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Schwarzer, Tania, 2022. Assessment of the Agroecological Potential of Biostimulatory Effects : originating from Effective Microorganisms (EM) in terms of Environmental and Socioeconomic Aspects. Second cycle, A2E. Alnarp: SLU, Dept. of Biosystems and Technology (from 130101)



Environmental pollution, resource depletion and climate change are related to imbalances in the
farming system. Effective microorganisms are seen as a possible solution to these problems. They
are a consortium of microorganisms, which positively influence the decomposition of organic
matter and create a favorable environment for plants, promoting their health and growth by
stimulating physiological processes, including the efficiency of photosynthetic and stress
resistance pathways. The study aims to accomplish an understanding of whether, which and how
effects of EM observed in scientific research can be achieved in practice, while collecting new
information on social and economic effects. Furthermore, answering the research question of
how the application of effective microorganisms (EM) complies with the agroecological
principles. Therefore, eight semi-structured interviews with German and Austrian farmers were
conducted and subsequently analyzed using an interpretative phenomenological approach.
Furthermore, the author assesses the sustainability of the EM practice by applying the
disciplinary approach of agroecology by relating the finding to the 13 principles established by
the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO).
The practitioners reported that as an experienced-based and knowledge-intensive practice, the
application of EM requires farmer-to-farmer contact. Farmers are included in the product
development of the preferably used ready-made EM solutions. Meanwhile, there is a lack of
support from academia and official associations. The application of EM is limited by their input
costs, increased labor, climatic conditions, and integration with other work processes and
farming inputs, which is facilitated by their non-toxicity. The purpose, state and growth stage of
the crop also needs to be considered. Proactively applied EM can successfully preoccupy,
compete and positively interact with other microorganisms. Susceptible, special, high-risk and
niche crops benefit most from the improved resistance to extreme weather conditions, pests and
diseases induced by EM. Additionally, EM make organic fertilizer more competitive by improving
the timing due to accelerated decomposition. Through the application of EM, pesticides and
synthetic fertilizers can be reduced and sometimes replaced. Therefore, increased economic
returns are possible due to reduced losses and improved input efficiency as well as increased
yield, crop quality, earlier bloom, and non-toxicity, which additionally draws the consumer’s
attention. The application of EM often comes with an understanding of responsibility by the
With the support of EM, natural cycles can be restored, and degraded soils can be ameliorated.
By reducing losses and improving their use efficiency, farming inputs can be reduced and, in
some cases, even replaced. However, a nutrient source for the EM needs to be added, which
however can be local resources applied using existing machinery and labor. Meanwhile, the
additional management is compensated by the easy handling due to the non-toxicity of EM. This
safety for non-target species besides the aforementioned effects supports soil and animal health
as well as biodiversity and the related synergies. In addition, biodiversity in particular benefits
from the environmental benefits originating from the input saving. Endorsing farmers for the
ecosystem services related to the application of EM would create an additional source of income.
Besides, the increased abiotic and biotic stress resistance supports the diversification of
cultivation and leads to season extension due to earlier bloom and later infestation, which not
just economically diversifies the farm, but also local diets, supporting cultural identity. Further
marketing benefits arise, while the increased marketability and shelf-life additionally contribute to the reduction of food waste. These are just some of the effects of EM application benefitting
food security, safety and sovereignty. Besides, yield stability and the resulting income security
create an incentive for high-risk, high-return investments in innovation. The novelty of EM
application itself encourages exchange between practitioners and producers of EM solutions, but
also farmer-to -farmer contact. However, although EM application is a knowledge-intensive and
experience-based practice, the necessary involvement from academia is lacking. On the other
hand, customer interest is induced, while neighborhood relationships are improved due to the
reduction of negative externalities. By mitigating abiotic and biotic stress as well as negative
environmental externalities, EM contribute to the protection of the groups most vulnerable to
these effects, fostering gender and social equity. Further, the access to nutrient sources
facilitated through EM application is especially important for remote small-scale farmers.
Additionally, work safety associated with EM is crucial for fair working conditions. Meanwhile,
the use of local, renewable resources is promoted, protecting other resources in addition to the
increased efficiency of the resources already in use. The reduced outflow of money and
employment opportunities due to increased self-sufficiency can empower the local community.
In conclusion, due to the variety of benefits arising from the EM’s biostimulatory effects, e.g. the
plant’s increased resistance to abiotic stress, the application of EM functions as a climate change
adaptation strategy. Additionally, the invasion by alien species driven by climate change can be
better managed due to the increased biotic resistance of the crops after EM application.
Furthermore, the EM application contributes to climate change mitigation by reducing emissions
by increasing input efficiency. Simultaneously, the economic risk-resilience of farming businesses
is increased since self-sufficiency is strengthened, mainly through the promoted use of local
resources, making the farming community less vulnerable to external market disruptions.
However, many uncertainties exist around the practical implementation of EM treatments in
terms of their effectiveness and effects due to the complexity of natural processes as well as the
socioeconomic impacts due to a lack of studies.

Main title:Assessment of the Agroecological Potential of Biostimulatory Effects
Subtitle:originating from Effective Microorganisms (EM) in terms of Environmental and Socioeconomic Aspects
Authors:Schwarzer, Tania
Supervisor:Yong, Jean W.H and Palsdottir, Anna Maria
Examiner:Chongtham Iman, Raj
Volume/Sequential designation:UNSPECIFIED
Year of Publication:2022
Level and depth descriptor:Second cycle, A2E
Student's programme affiliation:LM005 Agroecology - Master's programme 120 HEC
Supervising department:(LTJ, LTV) > Dept. of Biosystems and Technology (from 130101)
Keywords:effective microorganisms, agroecology, biostimulants, beneficial microorganisms, lactic acid bacteria, bokashi, semi-structured interviews, interpretative phenomenological approach
Permanent URL:
Subject. Use of subject categories until 2023-04-30.:Fertilizing
Soil biology
Deposited On:10 Feb 2023 11:53
Metadata Last Modified:11 Feb 2023 02:00

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