Mokichi Okada was among the first in Japan to encourage a return to Natural Agriculture. He saw the effects of chemical based farming, and sought to return to a more harmonious state of living with nature, instead of subduing it for short term profits. In 1936, Okada established an agricultural system originally called "no fertilizer farming" or "Nature Farming". Offshoots such as the Sekai Kyusei Kyo, promoting "Kyusei nature farming", and the Mokichi Okada Association formed after his death to continue promoting the work in Japan and South-East Asia. According to the International Nature Farming Research Center in Nagano, Japan, it is based on the theories that:
Fertilizers pollute the soil and weaken its power of production.
Pests would break out from the excessive use of fertilizers
The difference in disease incidence between resistant and susceptible plants is attributed to nutritional conditions inside the body.
Vegetables and fruits produced by nature farming taste better than those by chemical farming
Unfortunately, the yields of Okada's followers were never demonstrable enough to convince large swaths of the country to take up nature farming methods.
However, starting in the 1970's, Dr. Teruo Higa was working on various microbial consortiums to see what was more symbiotic in action, because previous microbiology studies were more focused on individual species and their exact effects. Higa wanted to show that there were relationships between the invisible world of microbes that could be used for dealing with pollution, and increasing agricultural yields. The story goes that one liquid culture batch he made in the 70's that was tossed out on the grass before he went on vacation, became the basis for what is now known as EM-1(effective micro-organisms). EM-1 at it's simplest is a mix of varied Lacto-bacillii, common brewer's/baker's yeast and photosynthesizing bacteria(PSB) such as Rhodopseudomonas Palustris, though it has included up to almost 200 species of microbes and as little as 13. The PSBs, which are considered to be most syntropic of the consortium of EM-1, are recognized as being amongst the oldest living organisms on earth, being found in ancient fossil records and around sulfur vents deep underwater. In the 1980's organizations like Kyusei Nature Farming helped establish EMRO, the Effective Micro-organism Research Organization, to help promote nature farming with the use of EM-1, and the Asia Pacific Natural Agriculture Network in 1991. Mokichi Okada's original vision in combination with microbial inoculants was finally able to demonstrate the ability of natural farming to produce yields equivalent and greater than conventional agriculture, while not causing damage to the soil and the waters downstream. One of the most incredible stories was the restoration of the Seto Inland Sea with EM. This massive cleanup project started with the formation of a taskforce to educate the public and to gain acceptance and usage of EM-based products for sewage disposal, dioxin pollution remediation, soil remediation, and direct infusions of EM into estuaries and the Seto Inland Sea which was extremely polluted. The fish, shellfish, and seaweed populations were minuscule due to residential, agricultural, and industrial pollution. EM was introduced into all of these sectors for the treatment of wastes. They also set up a massive fermentation system to produce EM1 Microbial Inoculant in quantities to support wide use and to dump directly into the polluted sea.
In just five years the nearly lifeless Seto Inland Sea was teaming with schools of fish. The shellfish populations were at pre-industrial pollution levels. Octopus returned, and the seaweed beds were producing clean, fresh, edible product once again
"The world is currently facing a time of great change and upheaval. I believe this condition has arisen mainly because of our present civilization becoming increasingly structured along the lines of competitive principles. An excessive reliance on competition certainly does not excite feelings of generosity and sharing."-Teruo Higa
Fukuoka-san started his life in Okinawa, the son of a rice and citrus farmer. He went to school and became a plant pathologist but had an existential crises whereupon he realized the myth of "progress" imported from Europe was destroying the culture and environment of Japan. He sought solitude in a Zen-like existence, living on a mountainside in a small cabin, testing out his theories on agriculture. Though he was drafted back into working for the government as an agriculture scientist during WW2, he went back to his simple living to develop his own strain of Natural Farming, which he also called do-nothing farming or no-till farming. His magnum opus, the One Straw Revolution, shares how he one day saw a single rice plant growing in an abandoned field, and it was the most healthy specimen he ever saw, though it was unassisted by the hands of man. Realizing that nature knows how to grow plants better than any human, he came up with his unique system of planting using seedballs of compost, clay and seeds, scattering them before harvesting his rotational crops, rye and barley for winter, and rice for summer. Then while harvesting, all the leftover straw and chaff would be distributed on top of the germinating seeds, acting as a both weed suppressant and returning nutrition to the soil with mulch, what was too often just being burned as "waste". He also never watered his rice using flooded paddies, yet within ten years of not disturbing the soil, his yields were equivalent to chemical farmers. By the end of his life he was getting double the production of industrial farmers, and thought that the potential of the land was possibly 30 bushels of rice an acre(10 per acre was standard). He also realized that by never pruning a tree it would grow itself fine, with no crossing branches and advocated not ever pruning once if the plant was grown from seed. It was a process of trial and error which did involve several acres of orchard dying off from disease as he learned once a tree had been modified by the hands of man, it was weaker and needed continuous care. He talked much about the "discriminating mind" and said that if the universities sent out specialists to study his work, that they wouldn't be able to see the whole picture because they were only looking through a narrow gaze of both time and training. He said one year, they would need the frog scientist, next the one who knows about spiders, because as he strived for natural balance, a whole system developed in which he claimed no credit, merely helping foster a relationship once again between man and nature.
"The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings."-Masanobu Fukuoka
Master Cho has been working tirelessly since 1965 to promote his own style of natural farming, which now has culminated in the Cho's Global Natural Farming organization. He credits three teachers in Japan: Yamagishi Miozo, who was a farmer; Shibada Genji, author of The True Aspect of Enzymes; and Oinoue Yasushi, author of The Theory of New Cultivation Technology which introduced Cho to the Nutritive Cycle Theory(see the files section for Cho's Global Natural Farming text). "When a woman is pregnant, she has morning sickness. Why is it so? It’s because the balance of nutrition is broken since another living organism is in her body. Different kinds of nutrition are needed for her baby, but she cannot provide enough of them at once. What pregnant women need and like to eat is something sour (acidic) and this belongs to phosphoric acid.
Then I realized that floral differentiation in plants is the same phenomenon as morning sickness of humans. I tried applying phosphoric acid (P) at that period; the result was astounding. 4-5 red peppers or eggplants fruited in a node that used to open only one. Applying the right input according to the nutritive cycle, I found that plants sustained high yield. The same was true for livestock." Janong Natural Farming Institute was created and trained over 18,000 farmers in the unique methodology combining knowledge of modern microbiology with ancient fermentation techniques to create inoculants and fertilizers solely with materials that are commonly found in a kitchen. In 1994 Korean Natural Farming Association, with approval by the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry published Natural Farming by Cho Han-kyu(in Korean) and published Utilization of Indigenous Micro-organism(in Japanese). It was in 2007 that a missionary from Hawaii, Dr. Hoon Park, noticed that in South Korea the pig farms had no foul smell. Curious about it, he learned about IMO's and was able to bring the knowledge back to Hawaii, in which there is a strong contingent of natural farmers now, ten years later. In 2012, the Chinese Army, which raises pigs next to whereever troops are stationed, sent scientists to study KNF's no smell piggeries due to fears of riots happening during the Beijing Olympics from th smell of pig farms. Now you can receive a PhD in natural farming from Chinese Universities. Korean Natural Farming has been spread to over 30 different countries and been embraced for it's mission of a healthier environment, and prosperous farmers. “A farmer should have parental love towards his crop and livestock. This is a heart of a true farmer…”-Cho Han-Kyu
In the 1991, JADAM(meaning "People that resemble nature") was founded by Cho Youngsang, to continue his father's work with mission of giving farming back to farmers. They have pioneered ultra-low cost agriculture, claiming costs of around $100US an acre, that meet the organic standards. Where the differences lie within KNF and JADAM or JADAM and Kyusei Natural Farming, is that Cho Youngsang teaches no sugars or molasses is needed to grow indigenous micro-organisms, but instead boiled potatoes can be a food source for culturing the wild microbes, and leaf litter from an undisturbed mountain forest can be the source of the culture. While the IMO technique of his father is similar to EM-1 bokashi making, all JADAM fertilizers and inoculants are produced anaerobically in water, and by not using sugar they are cultivating microbes that are in a more neutral ph range, versus EM-1 which is below 3.8ph usually. JADAM has over 65,000 member famers in South Korea according to their website and continues with it's open source DIY philosophy "Jadam has not patented any of its knowledge but shared it all through seminars, books, and website... Jadam will continue its work to further develop and refine its system."