Natural farming techniques have been heavily promoted in ECHO’s Asia network. The aim of these techniques is to reduce reliance on chemical inputs by enriching soils with beneficial microorganisms. Soil microbes break down organic matter, releasing nutrients for uptake by crop roots. They also enhance soil structure, helping soil particles stick together.

 Indigenous microorganisms (IMO) are cultured from naturally occurring soil life. Derived from native soil, IMOs can be made by farmers themselves. The mix of organism present, however, can vary depending on location and seasonal conditions. Effective microorganisms (EM) is a commercially available product with a mix of laboratory- cultured microorganisms. An advantage of EM, therefore, is a consistent mix of microbial life.

Microbial amendments are usually added along with compost or plant-based mulch. It is often unclear as to whether the benefit to crops is from the IMO or EM versus the added organic material. There is a need for long-term research on the effectiveness of IMO and EM, as well as information on affordable ways to quantify the effects of amendments on soil biology.