Bokashi Q & A’s

“Is there a worthwhile benefit with using bokashi composting in conjunction with vermicomposting? Does feeding worms bokashi make a richer end product?” ~ Josh

smaller pansys

Hi Josh

Thank you for your question on bokashi and vermicomposting!  It is a great question.
 
The short answer is YES!
 
Let me explain in more detail so you understand how the 2 can compliment each other:As I am sure you already know, bokashi is a great way to recycle waste and is also capable to be used alongside vermicomposting. For the other readers who have never heard about Bokashi, I willexplain what bokashi is before going into it in more detail.

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Bokashi is a relatively new up and coming method for recycling food waste using micro-organisms called EM (effective Micro-organisms). EM technology originates back in Japan in the 1980s and was discovered by a Japanese scientist named Dr. Teruo Higa. EM technology was originally used for natural agriculture and farming, control of odour in compost and sewage systems, and was then later used to ferment food waste in sealable buckets with the process being termed ‘Bokashi’.EM was discovered accidentally by Dr. Higa while researching on individual micro-organisms with plant growth.He found the grass on a piece of land – where he threw his failed experiments on – to grow particularly well. This helped him
realize that it is not one particular type of microbe which gives benefits to plant growth, but a mixture of different ones which come together to form complex interactions with each other.Dr Higa found the 3 major beneficial microbes which he called EM:– Yeast– Lactic Acid Bacteria – Photosynthetic BacteriaThe exact biochemistry of how the three types of micro-organisms in EM work together is not fully understood, but it is known that in this mixture the  photosynthetic bacteria is the most important for farming and odour control. This type of bacteria uses light to give itself energy to convert surrounding materials into useful minerals and plant building blocks.EM was later found to provide a great solution to a big household problem, food waste. The solution is ‘bokashi’ where the lactic acid bacteria in EM are used to ferment the food waste in sealable buckets. This process solved the problems of rotting food waste odours (especially in the hot weather of Japan), fruit flies and other vermin.

 

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Bokashi involves the use of bokashi bran which is simply made with normal bran flakes inoculated with the EM micro-organisms. The bin they use for throwing the waste in is specially designed to seal up, as the fermentation process requires an anaerobic (no oxygen) environment. The bokashi bins also have a tap at the bottom to allow the drainage of ‘bokashi juice’ which is released as the waste breaks down. The juice created is inoculated with the beneficial microbes and once diluted, it can be used as a plant fertilizer (similar to worm leachate!)

The user adds a layer of food waste into the bin, and then a layer of the bokashi bran.

This is repeated until the bin is full where then it is left aside to ferment for 2 weeks. The result is a sweet smelling waste which can be dug into the soil or thrown into a compost pile, which will then breakdown into soil in 30 days.

Why use the bokashi method if it is to be thrown into a compost pile anyway?

 

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The great thing about the bokashi system is that is can be used to ferment both cooked and uncooked waste. What’s more is that is can also be used to treat meat and fish waste where traditional composting cannot. The bokashi system is also designed to enable apartment dwellers without gardens to recycle their food waste without odours. The fermented matter can be dug directly into an indoor allotment or large plant pots. The wastes internal structure is partially broken down through fermentation making it break down much more quickly by the soil microbes.

So the question is can this fermented matter be fed into a wormery?

The answer is yes it can!

But the process requires care and controlled amounts. There are many advantages in feeding worms bokashi waste, however it is followed by a line of disadvantages.

The benefits of feeding bokashi waste in vermicomposting system are:

– Waste is already partially broken down (softened for easier and quicker break down by worms)

– Adds more microbial activity into the resulting worm cast.

– Can add meat and cooked waste into a wormery without resulting in odours.

The disadvantages are:

– Bokashi waste is acidic, and feeding worms on just bokashi waste WILL result in a sour acidic bin.

– Acidic bins attract fruit flies. There is a MUCH higher chance of large amounts of fruit flies breeding.

Adding bokashi waste into a vermicomposting system can definitely add a boost of micro-organisms into the resulting worm cast (mainly photosynthetic bacteria). The NPK value will depend on the type of fermented matter you throw away.

The disposal of wastes such as meat and fish, which is otherwise not thrown directly into a wormery, will contribute to a more diverse set of minerals and nutrition in the end product. Bokashi waste on its own has proven to grow better quality plants, however the effects of wormcast made from bokashi has not yet
been studied scientifically.

The main problem with adding bokashi waste into a vermicomposting system is the acidity. Many of you will know that worms are not keen on acidic food.

Having said that, if the system is fed bokashi waste, then start by slowly building its way up. The worms do get accustomed to it and will break it down very quickly. However, if you feed it with only bokashi waste you will find your bin going ‘sour’ over a short period of time. So it is important to keep the acidity on track by adding lime mixture or other compost neutralizers. It will also be important to add a lot of carbon source along with the waste.

Lastly keep the system and the waste covered up to prevent the fruit flies from over populating.

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