Exploring the use of bokashi as a soil fertility amendment in Northeast vegetable production systems

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2015: $13,062.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2016
Grant Recipient: University of Vermont
Region: Northeast
State: Vermont
Graduate Student:
Faculty Advisor:
Dr. Josef Görres
University Of Vermont

Annual Reports


  • Vegetables: greens (leafy), tomatoes


  • Crop Production: biological inoculants, nutrient cycling, nutrient management, organic fertilizers
  • Education and Training: demonstration, workshop
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture
  • Soil Management: composting
  • Sustainable Communities: urban agriculture

    Proposal abstract:

    Bokashi may be a viable alternative or supplement to conventional composts to manage soil quality in organic vegetable systems in the Northeast. Bokashi is an effective soil fertility amendment used in traditional farming systems in Japan, and its use has spread to other regions throughout the world, though little research has been performed on it in the U.S. It is produced by fermenting organic waste materials with what are known as “effective microorganisms”. Unlike aerobic composting piles that require several months of attention, care, and turning, bokashi systems can degrade wastes into plant available nutrients in less than four weeks with decreased need for turning piles manually or with a compost turner. The anaerobic preparation process likely fosters a different microbial community and provides fermentation acids that may aid in plant protection against disease. Through this project I hope to evaluate the effects of bokashi on biological and chemical soil qualityindicators and plant growth factors and compare its performance against commonly used amendments, compost and vermicompost, in a greenhouse study growing tomatoes and spinach. The results of this project could lay a foundation of research on a topic that has been sparsely studied in the United States, opening up avenues for both extension workers and farmers to further explore in hopes of providing the organic growing community with a soil fertility tool that competes with, surpasses, or supplements currently used fertility regimes.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The goal of this project will be met through the following objectives:
    Objective 1: Compare the nutrient profiles, functional characteristics of the microbial community and the enzyme activity of bokashi with those of high quality, commercially produced thermophilic and vermicompost. 

    Bokashi is not well characterized. It is likely to be very different to commercially available organic fertility products. It is essential that microbial properties of the material are quantified.

    Objective 2: Evaluate the effect of bokashi on soil quality factors, soil enzymatic activity and nutrient composition post application.

    Soil health encompasses the state of the physical, chemical, and biological realms of the soil as a plant growth medium. Nutrient composition is a highly acknowledged facet of chemical soil quality, which is closely tied to the extracellular enzyme activity of soil microbes. Soil microorganisms produce enzymes that break down materials into plant available forms. A measurement of enzymatic activity is an important indicator of soil biological health,
    but would also serve as a “nutrient forecast” of sorts, allowing us to make predictions on what nutrient limitations may or may not exist in the soil food web.

    Objective 3: Determine the effect of bokashi amendments on the growth of tomatoes and spinach.

    A measurement of the plant variables is essential in our assessment of the effectiveness of bokashi as a soil amendment. Measuring plant growth via height measurements, harvestable yield , °Brix levels and plant tissue composition will be conducted to observe the effects that bokashi has on yield, plant growth and development factors.

    Objective 4: Supply extension agents and farmers with results from baseline bokashi study to catalyze further research and experimentation.

    This research is not relevant if it is not properly disseminated to both farmers and those who consistently work with farmers. If funded, the results of this study would be made available to extension agents and growers through a field day with the UVM Beginner Farmer Course at the Horticulture Farm and a published article in the NOFA newsletter. Additionally, I will maintain a public blog to track the progress of this project.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.