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The New Natural

By Office of Communication Services    Published on 07/08/2014 More stories >>

Even the pigs seem to enjoy the
odorless KNF Inoculated Deep Litter System.

Even the pigs seem to enjoy the odorless KNF Inoculated Deep Litter System.

Everyone’s heard of organic, but what about Natural? Natural Farming is a constellation of simple, sustainable techniques that’s sweeping the Islands, thanks in large part to Mike DuPonte, an Extension agent based at the Big Island’s Komohana Station. Using methods that are less chemically intensive and more biologically based than conventional agricultural production, it aims to build soil health and avoid many common negative environmental impacts.

Though the principles of Natural Farming are just taking off here, they’re based on practices going back centuries. Naturally occurring soil microorganisms were collected and cultured for agricultural purposes throughout Asia, but the system was first codified in the 1960s in Japan by Masanobu Fukuoka. His methods were further developed and popularized by Master Cho in South Korea, whose involvement led to the common name of Korean Natural Farming (KNF).

Plant shoots and brown sugar areall you need to create beneficial Fermented Plant Juice.

Plant shoots and brown sugar are all you need to create beneficial Fermented Plant Juice.

DuPonte, an enthusiastic supporter and practitioner, recently partnered with Cho Global Natural Farming-Hawai‘i to offer a series of workshops on the Big Island and O‘ahu. He’s also published Extension bulletins on KNF inputs such as Lactic Acid Bacteria and Fish Amino Acids. Used as soil drenches, foliar sprays, and soaks, these simple yet powerful concoctions, the cornerstone of KNF, boost plant growth and fruit quality, increase seed germination, and suppress plant disease as well as or better than imported and often non-sustainably produced fertilizers and pesticides.

They’re also readily available. Many of their ingredients, including plant shoots, seawater, and fish scraps, can be found in your backyard, or at least right down the road. That’s important in the system’s philosophy, which holds that Indigenous Microorganisms (IMOs), those living around one’s growing plants, help those plants the most.

A dramatic KNF showpiece is the odorless piggery. Pigpens may be a by-word for foul smells, but not the ingenious Inoculated Deep Litter System, which employs IMOs to “inoculate” the system, turning it into a micro-ecosystem of beneficial microorganisms that suppress odor, deter flies, and create a healthy and comfortable environment.

“KNF for livestock production pretty much eliminates waste management problems. And animals, including humans, also need plants to eat, so incorporating IMOs into plant production is part of the ‘big picture’ for a more sustainable Hawai‘i,” says Duponte.