and thereby eliminate the positive effects that the microorganisms would normally bring to the crops. Resolving to chemicals to solve one problem only creates many more problems.


Soil Preparation

The key concepts relating to soil preparation from Natural Farming are:

  • Do not till the land. Microorganisms are nature’s tillers. Man has to therefore focus on serving the microorganisms.
  • Use straw and leaves for mulching. Straw and leaves help maintain the moisture in the soil and provide an excellent environment for the growth of IMOs. Furthermore, they do not prevent oxygen from reaching the soil.
  • If straw or leaves are unavailable, then after you harvest your main crop in autumn, sow rye or clover, in the field where you will plant crops next year. By spring, the rye will have reached 120 to 130 centimeters in height. This vigorous rye suppresses weeds. After it has grown, simply cut it down and let it lay where it was cut. It will serve as mulch. The root of the rye reaches deep down into the soil, and brings air and water with it.
  • Use Indigenous Microorganisms (IMOs) to restore balance.

Pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers destroy the normal biosphere of microorganisms living on and around the plant, and can cause abnormal propagation of specific types of microorganisms.

As stated previously, a plant can influence the type of microorganisms that exists on and around it, by controlling the characteristics of the secretions that it releases from its root structure. This healthy microorganism ecosystem suppresses disease causing microorganisms and helps protect the plant.


Seedling Treatments

The techniques used for treating seeds prior to planting, are quite different in Natural Farming compared to those used in Conventional Farming. Borrowing from the saying “what doesn’t kill you will make you stronger”, in Natural Farming, seeds are collected from crops that have grown in the harsher parts of the field, and as a result are stronger and tougher. Seeds, seedlings and saplings are treated with Seed Treatment Solution (SES) which is both quick and powerful, and results in visible improvements in root and leaf development. Details on how to prepare SES can be found in the Cho Han Kyu’s Natural Farming book page 159, with supplemental information in Natural Farming Agriculture Materials by Cho Ju-Young.

Fast-germinating seeds (turnip, Chinese cabbage, and beans) should be soaked for 2 hours; medium-germinating seeds (cucumbers, melons, squash, and lotus) should be soaked for 4 hours; slow-germinating seeds (rice, barley, tomato) for 7 hours. Half to one hour is enough for potatoes, ginger, garlic, and taro.


Natural Farming Agricultural Materials

For optimal results, Natural Farming encourages that the input materials be self-produced, not commercially purchased. Due to this self-production of starting materials, crops produced using Natural Farming techniques are produced at a much lower cost.

The following are the materials used in Natural Farming. Further information on these materials, and how to prepare them, can be found in Natural Farming Agriculture Materials by Cho Ju-Young, which is available through www.naturalfarminghawaii.net.

  1. Indigenous Microorganisms (IMOs)
  2. Oriental Herbal Nutrient (OHN)
  3. Fermented Plant Juice (FPJ)
  4. Brown Rice Vinegar (BRV)
  5. Fish Amino Acid (FAA)
  6. Lactic Acid Bacteria (LAB)
  7. Water-Soluble Calcium (WCA)
  8. Water-soluble Calcium Phosphate (WCP)
  9. Water-soluble Phosphoric Acid (WPA)
  10. Water-soluble Potassium (WP)
  11. Yeast
  12. Maltose
  13. Seawater and Fermented Seawater
  14. Mineral A thru Mineral E
  15. Loess Power
  16. Bacteria Mineral Water (BMW)
  17. Green Grass Liquid Fertilizer (GGLF)
  18. Soap water and Hot-pepper water
  19. Fermented Mixed Compost (FMC)

 

Conclusion

I hope that this article has helped you to understand the importance of Korean Natural Farming techniques. You may not be prepared to start growing your own food using these techniques, but at least begin shopping at your local farmers markets, and get to know the farmers. Understand the techniques that they use to grow the crops that they sell. Simply being told that their crops are organic, is not enough. Be educated, be informed, be healthy.

 

References

Kyu, Cho Han. Cho Han Kyu’s Natural Farming. Chungbuk, Republic of Korea: Janong Natural Farming Institute, 2003. Print.

Biedrzycki, Meredith L. and Harsh P. Bais. “Root secretions: from genes and molecules to microbial associations.”   Journal of Experimental Botany 60.6 (2009): 1533-1534. Web 23 June 2014.

Park, Hoon (2012, June). Cho Global Natural Farming Basics Seminar. Lecture conducted from the Hilo Korean Christian Church, Kurtistown, HI