Indigenous Micro Organism Culture and Use
IMO: Indigenous Micro Organisms are collections of intact soil biology, each collection is a complete soil ecosystem.
IMO soil cultures are collected from specific locations near the farm or garden, then stabilized. The culture is then amplified significantly, then acclimated to the soil in which it will be installed. The end product is crumbly and smells like soil and bread dough. This crumble is broadcast onto the area to be planted, watered in with a few homemade ingredients diluted significantly with water (inputs are used sparingly), then covered with mulch or other organic matter.
You really only need one good collection. Master Cho teaches once and done. I have successfully practiced once and done on my commercial farm.
Online I see people getting dozens of collections, traveling hours to remote locations, looking for the “perfect collection” from remote, untouched areas, all seemingly in order to increase diversity.
Diversity for diversity's sake is chaos. The ecosystem loses its ecological stability, its strength.
Furthermore, to me, as a field microbiologist and a commercial farmer, this is ineffective and too much work. The main beauty of Cho's entire system is the collection, amplification, then installation of a fully functioning, perfectly balanced, complete Soil Ecosystem, preserved as a stable, intact, microbial culture.
The entire ecosystem is in there! Intact. In balance. Complete. Easy to make, low in cost and labor. It is locally sourced and already in harmony with planting areas. The collections come from locations that are similar to where the crops would be found should they be growing in the wild.
I advise starting with a stable foundation. Focus on stability first. Diversity will come. The best way to put diversity into the system is through the use of animals, large (chickens, pigs, livestock) and small (black soldier flies, worms), not by collecting and making countless batches of IMO. Using animals creates a more natural, better evolved ecosystem than adding countless random collections of IMO.
The location of the collection should be determined by the end use, matching patterns.
You only need one good one. If you are growing most vegetable crops or a pasture, your collection should come from grassland, or the edge of a field.
Follow the pattern of growth in Nature. Very few vegetables grow in the shade of trees in a forest. And in a deep, old growth forest, about the only things that grow are ferns, mosses, lichen, and fungi.
If you are growing shrub-like crops and understory plants (chili peppers, berries), collect from scrubland, on the edge of a forest, stand of bamboo, or similar areas.
You only want to collect IMO from the forest for use on plants that grow in a forest setting, like food forests or orchards (which are sparely populated forests).
The point is to collect from an area that matches what you are growing. You do not need to know specifics. Nature is a big picture target. Again, in most cases, collecting IMO only needs to be done once for each planting area ecosystem.
You probably want a different collection for your orchard or food forest than you do your veggie beds, but a collection from a biological edge, middle ground as it were, may be perfect for everything you grow, with bacteria and fungi in roughly equal measures.
Using bacterial/fungal dominance may be helpful to think about, but there are many more categories of life forms involved in soil biology, and bacteria/fungal dominance theory does not offer full insight. Easier and more direct is to consider using the patterns of 'where the crops would grow if they were wild' and collect IMO from there.
Each planting area still only needs an IMO application once. However, it’s not a bad idea to add a few collections from different specific areas over the first three years, after the initial, stable installation.
Collecting from a few different local areas that are rich, despite an environmental stress, can add resiliency. For example, gather a collection in the summer in a sunny area with lots of heat stress, or in a cold area in the winter, or an area that lacks enough water, or, as is commonly taught, from a higher elevation.
These stressed areas indicate that the microbes from these areas have to be more resilient to survive. A rich collection spot in a stressed area indicates good, strong biology in a stressed environment. This is the ultimate collection. This is the place to collect IMO to add specific resiliency—rich growth despite environmental stress.
To use these specific collections, if for example you collect a summer collection (store as IMO2), then add that IMO to growing areas just before the next summer. Now the already established soil biology will have new recruits that are especially good in the heat of summer, and just in time for hot sunny days. Follow this same pattern of use for other collections from other specific areas.
This process does not need to continue for more than the first three years. At this stage all your growing areas should be highly robust and full of life. At this point the system will continue to improve without intervention. This is how Nature operates. Microbial diversity will naturally evolve, especially when animals are included in the system.
Don’t get caught up in IMO mania. Stop working so hard. IMO technology was developed to be easy to install and to require very little maintenance after installation.
The soil should be receiving organic matter on a regular basis, as mulch, ground covers, chop and drop weeding, and natural leaf and twig fall, which is what happens in the wild. Continual organic matter is the only maintenance the Soil Foundation really requires to maintain itself.
Soil Foundation and IMO technology is not complicated, not hard to install, and not much work to maintain. Once and done is enough. Keep the soil fed with organic matter, typically by adding mulches and ground covers. In some cases, with enough leaf, stem, and twig fall, the system can maintain itself, as happens in Nature. This is likely to happen in a food forest, but probably not in a veggie bed.
Let Nature be your teacher and follow the patterns you see.