Garden Myths - Learn the truth about gardening

Bokashi Composting Myths

Bokashi composting, also spelled bocashi composting, is a new way to deal with kitchen scraps. The proponents of the system claim that it has a number of benefits not found in more traditional composting methods. In this blog post I will have a close look at Bokashi composting and separate myth from reality.

Bokashi composting

Bokashi composting

Bokashi Composting—What is it?

From Bokashicomposting.com we have the following description; “Bokashi composting is a safe, convenient, and quick way to compost food waste in your kitchen, garage, or apartment.”

To get started you need a special bokashi bucket that has a tight lid, and a spigot at the bottom to drain off liquids (pictured above). These will run you $60 to $150, or you can make a DIY for $20. You also need the ‘special sauce’! It would not be a very good process if there was no special sauce to sell you. It is normally referred to as bokashi bran or Effective Microbes.

The process is fairly simple. Put your food scraps in the pail and sprinkle some bokashi bran on top. Squish it down tight to get the air out. Close the lid. Each time you have more scraps, add them to the pail, add bran, and squish.

After a few days, liquid starts to form in the bottom of the pail. This needs to be drained or it will start to stink. This liquid, the  ‘bokashi tea’ can be used to fertilize your house plants or your garden plants.

After a few weeks, when the pail is full, you take the contents outside, and either dig it into your garden, or add it to your compost pile.

That is the basic process. If you want more details or have specific questions about the process there is lots of info on the net.

Benefits of Bokashi Composting

I found the following benefits listed at various sites on the net.

1)      You can compost dairy products and meat.

2)      No strong odors

3)      No nutrients lost

4)      No insects or rodents

5)      No turning necessary

6)      No need to worry about the amount of greens and browns

7)      Food scraps are inoculated with EM (Effective Microbes)

8)      Produces a nutrient rich tea for plants

9)      Can be carried out on a small scale which is perfect for apartments

10)   Very quick – complete in 2 weeks

11)   Saying the word ‘bokashi’ will impress friends. 🙂

This sounds like a good system, and any system that returns kitchen scraps to the soil is a good thing. So in general, I have no problem with bokashi composting. If it gets you composting—great.

But….. there is always a but. Is this really a method of composting? Is this system better than the more traditional methods of composting? These are the important questions and the ones I will look at in the rest of this post.

Bokashi Composting—Is it Really Composting?

If you read the above quickly, you might have missed the statement which says “After a few weeks, when the pail is full, you take the contents outside, and either dig it into your garden, or add it to your compost pile”. Does this make sense? Why would you add fully composted material back to the compost pile?

If you read the fine print you soon understand that bokashi composting is not a composting process at all. Bokashi in Japanese means to ferment. This process is actually a fermentation process. What you are doing is turning your kitchen scraps into pickled kitchen scraps. At the end of the process the food looks just like it did when it went into the system, except it’s pickled. An orange looks like an orange, and an apple looks like an apple.

There is no composting taking place in bokashi composting—talk about false advertising!

Knowing this fact makes the earlier statement make more sense. Once you have fermented your scraps, you then need to compost them. You can do this by adding them to a compost pile or you can just dig them into your garden soil where they will compost naturally.

This system is especially promoted for apartment owners—what do they do with it after fermentation? Throw it in the garbage? They could have done that before fermenting.

Now that you understand the process it is also clear why it is so fast—only 2 weeks. It is fast because there is no composting, which is a slow process.

Bokashi composting is not composting!

Bokashi vs Traditional Composting

The benefits listed above as #2 to #6, inclusive, are really not benefits when we compare the two methods. I make compost in bins and don’t worry about greens and browns—I just add whatever I have. It is outside so smell does not bother me, and if a mouse comes by for a bite to eat, so what! Nutrients can be lost if it rains too much, but they are lost to the soil below the compost pile—they are not really lost since the tree roots under the compost pile use the nutrients. If I really care about nutrient loss I can cover the compost pile to keep out the rain.

Traditional composting, if higher temperatures are reached, can even compost meat and cheese.

The difference in the two systems is the pickling process. The apparent benefits of pickling are the Effective Microbes added to soil and the bokashi tea.

For more information on traditional composting see Compost – What is Compost?  and Benefits of Composting.

Effective Microbes

Dr. Higa, the person who originally developed the bokashi system, also developed a special sauce which he called ‘Effective Microbes’ (EM). All kinds of special properties have been assigned to this mixture, but nowadays lots of people sell the microbes already added to the bran. Everyone in the industry now has their own ‘secret sauce’ ie Effective Microbes + bran.

Adding the microbes is important since they control the fermentation process. For example, in wine making, special starter yeast mixtures may be added to start the process. The reason for doing this is that you want the right kind of microbes to grow quickly and out compete the ones that will create a lot of bad odors.

There are also claims that the EM are good for the garden. That is not likely to be true. In the bokashi system it is important to keep oxygen out. The EM are microbes that grow best in anaerobic conditions ie no oxygen. If too much oxygen gets into the system, the EM die, and aerobic bacteria take over and fermentation is slowed or stopped.

When the EM are added to soil or the compost pile, both of which contain oxygen and are aerobic, they die. The EM are not going to grow effectively in soil or the compost pile. Except for the nutrients in their dead bodies they add no benefit to the soil or for plants.

Reference 2 below tested EM tea on field grown crops and found that they did not increase yield. Similar field studies have has the same results. Effective microbes are important to make the bokashi system work, but they don’t really add any benefit to your garden.

Nutritious Bokashi Tea

As fermentation progresses, excess liquid drains into the bottom of the pail, and you need to remove it. It is claimed that this tea is a great source of nutrients for your plants.

How nutritious is it? If it contained a lot of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, you would expect that the companies selling these systems would brag about the high levels of nutrients in the tea. Not so. I could not find a single site that provided these numbers. Are they embarrassed about how low they are?

Some sites say that you can use it straight or dilute it 1:100. That is a huge red flag. A fertilizer that can be effective at full strength and at a 100 dilution rate does not make sense.

Since the proponents of bokashi don’t want to report nutrient values we can look at a similar process for some clues. It is not exactly the same thing, but there are several reports analyzing pickle juice. It contains 0.05% calcium, 0.14% potassium and 0.01% magnesium, indicating low levels of nutrients. After diluting it by 100 it is essentially water.

Let’s look at it logically. The nutrients come from two sources. The liquid in things like fruit contain some soluble nutrients. These might be extracted with the tea and drain to the bottom of the pail. On the other hand the Effective Microbes need nutrients to grow, so any nutrients present will also be consumed by the EM before they drain to the bottom of the pail. In either case the amount of such nutrients in food scraps is quite low.

The majority of nutrients in food scraps is contained in large molecules like protein, DNA, carbohydrates, fats, oils etc. Since bokashi does not break down the food scraps these nutrients are still bound up in large molecules at the end of the bokashi process. That is why an apple still looks like an apple at the end of the process. The nutrients will not get released until the future composting process is completed.

It seems fairly obvious to me that the tea is going to have very low levels of nutrients. Until I see some analytical data that contradicts this point of view I must conclude the tea is not much more nutritious to plants than water.

Real Benefits of Bokashi

I really do not see a benefit for someone without a garden. The tea has no real value, and the fermented food scraps still need to be disposed of. You might as well just throw out the food scraps.

The system does give you a way to keep food scraps in the house so that you do not have to go to the compost pile every few days. That may be a benefit, especially in winter. You do have to buy or make the bokashi bran so there is a cost for this convenience.

Both bokashi composting and traditional composting provide your garden and plants with the same benefits. Bokashi just seems to be an additional extra step that is not necessary. I would not use it.

That leaves us with one benefit from the list presented above and this one can’t be denied. Saying the word ‘bokashi’ is cool and will impress your friends.

References:

1) Treating Food by Bokasi Composting: http://www.envirolink.govt.nz/PageFiles/749/1014-GSDC94_Bokashi%20composting%20for%20food%20preparation%20waste.pdf

2) Application of Two Microbial Teas Did Not Affect Collard or Spinach Yield: http://hortsci.ashspublications.org/content/44/1/73.full

3) Photo Source: Pfctdayelise

Robert Pavlis
Editor of GardenMyths.com
I live in southern Ontario, Canada, zone 5 and have been gardening a long time. Besides writing and speaking about gardening, I own and operate a 6 acre private garden called Aspen Grove Gardens which now has over 3,000 perennials, grasses, shrubs and trees. Yes--I am a plantaholic!

I hope you find Garden Myths an educational site that helps you understand your garden better.

96 Responses to 'Bokashi Composting Myths'

  1. hi, sir….i am new to gardening and plants.I just come across bokashi system of composting in facebook advertisement ..I want to start terrace container gardening. I made bokashi bucket system on my own but purchased. bokashi brawn and coco peat facebook advertiser..after setting up I have so many doubts same as you explained.. How bokashi tea is useful as they said microbes will not live in oxygen..so they die soon as the tea is extracted from bucket..also diluting tea dilutes nutrients also..so i lost confidence on bokashi system..but yes these buckets I can use as storage of waste till they are topped up.only..and I have to go for compost yard only…….

    I am an mechanical engineer in my 50’s..I have limited place, no soil or back yard..I want to start terrace container gardening..please suggest ,me genuine sites for composting, pot mix preparation, self watering container …I want to prepare everything on my own..I have all tools..

  2. Leanne Mason says:

    Hi Robert,
    I really enjoyed reading this post and only wish I had read it before buying my apartment dwelling daughter a bokashi bin. We have had some issues with using the end result, unless you are careful it really reeks – like lawn clippings. The only advantage I can see is that if you live in apartment and want to compost, the bokashi reduces the volume considerably, enabling your mum to come and collect the bucket now and then rather than emptying it every day. The alternative would be that the food scraps end up in the garbage I suppose.

  3. You are right. “Bokashi” is not composting. It is the Japanese word for fermented organic matter.

    The fermentation denatures organic matter, including proteins and fats. This is why bokashi will accept virtually anything.

    “Bokashi composting” is what happens after you add bokashi to soil.
    Then, and only then, the soil’s ecosystem – a legion of many types of organism – breaks down the denatured matter even further and feeds on it.

    Ecosystem science has a concept called “carrying capacity”, which is governed by the balance of energy inputs and outputs.

    Bokashi retains most of the energy embodied in organics, because the pickling process does not emit much. Traditional composting loses embodied energy.
    (a) Aerobic decomposition emits copious amounts of heat.
    (b) Anaerobic decompostion emits copious amount of methane, into whose embodied energy the original has been converted.

    So from a given amount of organics, the net energy in a bokashi-fed ecosystem is higher, and so is its carrying capacity. This can be seen in the mass and diversity of organisms. The mass of organisms also governs the mass of soil carbon, of which the more the better.

    Most else between fermentation vs decomposition comes out the same in the long run. However, less than perfect heaps and compost bins – i.e. all of them – also leach nutrients into the uncultivated ground beneath, reducing the target soil’s plant (as opposed to ecosystem) carrying capacity. Bokashi composting (see above) goes straight to the soil.

    You should also be interested in the lactic acid that pickles bokashi. As you know, our muscles produce it as a by-product of energy conversion, and our liver breaks it down into ingredients for more chemical energy (the ADP to ATP reaction). Some of the soil’s organisms act, in effect if not mechanism, as a gigantic liver. They feed on lactic acid, and get energy from it. This is why bokashi breaks down so unbelievably quickly in the soil, and also why worms shun bokashi at first (too acid for them) but are all over it after a few days.

    This is all basic science. Go read the literature. Increasingly desperate recourse to “not peer reviewed” doesn’t wash any more. Traditional composting is simply less effective, less efficient, slower and smellier. Time for a rethink.

    • Re: “The fermentation denatures organic matter, including proteins and fats”. I searched for information to support this and found none. I also do not think the term denaturation has anything to do with fats – just proteins. I am willing to look at your proof.

      Re: ““Bokashi composting” is what happens after you add bokashi to soil.” I have never seen the term used this way. Once in the soil regular composting will happen. How is bokashi composting different in the soil?

      “So from a given amount of organics, the net energy in a bokashi-fed ecosystem is higher, and so is its carrying capacity. This can be seen in the mass and diversity of organisms. ” – why would that add to diversity??

  4. Sean Zigmund says:

    I have to say this is certainly an interesting counter-post / argument for the bokashi method, which I am new to. Robert, while I can appreciate your need for scientific research, as many have stated in this post – and you yourself have stated the need for in the studies cited to have controls – the need for scientific research in any one particular thing, and then related to others, as controls or not, would be (for many) too complicated a process to undertake while trying to maintain a garden. On the other hand, many studies have been done about alternate methods of gardening, composting, using fertilizers, pesticides, etc… and in the end I believe it is a combination of things we’ve tried that worked and things we’ve tried that failed vs. things we’ve only read about (whether anecdotal or scientific). Perhaps the structure of truly “healthy” soil – a soil that grows a general variety of plants that are within the realm of palate-ability to humans – is what should be studied first to understand what a particular person’s soil would actually need to achieve that general range they are looking to grow the foods they want to grow (think soil tests at Cooperative Extensions or Universities – a truly scientific approach based on contemporary agricultural methods, aka 20-century ag,) while trying to whittle down the work to an easy process that fits into their lifestyle (apartment dweller vs. property owner vs. farmer, etc.. I, on the other hand, practice gardening and farming from a permaculturalist perspective, looking at a much wider range of foods and food crops that are placed in functional design on an x,y,z dimensional that includes time and considers the entire ecosystem, mimicking complex systems in nature which seek to achieve a long term balance, or health, one could say. Considering bokashi in this light, one could make parallels to studies that have previously been done on those ecosystems in light of the soil in those healthy environs – forests and the transitional zones around them. It seems to me that the overall guiding factor with bokashi is the pH produced – of the tea and the fermented “waste” product, which must then be composted to truly achieve a full net-benefit, which, yes, your correct, many commercial websites leave out (I too was very perplexed by this and felt more like I was being sold something, then told something). Here is a study I see as a direct relation to the debate, which may prove (through further scientific study) bokashi to be corollary: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/jobm.3620370506/full (just one out of many I could have googled and put here)
    Robert, you yourself have stated that nature composts (and has been for time immoral (paraphrasing)) so let’s look to nature for the evidence – forest soils are among the healthiest soils (and environments in general) for humans and living species here on the surface of our planet, so it seems to me the study paves the path for a natural bokashi style fermentation process at the very top of the forest floor that provides the path for a) disrupting the colonization and proliferation of certain types of (pathogenic) bacteria (to that particular forest ecosystem, at least) while b) promoting the growth (or at least providing an environment for the continued in-habitability) of *fungi* which are beneficial (the world over) to the soil micro-ecosystem within the greater forest/plain/tundra/desert/whatever ecosystem, and in fact most places on earth where soil is considered “living.”

    Bring humans back into play now – we disrupt a natural cycle, create our “garden,” and start promoting what WE favor (tomatoes, greens, herbs, insert the food you love here) and of course the ecosystem in the soil changes and adapts, or not, providing niches for other inhabitants to move in. Bokashi, in this regard, could be seen – again, yes, further study could be done – as a soil chemistry tool to lower pH, causing pathogenic bacteria to fall in population and fungi to either maintain, or increase in growth which work in concert with plants in symbiotic relationships as has been proven in many soil types, from volcanic areas to rain forests and in places across the globe (and yes, I know fungi can also harm in soil ecosystems.)

    Rather than imposing a change in ecosystem, as humans have been doing for centuries now, creating niche areas for unwanted inhabitants to move in (many people call these pests, “bugs,” weeds, etc.) And, rather than trying to continue to extend our control into the natural environs by having to spread compost, or spray teas, or fertilizers, or pesticides, etc… why do we not *study* the complex patterns and interactions between all the living things (which came from the dead things, so we’d have to study that also) in the soil… around roots… next to micro-organisms… who craw around the hyphae and mycelium of fungi, eaten by worms, exchanged with root nodules, etc… to develop guilds of desirable plants that reach from within the ground (tubers, bulbs, fungi, etc.) to the soil surface (leafy greens, small herbs, “cover” crops such as white clovers,) to an herbaceous zone (oregano, parsley, basil, etc.,) and further up to a bush zone (blueberry, cranberry, etc.,) to a sub-canopy (apple, pear, plum, etc.,) to a canopy (chestnut, oak, hickory, etc.,) while vines and climbers transverse the entire vertical space (peas, beans, grapes, hops, etc.,) producing the widest area possible of edible plants while allowing nature to provide, and do, the composting for us with very little effort involved at all – perhaps, just maybe, some chop and drop as you yourself use, Robert, but that’s about it. That is Permaculture.

    Compost – whether “chop and drop” style, or Berkley Method (which we’ve done in 21 days!), or long-term 5-year humanure style (also doing) – is, just like bokashi, a *tool* or *method* to achieve a favorable or healthy environment for the things WE want to ultimately eat, in a faster, easier way (or for the animals we want to eat – the top of the food chain). Tools must be created for specific purpose, and sharpened, and perhaps modified, re-used/tested, re-sharpened, refined – a cycle. Science can’t always break down the absolute specifics, though we convince ourselves that it can because we’ve seen what that level of control can do for OUR species – just as much as we can convince ourselves that it can’t as you seem to be doing by requesting someone – anyone – provide a journal-published study that has covered all the bases you need to make it believable and until such a time as they do, it is not worthy of approach.

    If you need a study to explain every aspect of a particular method or tool that can be used to garden, you are missing the point, which in my mind is to grow the food that we love as quickly and easily as possible, while dealing with the waste products in such a way as to make the process truly, truly sustainable, meaning energy is neither created nor destroyed – it is moved from one state (potential) to another (kinetic) and back again while we benefit from that cycle of death and life within our lifetime, hopefully giving back our life to the cycle so the cycle can continue. Humans have lost sight of that natural cycle because we’ve become convinced that science will prove otherwise – we can control it all.

    If a method works for one person with or without scientific study, it may not work for another because the ingredients, or temperature, or moisture content, or methodology, etc. was not followed exactly the same. The variables could be endless and you yourself eluded to this above in many replies and even stated that ag studies are typically in a lab where every control is just-so, which is NOT how nature works.

    Sure, you can target websites that sell bokashi EM, buckets, etc.. and chide them for lack of statements and research, or you could tout one method you’ve used for many years as the absolute best (for you, without citing scientific study in return, I might add) when at the end of the day it is up to the practitioner to determine for him or herself what works, what takes too much work, or is desirable work, or acceptable work, or even tolerable work. to get the food output and type desired.

    For me, it’sPermaculture, which is a design process that doesn’t see the tool as the answer, but merely part of the path to achieving a truly sustainable food producing environment that considers the patterns of nature and the living things in nature to create that balance/symbiosis necessary to mimick nature so that the life/death cycle repeats in a way that is favorable not only to humans but to all the components of the food web within a bio-region, free of complete and total human imposition, like a factory farm, or even a backyard “garden.”

    Have a look but be warned – you won’t find a scientific study explaining it all. There never will be one because our planet is just too complex to take all those variables into consideration in a single study. It is an evolutionary process just as nature herself is, and that is the crux of it: We all learn as we all go, with eyes either open or closed to what others find in nature as either working or not working, modified for their location, point in time, climate, ecosystem, and liking. There isn’t necessarily a panacea anywhere.

    I feel as though you refuse to accept this point throughout this post and rather than truly seek the answer for yourself, you merely repeat the mantra that no *scientific* study has been done and therefore this is all suspect until such a study is done, yet even that study would be suspect if done in a lab and not in an environment to your liking, or if not reviewed in a notable scientific journal. Rather cyclic, hypocritical, and against the true nature of your blog which seems to be a platform for proving what you’ve found works for you. Try it, Mikey – you might like it.

    We all have opinions, even the scientists. And here you say “Learn the *truth* about gardening,” which is actually mainly from your perspective. SO, I say to you – where’s your scientific “evidence.” And, who’s to say that’s really “truth” ? I’m sure we could all come up with variables that would prove otherwise. You say on the “Don’t Buy these products” page that “Most gardeners should not be adding phosphorus.” REALLY? Who are “most” gardeners, and, where are they? At what altitude, climate, solar aspect, wind speed, barometric pressure, etc. ???

    Our science fails us time and time again and we’ve staked our present and future on it, leaving behind the knowledge of our ancestors because it was anecdotal at best, yet it lead us to where we are now, only bolstered by science in the last perhaps 10000 years since the agricultural revolution within a period of tens of thousands of years, if not hundreds of thousands or even millions when we look, using science, at our long history on this planet.

    Good luck with your garden, whether you shit right on your plants or bokashi your mother into your compost pile. I’m gonna keep on using my methods because I’ve found they work, I like them, and I eat REALLY, really well while building soil and a community around me that includes all living things, and dead. FO’KASHI! 🙂

  5. Jan Appelgryn says:

    Hi, I was thinking of use this method to get rid of the left overs in my kitchen and then add it in my earthworm bins. Will/or can this help as a sort of pre-earthworm food to help the little wigger to do there work faster? Thanks for this post.

    • I am not a worm expert, but people do report feeding fermented bokashi to worms.

      • Lynn says:

        The first time I tried feeding my bokashi’d waste to worms, the worms died. I believe the fermented waste is too acidic for the worms. However you do not need the worms at all. For years now, I have been fermenting my kitchen waste in five gallon buckets and burying it in bins mixed with plenty of soil. The more soil the better, when you are doing this indoors, as it helps speed the decomposition. My most exciting recent discovery is that you don’t need to bother with bran at all. For the past several months I have been making a serum from equal parts kefir whey and molasses and diluting this with water in a spray bottle. I just spray mist the daily kitchen waste contribution to the five gallon bucket. Doesn’t take much more than a fine mist, and the process dispenses with the hassle of making or buying the bran bokashi.

        • Very interesting.

          Just this past week there was a good discussion on The Garden Professors Facebook group about mixing finished bokashi with soil. They claimed, and supported it with pictures, that in 10 days the material was no longer recognizable and they ended up with nice soil. What is not clear is how much if any decomposition really took place. You can get the same effect by putting kitchen waste in a blender and mixing the smoothy with soil.

          I am not surprised that the bokashi method works without bran. Many people in India and Asia make a similar mixture without bran – they use different names to describe the fermentation process.

          • Lynn says:

            But! With the bokashi’d waste, the waste is not buzzed in a blender. The microbes manage to reduce the fermented stuff quite admirably in a very short time. I also have experienced this. As much as 10 gallons of bokashi’d waste mixed with lots of soil in a box pretty much disappeared in 2 weeks – except for the few really large chunks (big onion tops from the local soup kitchen). Also, though the box was in a south facing location, it did not have a cover, and the average temperatures over 24 hours were only about 10C (arctic…). The decomposition acts so much better when there is plenty of soil. Since I do all of 90% of my actual composting indoors in rubbermaid bins, this is an important point. In the early years, I tried to skimp (because purchasing bags of soil was very expensive ) but the results of last summer’s experiments showed how quickly the decomposition could take place when much more soil was used.

          • I never said the bokashi waste is buzzed with a blender. I am comparing bokashi with blending – another way of getting rid of kitchen waste. Both make the visible, recognizable kitchen waste disappear. With blending we know that no decomposition has taken place. Since the results of both methods look the same, there may also not be decomposition with blokashi.

            You say that “microbes manage to reduce the fermented stuff quite admirably”, and many others say this too, but there seems to be no science to support this statement. All you can say is that the material is no longer visible.

            The following observations are very interesting and valuable. Thanks so much for posting.

            The observation “average temperatures over 24 hours were only about 10C ” also points to a lack of decomposition and microbe activity, which generally increase temperature.

            “The decomposition acts so much better when there is plenty of soil”, an important observation, but why? Does the soil neutralize the pH of the bokashi mixture, allowing the microbes in the soil to act on the material? That would indicate that the EM in the bokashi are not needed. Or does the added soil simply dry up the material which then more easily falls apart into pieces we can’t easily see?

            I have no doubt that the material seems to disappear, but I am still not convinced that this is due to decomposition, which is a chemical change whereby large molecules are broken down into smaller molecules. This is not something that can be measured or detected by eye – it can only be confirmed by lab analysis.

            Your method certainly seems like a good way to make use of kitchen waste. You might be interested to know that the method of adding bokashi to soil in a container is also practiced in Scandinavian countries. The soil is then used in the garden or for house plants.

        • Noel Calvert says:

          The Bokashi process produces vinegar… This is part of why Bokashi is good for getting rid of pathogenic bacteria & fungi… The problem is it leaves the material too acidic to use instantly.

          What you could do to make it usable instantly is add lime to bring down the acid…

          Or simply let the vinegar evaporate before putting in the worm bin…
          Alternatives could be add baking soda to interact with the vinegar, but I am afraid that would raise salt content…

          Reasons Bokashi is such a nice precursor to worm bins is the infusion of bacteria & fungi it naturally produces… These will mostly die in the first couple of weeks exposed to air, but the worms will not care if they are dead or alive… They will still consume them…

          Bokashi softens the materials for faster composting as well…

    • Gary Crowell says:

      Many of my clients put the Bokashi fermented scraps in their worm bins. The key is to put about a cups worth in a corner of the bin and let the worms get accustomed to the waste. Soon it won’t be an issue. Many also claim that the process is twice as fast when using Bokashi.

      • Many claim that it is faster – but none provide evidence that it is. What they are reporting on is what they see – not what they test. They see the material disappear, and assume that it has composted. I have yet to find any evidence that it composts faster.

        Bokashi is also made with many different recipes – it may be that some are more worm friendly than others? The input ingredients – is the kitchen waste – may also have an influence. Just a guess.

        • Noel Calvert says:

          OK Robert…
          Lets do this… A step by step explanation of how the fermentation process speeds up composting…

          First, your waste material is put into an air tight container with a bokashi mix… note the mix of microbes is not very critical as it can be any of the microbes found in raw milk + yeast…
          This mix produces vinegar as it actively softens most of the wastes in the container.

          The vinegar prevents actual putrification which is what we are trying to avoid (smelly rotting).

          Then, you must do something about the excess vinegar produced in order to make these scraps usable for the garden or whatever.

          This is where normal composting comes in, but this can be done easily by burying in a hole in part of your garden or placing in an open bin to let air out with soil mixed in to further dry out the vinegar.

          Alternatively you can add lime before mixing in soil to bring the PH to levels worms & aerobic bacteria & micro-fauna can endure.

          After this, well the worms will eat the dead/dying anaerobic bacteria/yeasts & populate the heck out of your soil mixture… This is a known enriching method for soils…The worms also introduce aerobic bacteria that are good for soil.

          NOTE: Bokashi is a softening & pickling process which is a precursor to composting… It is not composting…

          • Bokashi does produce acetic acid – vinegar, but it also produces a number of other organic acids, so the process is different than pickling.

            The acids produced are not a problem when added to soil. The amount added is very small in comparison to the volume of soil and soil is a great buffer – it simply neutralizes the acid. the exception is very sandy soil. The acids are also not a problem to soil life.

            I agree entirely that Bokashi is not a composting process – wrote about that in http://www.gardenmyths.com/bokashi-composting-myths/

            A key question: does Bokashi speed up subsequent composting? My recent research indicates that scientists don’t know the answer. I will be discussing some of these questions in a future post.

  6. David Wichern says:

    Is there a site with a chemical analysis of both the tea, and the finished product? Figures of merit would include pH, oxidation reduction potential, and total kjieldahl nitrogen.

  7. Aurelien B says:

    Mistakenly posted on the blog about “compost tea”, this comment may be more relevant here. Thanks.

    Bokashi composting is a composting method consisting in returning to the soil pre-fermented organic matter.

    Advantages over traditional composting are:

    1) Compost times are greatly reduced.
    2) Any kind of organic wastes can be composted easily and without any unhygienic odor due to the putrefaction of matter, which makes of it a universal method for composting possible even in urban environments and for indoor gardening, as well as in most climates conditions.
    3) The Bokashi method prevents the development of pathogens which are current in anaerobic systems without any direct human interaction and with very few management need compared to traditional composting.
    4) The pre-fermented organic matter is enriched in enzimes and nutrients, compared to the same organic matter not pre-fermented. The Bokashi composting method preserves most of those nutrients during the composting process, contrary to traditional composting methods who lose a part of it even in the best composting conditions.
    5) The Bokashi composting method allows to compost at any scale, from a handful of home daily organic wastes to big industrial containers without changing any of the processes involved in it.
    6)The by-product of the fermentation process prior to composting constitutes a natural organic fertilizer that may complement the organic nutrients already present in the soil while cultivating in a Bokashi system.
    7) The Bokashi composting method results of one of the practical and technical use of a biome called “effective micro-organisms”, which is also studied in domains adjacent to agriculture and gardening like water treatments (swimming-pools, natural ponds), animal care, health and skin care and other domains where beneficial micro-organisms activity for human beings may play a role.

    Hoping that it may help to dissolve some misunderstanding about the Bokashi composting method.

    1) Effective microorganism substance (EM-S) reduces development and aggravation of atopic dermatitis-like skin lesions in NC/Nga mice
    http://link.springer.com/article/10.3839/jksabc.2011.035

    • Reply using your number system.
      1) any proof of this?
      2) accepted as a benefit.
      3) where is the proof on this?
      4) re: “The pre-fermented organic matter is enriched in enzimes and nutrients, compared to the same organic matter not pre-fermented.” Not possible. Were would these enzymes and nutrients come from? They have to come from the material in the bucket, in which case there is no enrichment.
      Re: “Bokashi composting method preserves most of those nutrients”. Most of the nutrients will not be released until complete decomposition occurs. At that point nutrients are simple ions. The whole point of composting is to release the nutrients, not keep them trapped inside organic molecules. I suspect Bokashi actually prevents decomposition until the material is moved to soil, in which case it actually slows down the release of nutrients which is not as good for plants.
      5) same with regular composting. I just throw my kitchen wastes on the ground and they compost.
      6) re: “constitutes a natural organic fertilizer that may complement the organic nutrients already present in the soil while cultivating in a Bokashi system” – that is just mumbo jumbo. Explain this in chemical terms. By the way – nutrients are not organic.
      7) Horticulture science does not accept the benefits attributed to EM. Where are the references that EM adds any value to the garden?

      • Aurelien B says:

        When you throw your kitchen wastes on the ground, they rot, develop pathogens, and lose a significant part of the nutrients in various gasses associated with the decomposition process. So it is not very efficient. The Bokashi way (fermenting before composting) does not have those side-effects.

        The fermentation process, which is best known in human food and notably in Orient, allows to preserve and enrich the food substrates in vitamins, enzyms, proteins and help to eliminate anti-nutrients. This is basic zymology.

        If we compare the soil to a digestive system delivering nutrients to plants, the fermentation process helps the digestion of organic matter done by all the micro and macro organisms present in the soil. That is why fermented food is digested more quickly in the human stomach and intestines than non fermented one. And it is why as well the bokashi composting is faster than other traditional composting method. The fermentation process acts as a catalyst for human digestion as well as for the soil fauna digestion of organic matters, also increasing the diversity and quality of nutrients assimilable by the plant (plants roots assimilate what is present into the water of the soil passing through their cells).

        With the Bokashi juice (by-product of the fermentation), there are nutrients, enzymes, vitamins and micro-organisms from the fermentation. It is acidic, yes, so better is to dilute it before giving it to the plant soil, because it may burn the roots, which is not a desirable effect. But you can as well throw it into your kitchen drain or toilets (which is beneficial against odors and such), if you consider that your plants do not need watering at the time you collect the juice.

        • Re: “nutrients in various gasses associated with the decomposition process” – not true. the only nutrients lost to the air as gases is nitrogen and carbon. None of the minerals are turned into gases.

          Organic matter in the soil decomposes just fine without any fermentation.

          • Aurelien B says:

            Gases evaporate a lot of nitrogen which is a crucial element to the plants for their development. Very little is known about what compounds are really absorbed by the plant roots. But one knows for a long time that roots not only absorb simple mineral elements but also a lot of compounds, many being carbonated, needed by the plant, but also phytotoxic ones, natural or artificial. For example, herbicides are uptaken by the roots. Little is known about all the interactions between those compounds in the soil and within the roots themselves. So letting organic wastes to rot on the soil may not be the best way to make a good compost for plants, in my opinion. It may be quick for the cultivator, but it is also dirty, and our cultivated plants deserve better than that, don’t they ?

            Absorption of Herbicides by Roots (1960)
            https://www.jstor.org/stable/2439603

          • Re: “letting organic wastes to rot on the soil may not be the best way to make a good compost for plants,” – but that is precisely what nature has been doing for millions of years!

    • Very interesting article and comments. I have done a side by side rot test of fermented vs unfermented food waste (apples and pears from canning), buried in the garden in fall. Both disappeared completely by mid spring. Nature does not pre-ferment stuff, and apparently we don’t need to either.

      • Aurelien B says:

        Of course, by mid spring both may have disappeared, but by mid winter you would have seen the difference between the two…

        Nature is a professional Bokashi composter. Year after year it creates “lasagnas” of organic wastes and thus the anaerobical conditions for the fermentation process to take place.

        I would have suggested you, Madam, to do the test directly in your kitchen and you would have seen how pleasant the Bokashi method is comparing to letting rot your food waste.

        Bokashi is clearly a method of precomposting that you can do in an apartment. It is inspired by nature and made more efficient by controlling the anaerobic conditions in a container.

        • re: “Year after year it creates “lasagnas” of organic wastes and thus the anaerobical conditions for the fermentation process to take place.” Nature does not create a lasagna. By the time the second year material falls the first is usually composted and it is not anaerobic. It it were, the fields and woods would smell most of the time.

          • Aurelien B says:

            Actually, nature does not create the compost piles that are necessary to generate the heat required by traditional composting. The layer of organic materials in nature is very thin (horizontal distribution), so water saturates easily and periodically creates anaerobical conditions allowing a fermentation process to take place in the soil. As Robert Pavlis once said (December 8, 2016), ” When normal compost is ‘finished’, and nice and black without any plant material showing, it is still years away from being completely composted.” , so the compost process taking place in nature is just in fact a gigantic lasagna with a semi-fermented garniture. 🙂

            The man-made improvement of the fermentation of the garniture for agricultural or horticultural ends can be done with the Bokashi method, as demonstrated by:

            Effect of Lactic Acid Fermentation Bacteria on Plant Growth and Soil Humus Formation
            http://www.infrc.or.jp/english/KNF_Data_Base_Web/PDF%20KNF%20Conf%20Data/C1-5-018.pdf

            Production of weak acid by anaerobic fermentation of soil and antifungal effect.
            https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18051286

      • Actually, if you have ever been in an abandoned orchard, you will find that nature ferments quite readily. Or, more accurately, your nise will tell you.

  8. Ron Mccord says:

    Sorry captain. But if you have not tried Bokashi you are not the someone who could give answers to the myths of how great or how worthless the process is. You are guessing. Just like. You say other people are not providing evidence, neither are you. I have personally witnessed 55 gallons of Bokashi fermented food waste decompose into rich dark organic matter in less than 2 weeks this past spring. I also witnessed every tree on my property that had Bokashi compost on or in the soil near the tree’s dripline rebound from the brink of death to thriving in just one year all, in one of the driest, and hottest years.

    Bokashi is not for everyone. But it does answer many shortcomings of traditional composting. No C:N ratios, no extra water, no turning… And the ability to store greens until one is ready to compost them. It also compliments traditional compost methods, by allowing people who don’t have an optimized compost pile to compost successfully in spite of whatever reason their pile wasnt “right.”

    And as for apartment dwellers… Some people do care about the environment. Dumping food down the drain or even worst, in the trash, is not the best thing for the earth. Bokashi allows apartment dwellers to deal with food waste themselves. A huge benefit of Bokashi is how little trash I actually produce now. I take my trashcan out once a week because there is nothing rotting in there.

    Have you studied the soil food web? If you understood that soil microbes feed plants, and can form a symbiotic relationship with some trees and plants, you would understand that feeding those microbes is the key to a self sustaining garden. If you want to understand Bokashi, you should study silage. It’s the same thing. You are using lacto and yeast to preserve nutritional value of something that would otherwise rot. pH is a huge factor in that process. Drop the pH and rot and odor causing microbes die off.

    I use Bokashi to compost bones from meals we have for dinner. Those bones are dust in just a few months, sometimes weeks, but more importantly, the Bokashi process gives me calcium that is plant available. No more blossom end rot.. And yes, I have seen before and after affects of apply calcium rich Bokashi to my tomatoes and peppers that previously had end rot. I also ferment seaweed and bananas. Now I am making nutrient rich soil amendments for all of my plants. I have a thriving garden that I never have to apply fertilizer to.

    So No, Bokashi is not the answer to anyone who wants to look at thier food waste and have it walk alone to the garden and instantly become soil organic matter and plant available nutrients. But for those who don’t want to turn a pile, figure out C:N ratios, or keep a pile at a moisture level of a rung out sponge. Bokashi helps quite a bit. I can compost using Bokashi in any size batch from 1 cup to 100+ gallons. 15$ worth of inoculant for those benefits is worth it to me. So maybe you should stick to giving advice on things that you are familiar with.

    • So unless a person tries something – they can’t gain knowledge about the topic?? That makes no sense. If it did we would not need schools!

      I am not guessing. I am basing the information on published data. If you have different published data – show it to me. I can read it and learn from it.

      I compost – but don’t care about C:N ratio. Do not add water. Do not turn. I don’t even carry the organic material to a pile. My cut and drop method is even easier than Bokashi. http://www.gardenmyths.com/composting-the-cut-and-drop-method/

      I understand soil microbes very well. I never said the end product of Bokasi will not be good for the soil. Maybe you did not read my post?

      Blossom End Rot is NOT a deficiency of calcium in the soil. You can read all about it here: http://www.gardenmyths.com/blossom-end-rot/

  9. Rose Southey says:

    my plants, potted and garden ones, absolutely thrive on the Bokashi ‘tea’ …I put about 4 tbs in a 5l can of water.. gut feel. come and see my beautiful garden in Cape Town . The buckets, when the juice stops, are later buried/mixed into the compost , a wonderful mix

    And no more rat problems ! BOKASHI IS BEST

  10. We just started using the bokashi method. We have made our own bran and bucket system. AT NO POINT…were we told this is composting, we have always understood it to be fermentation and that further steps were needed to make it compost. We learned it from someone who has been experimenting with various methods. He has anecdotal and historical evidence of this type of method working, other farmers have had success using this method. Since we are starting out, we will have to see if it works for ourselves. Just like other claims made in favor of bokashi, and yours that it doesn’t work, people will have to see for themselves if it is worth it.

  11. Jerry says:

    Another myth is that compost need to be fully broken down before you can use it. Plants grow just as happily in food scraps that you bury in the ground. Might not look good but the vegetables don’t mind. We make things complicated but nature takes care of it.

    • So called finished compost still takes years to break down completely. so even it is not fully composted yet.

      You are certainly right – composting is not needed. Its main purpose is to keep the garden cleaner looking. I stopped composting years ago. Organic matter just gets dumped on the beds behind a plant to hide it.

      • Sun says:

        USDA NOP rules for using compost on certified organic crops require that aerobic compost reach 130 F internal temperature and be turned at least three times to ensure that most of the material in the pile is treated. This process reduces populations of plant, animal and human pathogens.. While vegetable waste may be OK to bury or surface compost in the garden, you would not want to do that with manure or compost containing meat scraps.

        Bokashi reduces the pH of treated waste creating an environment in which pathogenic bacteria cannot grow..These effects are documented in the publication https://todd-klempner.squarespace.com/s/Coliforms_03026013.pdf

      • Noel Calvert says:

        umm… composting actually does do a few things… most notably (other than the looks which are not even important other than to us) converts proteins to nitrogen & its other components. Why does this matter? Because this process will happen in your soil whether you compost or not, but if you are cultivating plants in this material while this is happening, your plants will experience nitrogen starvation.

        After composting has slowed down to the normal soil level, this will no longer happen.

        Composting also makes phosphorus & potassium among other nutrients water soluble & available for the plants to use. Robert, if you do not know this stuff, how are you educating about composting & cultivation???

        • Composting does a lot of different things – the conversion of protein to nitrogen is just one.

          Composting does not “make phosphorus & potassium among other nutrients water soluble”. Composting is the degradation of large molecules which releases the nutrients. The solubility of phosphorus and other nutrients depends on the chemical nature of the ions produced, but composting does not change their solubility.

          I don’t understand your comments about planting in “this material” – what ever that is. No one suggests planting in raw organic matter or in compost. Decomposition by bacteria does require nitrogen, and if this process is too high, it will make it harder for plants to get their nitrogen. But this process goes on all the time in soil and plants grow just fine. It is a matter of keeping things in balance.

          I do understand this very well – I am both a chemist and biochemist.

          • Noel Calvert says:

            Then why don’t you do your control & experimental group flower bed or whatever you like to test Bokashi alongside a traditional compost bin?

            Since Bokashi is not a composting method, but a way to speed the process up by softening the material & fermenting it, you would have to compost the material afterwards, but you will see (this is your test anyways) that it is faster & benefits in a few different ways like attracting worms…

            Perhaps using the word pickling was too general for someone nitpicking every word about this, & water soluble when I should have said releasing previously used phosphorus & potassium among other nutrients…

            Seriously…

            The point is it makes composting faster, so go test it…

            There is a HUGE amount of paper written on this process already, so I do not know how you cannot find the evidence you claim does not exist… I will link some stuff here in my next response.

          • Doing a proper scientific study is a lot of work and needs a lot of space.

            I look forward to some proof that it makes composting faster.

          • Noel, I have been following this thread for two years. Robert is just not a fan of Bokashi, period. Those of us who are using it love it, and see the benefits first hand. He is just not going to come over to the light. 🙂

          • That is actually not quite true. I am seeing more advantage with Bokashi and am writing about them as we speak. The problem I have is finding any real data on what happens after the Bokashi material is added to soil. I do have one source that says there has been very little research in this area.

  12. Lynn says:

    My experience is that the bokashi’d waste does decompose much faster. Our local soup kitchen has been composting waste using bokashi inocculant and then dumping it in earth-filled boxes outside of our local community greenhouse. I dumped 10 gallons of fermented waste and left it for 2.5 weeks before checking it again. outside temperatures are around 5C these days and the box had a plastic cover over it. Most of the waste, except for the bigger chunks had already decomposed after a couple of weeks. I was surprised at the heat created as well. We don’t use buckets with spigots and we make our own inocculant… It’s all very simple, and the greenhouse really needs it because the soil hasn’t been properly taken care of for years. Friends “down south”, Ottawa area, found the waste they had buried in the earth in November had completely disappeared by the time they checked again in May.

    • Useful anecdotal information but without numbers and controls your observations are not very convincing. Also keep in mind that we can’t see decomposition.

  13. Louise says:

    If you dump kitchen scraps or any uncomposted material such as grass clippings on your garden, is it true that before they provide nutrients to plants these scraps etc use up Nitrogen to help to decompose, so actually the garden plants suffer a bit for a while?

    • Yes and no. Yes, the bacteria and fungi that decompose organic matter need nitrogen. Grass clippings provide lots of nitrogen – brown organic matter, like wood chips, does not.

      If you place this organic matter on the surface of the soil you will only loose nitrogen in the top couple of millimeters of soil. This will have no effect on plants. This is why we always recommend to put wood chips on the soil as a mulch, and don’t dig them into the soil.

  14. Will says:

    I haven’t invested in Bokashi and don’t at this point intend doing so. My problem with your article is you didn’t provide any real evidence for your opinions either. In an urban setting I’d consider Bokashi if it really is faster.
    Is it really faster once the fermented food waste is dumped outside?
    For how long is the food waste recognisable as food once composting begins? Will fermented food waste attract vermin outside? Over the years I’ve seen rats eat peanuts from hanging bird feeders and had mice ruin potatoes that hadn’t, been harvested. I’m not convinced Bokashi waste is any less likely to attract vermin. I’d suggest that if the method speeds final composting and is unattractive to vermin it might offer more to the urban gardener than you suggest.

    • In this post i was commenting on the benefits others have claimed. I did not find any Bokashi proponents or companies selling the products that claimed the finished product would compost faster. If it did, you would expect them to promote this point. They don’t.

  15. I never use any product without research. I use several methods of composting, but abandoned traditional bin or pile composting years ago. I sheet compost garden waste and use bokashi for indoor waste. Bokashi is not a “fertilizer”. It is a fermentation process that fosters beneficial microbes. I think of it as a “pro- or pre-biotic” for the garden and for the worm bin. It is not true that the anaerobic microbes all die out when they are introduced to the garden. They are facultative anaerobes, not obligate anaerobes.

    I have fed “finished” bokashi to worm bins, which produces a very good quality vermicompost. I have also used the bin process to refine it – layering the 5-gallons of “finished” bokashi with 1 cubic foot of compost-based potting media (compost, aged pine bark, expanded shale, angular sand, dried molasses, and mycorrhizal fungi) and fallen tree leaves. It produces a wonderfully rich mix in a relatively short period of time.

    No method of composting should be considered “the” method. All methods of home waste management are on the table and contribute to the reduction of municipal waste excess.

    I do not use bokashi leachate in the garden – diluted or not. It goes into the blackwater system, where it does no harm, and may do some good.

    • There is no evidence that bokashi fosters beneficial microbes. If you have such evidence, please provide a link.

      It is possible that the microbes are facultative anaerobes, but I have not seen a report that analyzed the microbes formed in bokashi so I don’t know that for a fact. If you have a reference I would certainly like to look at it. Even if they do not die in soil, there is no scientific evidence that adding bacteria to soil add any value. This is also the big claim for compost tea, and yet research does not show a consistent value for adding the microbes.

  16. lucy says:

    I started a bokashi bucket purely because I had rats in my compost and I read that vermin dont like the smell of bokashi. Since I have been putting my scraps in the bokashi then the compost heep I can now put all my scraps in the compost. The result is no smelly bin and no rats in the compost. Ill wait and see if my garden improves but sweet smelling compost no rats and no smelly rubbish I’m already a winner.

  17. Lynn Peplinski says:

    I live in the arctic where there is very little soil to speak of. I have been composting using bokashi for almost two years. My experience with “regular” composting outside was unsuccessful – too dry, too cold, very short season, I don’t know. However, for the last (almost) two years, I have been filling 5 gallon buckets (layered with fermented bran or sawdust) allowing it to ferment, and then layering the fermented bucket contents in Rubbermaid bins, layered with earth. In my first year, I used purchased, bagged, garden soil brought up to Baffin by sealift. Since the actual composting cannot be done outside, all the composting is done inside our house. No odour. In early March, for example, I sifted my December compost to separate out the big chunks and used the remaining compost in my indoor plants. That is a quick turnaround. I have found that we can compost all of our family food waste (5 gallon bucket every two weeks that is then fermented two weeks and then mixed with soil and layered in a Rubbermaid bin in the house). So, the bokashi system is the bee’s knees, really, the only way that our household can compost our food waste and then USE that compost to grow food. So, in the past two summers, in a small greenhouse and a number of cold frames, with ALL the compost we produced the past winters, we grew all the greens we needed. Considering the high price of flown-in produce, our home grown food was a great cost savings – and surely fresher than the store bought stuff. We can only grow cold hardy greens outdoors in cold frames but the compost not only produces nutrients but also soil “bulk”. I rely on that”bulk” to be able to fill those cold frames and the beds in the greenhouse. A bag of soil cost me amost $40 in 2015. So, last fall, I excavated soil from the cold frames to store for bokashi-ing during the winter… And so goes this great circle of producing compost (from ALL of our food waste) through the year and producing food from it during out short summers. Bokashi is THE system for our situation here in the arctic.

    • Lovely story – thanks for posting. Bokashi certainly is useful in your situation.

      I have not been to Baffin, but have canoed in the arctic (Coppermine and Horton Rivers).

    • Gary Crowell says:

      I am so pleased to hear how Bokashi Composting has been such a benefit to your family. We have many clients up in Nunavut that echo your experiences. It really makes a case for people who want to compost during the winter months but can’t any other way. Thank you for sharing that

    • Alicia says:

      I live in a severe climate also – the high desert in New Mexico. 3 inches of rain per year. Traditional methods of composting take years in my experience. I also just tried food scraps in a plastic bin with soil over top and planted right into it. Worked okay but it attracted bugs, spiders, packrats as it decomposed under the vegetables the entire summer. Bokashi is a step forward.

  18. Gary Crowell says:

    I appreciate your view on the acidic anaerobic fermentation method of dealing with organic waste. I am curious as to whether you have tried Bokashi fermentation? I have been actively fermenting for a few years now and I can say with great certainty that it does what is claimed. An example is the fact that I have not used chemical fertilizers on my lawn for the past 2 years.I only use the bokashi tea and the finished soil thru the fermentation process and my lawn rivals any other in the neighbourhood. Stated just as an example. Btw.I had previously composted the traditional aerobic way and found it way too much work for the minimal results and issues, hence my switch to Bokashi and subsequent opening of my business, Good Green Earth Company. Best regards

    • I have not tried it – can’t see any real benefit.

      Your test does not show much. You do not indicate the controls you used, and given your business you might have some bias.

      I see you ship in Canada. Lets give it a try. You send me a system to try – it can be an old one or a damaged one. I’ll run two tests and report on their results. I notice you have no references on your web site – so some solid proof should help your sales.

      Test #1. I will set it up with kitchen scraps, and see how long it takes for everything to decompose to a point where it resembles regular compost. This will show that bokashi is either faster or slower than composting.

      Test #2. I’ll use the juice and spread it on my grass in alternating rows. We will use a row for bokashi, one for nothing and one for compost. We can see which produces the best results. The evaluation will be done by others in a blind test.

      • Gary Crowell says:

        I urge you to give it a try, then you will see the benefits for yourself. The information on my website is not a test but rather results that I have personally witnessed and/or been stated by my clients.
        Yes I have bias because of personal evidence and experience, That is why I started the business and dedicated the remainder of my life to promoting the Bokashi method.
        Thank you for your suggestion regarding posting statistical proof on my website to help my sales. Btw..my business is doing very well thanks.I’m exporting Bokashi products globally and sell my products in big name retail stores.
        I am involved in a multi phase applied research collaboration with the college in our city. When the results are summarized, They will be posted on our website.
        In fact the reason I was able to secure the collaboration is due to the information and analysis that I received regarding a similar pilot project that was done in British Columbia.
        Here is the link:
        http://www.bokashicycle.com/canada/Armstrong_Pilot_Sep012010_No_AS09012010_Summary%20Report_web.htm

        As far as giving you a bokashi system, I’m not in the business of giving my products away, but I would love to sell you a system. I do ship the systems free in Canada.
        I don’t need to prove anything to you. I feel a bias towards aerobic composting from you, therefore if you feel you want to try to disprove the bokashi method, go right ahead with my blessing.

        I would like to clarify the lawn fertilizing process . I use 100:1 water:bokashi tea, spraying 2-3 times a year and spread the Bokashi ‘compost’ in the spring.
        About the tea. whether it was a misunderstanding on your part or your source, do not use tea at full strength because of its acidic value. 2 tbsp per gallon of water will give a ph of around 7.
        You can use the tea at full strength for drains and septic systems to kill pathogens and unclog drains.Yes really!

        I could go on but I better wrap things up. Anyone that has any questions or concerns about acidic anaerobic fermentation (aka Bokashi Composting) check out my website goodgreenearthco.com and contact me, Gary Crowell

        • Compost tea kills pathogens? One of the arguments against compost tea is that it can be a good growth medium for them. In fact most proponents argue that the real value in compost tea are the microbes – not the nutrients.

          The study is interesting but of limited value to show that bokashi makes sense for home owners.
          – home owners are not going to put their food waste through a food chipper as in the study.
          – the study does not seem to have been published in a scientific journal?
          – the study shows that adding food waste to soil increases nutrients and may help soil structure. That is nothing new. We all know that if you add nutrients to soil, it will have more nutrients.
          – the study claims that the bokashi material decomposes very fast. 20 days for bokashi vs 6 months for compost. The team clearly does not understand the decomposition process. Compost takes 5 years to decompose. I suspect the same for bokashi. This study did not even look at decomposition. Their only observation was “Observers at the end of the fermentation soil integration cycle reported that ….no foul odor or evidence of decaying food waste in the field where product had been integrated.” That tells you nothing about decomposition.
          – I quote, “The total end product at the end of the fermenting process (approximately 2 tons) will then be spread evenly over the 20 x 20 foot plot”. Two tons of fermented organic matter was spread over 400 sq ft of soil – and nutrient levels went up! That is a ridiculous amount of material for a small plot of soil. In your post you claim to use a 100:1 dilution of just the tea and spread in on the grass. That is virtually nothing compared to 2 tons of actual organic matter.
          – the study has no controls!
          – the study did not even try to grow anything in the resulting soil!

          This study has the same problem as most bokashi and compost tea studies. They show that if you take organic matter and spread it on the soil – you add nutrients and organic matter to the soil. We know that. It does not prove bokashi is any better than other methods. It does not prove that it is any better than just shredding the food material and digging it in the soil – much less work.

          • Commercial Ag Producer says:

            In your article you say, “Both bokashi composting and traditional composting provide your garden and plants with the same benefits.”

            Yet in the PDF that you cited, titled,
            “Treating Food by Bokasi Composting: http://www.envirolink.govt.nz/PageFiles/749/1014-GSDC94_Bokashi%20composting%20for%20food%20preparation%20waste.pdf“, the source states,
            “Conclusions:
            Fermenting food preparation ‘wastes’, such as domestic kitchen scraps, as an alternative to
            composting has a considerable number of benefits.”

            Also you state here repetitively that there is no evidence that bokashi composts any faster, yet in your same source of information it says,
            “The key benefits are:
            • A simpler, potentially cheaper, and shorter processing cycle post-collection”.

            And further, you make dubious regard at best, for the cycling of nutrients with bokashi, while the same source says,
            (among the Key Benefits)”The return of greater amounts of carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen and energy to land compared
            with compost, with potentially useful improvements in soil quality and/or crop growth.”

            Can you please break down what seems like contradictions?

            And I do recommend that the readers follow up with the citations above, and to also do your own home-based research, see if bokashi benefits you.

          • The reference was provided to give readers a better understanding of Bokashi, which it does.

            Re: “A simpler, potentially cheaper, and shorter processing cycle post-collection”. What does this mean? The Bokashi system is a faster process – I never claimed it was not faster. But it is not a composting process which the reference agrees with. How long does it take for the fermented material to decompose? I have not seen any data on this.

            Re: “The return of greater amounts of carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen and energy to land compared with compost, with potentially useful improvements in soil quality and/or crop growth.” My plants have lots of carbon, oxygen and hydrogen so that is not a real benefit. More nitrogen would be a benefit – but where is the data to support this position? Where is the study that shows fermentation products improve soil more than compost? This might be true but without some data it is just a guess.

  19. Jerry Bardelli says:

    Thank you for a very informative break down of the Bokashi system. I’m big on compost, but interested in whats new in gardening.

  20. One other thing I noticed while reading about Bokashi is the use of the juice for the garden. Now we know that the Bokashi is an anaerobic process and one of the reasons why the leachate from a worm farm is not recommended for the garden (for edible veggies) is that the the worm leachate is the moisture from unprocessed, decomposing food given to the worms and it might contain pathogens and bad bacterias not annihilated by the worm’s guts unless you are having a very well ventilated worm farm and are mixing moisture absorbing material to the food. If worm leachate should not be used for veggie gardens, then shouldn’t bokashi juice be potentially harmful too? Not sure…

    But I saw some people combining bokashi with worm farm. They use the bokashi to pre-process the food that you cannot give to the worms, then they would mix the complete fermented bokashi with some lime and other carbon rich material to neutralize the pH and give them in controlled amount to the worms.

    What you do you think of those points?

    • Worm leachate could certainly contain pathogens. Compost and teas could also contain pathogens. I am not sure about bokashi – since it is a pickling process, the acidify may prevent pathogens from growing. So what?

      How are you going to use any or all of these products? It is not smart putting them onto vegetables where you will eat the leaves in a few days – you can end up eating pathogens that way. The smart thing to do is to put them on soil. The pathogen is already in your soil, and it will not enter the plants from the soil, so your crop is safe to eat.

      Putting things through bokashi first and then to the worm farm may make some sense – but why do it?? Just throw it onto the compost pile or right into the garden. why go through all this trouble, when nature does it all for you? Just use cut and drop composting as I recommend

      • Thanks for the response.

        To my understanding compost teas are made from compost dumped into a bucket of water and aerated for 24-48 hrs. Composts have been thru worms gut and should have their pathogens destroyed.

        I was interested because one use of the compost tea is to spray onto leaves to nourish and protect them. So I was trying to assess the risk to spray that on edible plants’ leaves.

        I do agree burying bokashi into the garden is the way to go. But my garden is not big and I was thinking completing the bokashi with a worm bin and then share/sell/swap the final compost with the local gardeners community.

        • Compost tea is made in many different ways. Lets assume that organic material has been fed to worms and that through their digestion process they remove all pathogens. I doubt that is true – but lets assume it is. You now take the worm castings and make tea from it. I assume this is not done in a sterile condition – gardening generally is not sterile. That means that new pathogens can enter the tea from the air while it is being brewed.

          I know proponents of compost tea use it as a foliar feed, but most experts agree that this has the potential of spreading pathogens to the leaf surface of the plants. I would not spray my editable plants with a bucket of brewed microbes of unknown origin, ie compost tea.

        • I just found this report showing that earthworm castings can spread pathogens to plants. http://www.plantmanagementnetwork.org/pub/php/research/2012/earthworm/

          • Thanks!
            A lot of bad info have been spread all over the internet with those compost tea thing. Even worse is that lots of people still confuse compost leachate with composte tea.

  21. halhakasah says:

    My friends have said so much of goodneeds that would be derived from the Bokashi EM (in composting kitchen scubs) & Bokashi tea (as nutrient for plants & odor remover) BUT verily with Pavlis comments….I have doubts whether to continue my Bookashi programs…..shed some light…ooo knoelegable participants..

  22. Martin says:

    Interesting post!
    I found a swedish study on using Bokashi tea (leachate) as fertilizer. They find that it is very low in nitrogen, but high in potassium and phosphorous. It was also high in sodium and chloride, and low in some trace metals.
    In summary you cannot rely on Bokashi tea alone as a plant fertilizer.
    http://stud.epsilon.slu.se/7353/11/lind_o_140929.pdf

    • Martin says:

      Also, they referenced a study that had found no benefit of the bokashi microorganisms. There was no difference in plant growth between “live” bokashi, and sterilized bokashi.
      Their conclusion was that you should be able to use any lactic acid bacteria, such as those found in saurkraut or other pickled vegetables.

    • Interesting reference. When looking for references it is important that they are for published material in peer reviewed journals. That helps provide some level of assurance that the data is validly reviewed. This one is not even published in a journal. It seems to be a class project. But it is still interesting.

      No doubt the analytical nutrient results are valid. The nutrient level does depend on input ingredients – no surprise there, except to Bokashi fans.

      If you average the nutrient NPK value is 0.07-0.2-0.8. Completely out of whack with the ratios plants use.

      The study does not tell us very much else. It was done in the lab using potted plants – so the results can’t be translated to the field. It is not clear how they arrived at the dilutions for the Bokashi leachate. They seemed to have used very small amounts compared to the commercial fertilizers.

      But their conclusion is that Bokashi leachate does not work as well as commercial fertilizer. That is what most of the research on this topic shows.

      One thing that is very interesting is one of the references the author quotes, which compared the effect of unsterilized Bokashi leachate to sterilized leachate. If the microorganisms in the leachate were a benefit to plants there should be a difference between these two treatments. There was none. That agrees with most studies. The microbes don’t help plants grow better.

      • Sun says:

        For peer reviewed research on the benefits of Bokashi EM treated manure on field crop production please visit
        http://www.isca.in/AGRI_FORESTRY/Archive/v1i1/1.ISCA-RJAFS-2013-001.pdf

        You can Google “EM fujita et al 1997, Xu et al 1997” and a wealth of scientific research citing the benefits of EM and farm scale bokashi treated manures and agricultural waste used by rice farmers throughout Asia will be revealed.

        Before you throw out your Bokashi Bucket, do a little research and – put not thy faith in blahggers.

        • Thank you very much for the reference. Unfortunately it does NOT show that Bokashi adds value to the composting process. All you need to do is look at the researchers own conclusion which says “Based on the yield performance of succeeding crop, it was cleared that the application of these two manures in EM bokashi form could be improved soil fertility on sandy regosol”.

          The study shows, and the authors confirm this in the conclusion, that adding their manure EM Bokashi improves soil fertility. I agree with them – the study does show this, but only in pots, not in real life field situations.

          They also say “yield performance of succeeding crop and extend of effects depend on the nutrients content of manure. Radish tuber yield was high (76.98 g) in poultry manure and followed by 57.48 g in goat manure (T4) on fresh basis.” So the difference in growth in various tests was due to the type of manure used. Not the EM organisms, nor the bokashi method!

          Here is the major problem with the study. They did not compare the growth between regular manure and Bokashi manure. Without this comparison, you can’t reach any conclusions about the benefits of EM or the bokashi method. Everyone knows that just adding manure, or composted manure will improve soil fertility.

          A second big problem, and one with many scientific studies, is that it was done in pots. This is valid research, but until the work is repeated in field conditions, the results don’t tell us very much about real life conditions. Agricultural studies are notorious for showing things in the lab, that can’t be demonstrated in the field.

          It is an interesting study – but it does not contradict the conclusions I made in this post.

  23. Mike says:

    After the two weeks of fermenting, the stuff breaks down much faster in the compost or soil than if you had not fermented it. Over all it reduces the amount of time it takes to make compost. Keeping animals out of your compost is also more important when you have raccoons rather than mice… Raccoons can make a big mess. If you don’t create a lot of compost then fermenting the dairy and meats is very nice, because you can’t really get a hot compost without one that is at least 3×3.

    bokashi is also good for storing compost materials until you have enough to create a sizable pile (able to reach high temps to kill off seeds and such) of good ratios.

    I used this process at a summer camp using 50 gallon drums. We filled a drum up after a week of having lots of kids putting food scraps in the bokashi, then we would let sit for two weeks give or take, and then we could add it all to the traditional compost in layers with higher carbon stuff, and then toss it all together. It finished very quickly from that point, with minimal turning.

    • None of the references I looked at said anything about speeding up composting. The composting process takes about 5 years – compost continues to decompose long after it is added to the garden. How much faster is it if some Bokashi material is added?

      I find it hard to believe that adding some Bokashi compost to a regular bin of higher carbon stuff would speed up the decomposition of the carbon stuff. but I am interested in seeing some references on the subject.

  24. DubLion says:

    I think you are missing the point completely that bokashi is not fertilizer but biologically active life forms that feed the soil. Bokashi cultivates a herd of microbes creating an ecosystem in the soil.

    • Your right, I did not include that as a benefit of Bokashi, since it was not a benefit claimed by most web sites.

      Since Bokashi is a fermentation process, the microbes in the brew would be microbes that live in acidic conditions. That is not the condition found in soil. so when these microbes are later placed on the soil, they will die because the environment in the soil is so different from the Bokashi pail.

      Besides that, soil has all the microbes it needs–you don’t have to add more.

      • Noel Calvert says:

        Not always true, and in some cases such as mine this is the exact idea. The pickling process kills most of the air breathing microbes, nematodes, etc which are pathogenic on my land. The faster composting of material after Bokashi is a huge improvement that should be noted, and does work. Instead of years, natural composting with the pickled material mixed with soil and carbon rich items can be managed in a couple of months. Obviously organic matter continues to decay, but this makes it usable much faster.

        • Can you provide some references supporting your position that Bokashi output composts faster? I have not seen people promoting this practice make this claim.

          Regular compost takes about 5 years to decompose – you can’t just look at it to determine when the process is complete. Since the pickled material has not been significantly broken down any more than material going into compost, I would suspect Bokashi material also takes 5 years to decompose.

          As far as being “usable much faster”, I just drop my yard and kitchen waste on the ground and it starts to degrade. Nothing is faster than that.

          • Lynn Peplinski says:

            I compost using bokashi. The fermented waste that I mixed with soil and let sit undisturbed in a bin in my furnace room In December was sufficiently broken down for me to add to my indoor plants in early March.

  25. Ginger says:

    I’m really curious–what’s your beef with people who use bokashi? Even if you choose to do traditional composting instead, why be so snarky to those who opt for a different method? I have a bokashi bin, and it has absolutely nothing to do with looking “cool” to my friends. It was a thoughtful decision that weighed the many benefits over traditional composting for my lifestyle, and I’ve been very pleased with my decision. And by the way, there are many ways that apartment dwellers can still benefit from composting (and bokashi-composting): I live in an apartment, and I have a deal with a local community garden: whenever I bring them a load of bokashi material that they can dig into their garden, they reward me within the next month with a gift of whatever veggies they happen to have an excess of. And my town has a community compost pile near the dump, and they have a deal where you can drop off a load of kitchen scraps or bokashi material, and in exchange you get your choice of: a bag of “finished” compost, or a credit for one free dump run, which we ordinarily have to pay for. So even though I don’t have a garden, I still compost. Mostly because it’s the right thing to do for the planet.

    • I don’t have a beef with people who use bokashi. I have a beef with people that make false claims about bokashi, and companies that sell products for bokashi who are dishonest in their marketing message. The false promotion of Effective Microbes and the exaggerated claims about them produces much confusion among gardeners.

      If the system works for you and you have a good place to take your fermented food scrapes then it is a good system for you. I doubt that many apartment dwellers will drive somewhere to dump their bokashi end product. But provided that the material ends up in the soil somewhere, and you do not have to drive out of your way to dump it – this is a good solution for the environment.

  26. Iain Dewar says:

    Thanks for the article and yes you are right, bokashi is a picking process. I’ve recently started to Bokashi and I can vouch for the claim that using the juice can remove the smells from sinks and drains, so it gets a thumbs up on that score. On the effect on plants, well something beneficial is going on though the mechanism may not be unclear. Why do I say this? I’m an appartment dweller with no garden. I’ve got many house plants that I tend and care for well, watering and feeding to thier respective needs and ensuring thier other needs are met – placement, light, humidity etc. Since I’ve started watering with bokashi juice they have all responded well. In face the peace lillies so well that their growth is lush, even in this winter period and those leaves have got bigger. Coincidence? Nothing has changed apart from adding the juice. I speculate that perhaps the juice has tipped the balance in the soil towards enabling the plants to utilise more nutrients from what’s already there. They certainly seem to like it! Also, not all the microbes die in the presence of oxygen, done fermentation microbes tolerate oxygen, though the process may not work as well with lots of air. I think there are other dimensions to this and it would be great for you to explore it more? On the breakdown thing, clearly the contents of the bucket is undergoing.Change and that may be a precursor to facilitating more change when bokashi is added to traditional compost our dug in. I’m going to try the next bit of the process using a friend’s garden to make a ‘soil factory’. I’ll let you no how that goes if you’re interested? But thanks for the blog. I Iain

    • I don’t think there is any magic to understand. Adding the juice to plants will have some benefit, especially if it is not drastically diluted. But commercial fertilizer will have the same effect.

      The problem with most recommendations for the garden is that they dilute the juice to such an extent that there is nothing left in the juice.

      For the garden it is much easier to just compost.

      • Aurelien B says:

        The dilution of the juice is needed in order to control the acidity of the solution. So depending on the Bokashi juice, and also the plants one wishes to feed, much or less dilution may be needed in order to obtain something acceptable for the plants (without any negative side-effect).

        Otherwise, considering that the composting process of the Bokashi material starts the moment one buries it into the soil, and that many reports show that, depending on weather and on the material, just two weeks are necessary for the wastes to be undistinguishable from the soil, this indicates that the bokashi fermented materials are generally most efficient to compost, if one considers the invisibility of the material as an indicator of a sucessful compost.

        Two weeks for the bokashi material is way much faster than the several months needed in traditional composting which requires a certain volume in order to be efficient contrary to the bokashi method.

        • The problem with your argument is that “the invisibility of the material as an indicator of a successful compost” is not a valid way to measure the end of the composting process.

          When normal compost is ‘finished’, and nice and black without any plant material showing, it is still years away from being completely composted.

          same problem with egg shells. People think they have decomposed because they can’t see them, when in fact they have not decomposed at all. They have just been broken into small pieces.

          Is there a reference that looks at the degree of decomposition?

          • Aurelien B says:

            The invisibility of the material (its transformation into soil) is the only way any gardener or agricultor can judge the success of the composting process whatever method is chosen. The result is a dark black material with a characteristic odor.

            So, unless scientific studies show that traditional composting methods offer a richer dark black material or a more decomposed material than the bokashi method, then it is safe to say that bokashi is more efficient, as it is faster to achieve the compost, and the fermentation process gives to it more advantages on a nutritional point of view (more nutrients are preserved in the process for the same quantity of organic matter, without gas generation nor pathogens creation).

            The acidity of the fermented material that is added to the soil has effects on the nitrification, it eliminates pH-sensitive bacterias like pathogens, and all indicates that the composting process takes care by itself of restablishing a correct pH for the plants after two weeks of composting. So the organic acids are transformed, and the acidity equally favorises the development of fungis. Worms are attracted to the compost as the process is maturing. All the first-hand and practical observations of gardeners indicates that the “finished” compost is of quality and encourages plant growth and health.

            Nevertheless, you’re right that comparative studies between different compost methods would be appreciated, like the number of pathogens in a traditional compost compared to a compost made of fermented materials, comparatives of potential phytotoxic effects produced by different types of composts, and also comparing traditional korean methods involving indigeneous micro-organisms for the fermentation to the more refined and selected “effective micro-organisms” mixes.

            All those research fields would be very interesting and useful to develop for human plants cultivation.

  27. Roger Brook says:

    I thought you were very kind in your comments! Rather more fun for gardeners who want some messy play is to have a worm bin. I describe my friend Harry Kennedy’s worm bin in a blog I wrote last year.
    Many gardeners get more pleasure from their compost heaps than actually growing anything.

    ps I had some difficulty figuring out how to make a first comment and in desperation pressed the comments in the previous post and bingo! there must be an easier way I have not spotted.

    • Robert Pavlis says:

      If you click on the bog posting it should take you to a full page for just the one blog post and a comments section is at the bottom. I’ll have to see how to add it to a list of blogs.

Please let me know what you think - Leave a Reply