EM is a multi-species, multi strain blend of beneficial naturally-occurring organisms that can be applied as inoculants to increase the microbial diversity of soil ecosystem. The inoculant is widely reported to consist mainly of the photosynthesizing bacteria, lactic acid bacteria, yeasts, actinomycetes and fermenting fungi but it is not limited to these microbes. These microorganisms are physiologically compatible with one another and can coexist in liquid culture. The real benefits however are in the impact each of these remarkable microbes has on the soil and on each other. In this blog series we are going to breakdown each group looking at the function of these unique microbes.

In this post we look at fungi and their importance in EM. Fungi are a crucial part of the soil microbial environment, along with bacteria, fungi are important as decomposers in the soil food web. They convert hard-to-digest organic material into forms that other organisms can use. Fungal hyphae physically bind soil particles together, creating stable aggregates that help increase water infiltration and soil water holding capacity. Some other crucial fungi are Mutualists – the mycorrhizal fungi – which colonize plant roots. In exchange for carbon from the plant, mycorrhizal fungi help solubolise phosphorus and bring soil nutrients (phosphorus, nitrogen, micronutrients, and perhaps water) to the plant.

The fungi species in EM are often referred to as fermenting fungi or filamentous fungi. Fermenting fungi are the cellulose digesting fungi responsible for the breakdown of fibrous material. These microbes are facultative anaerobes which means they can operate with or without oxygen. These microbes are essential to enhance humus building, while improving the protective, beneficial balance of microbes in the soil. The fermenting fungi in EM release different types of enzymes such as amylase, capable of breaking down these materials into simpler compounds that can be absorbed through the vegetative hyphae. Because of this they are a crucial part of what makes EM a great product for digesting organic matter and crop residues in the soil.

Important functions of fermenting fungi in EM

  • Carbon and nitrogen cycle - In response to its need for nutrition, studies have shown that these filamentous fungi are able to sense the presence of nitrogen and carbon material resulting in the fungi breaking down this material (particularly non-woody plants) to obtain nutrients and for absorption.  This has been shown to be an important process in the cycle of carbon and nitrogen in nature.
  • These filamentous fungi obtain their nutrients by releasing enzymes that break down organic materials into smaller constituents that can be easily absorbed. This mechanism has proved particularly beneficial in various industries where these organisms are being used for their enzymes to break down various proteins and other compounds.
  • Remediation - These fungi also have shown their ability to breakdown herbicides, in these trials fermenting fungi were successful in significantly breaking down Paraquat and Diquat and also Glysophate.