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Practical Lessons on Inoculation

Growers are well into the planning process for the 2022 crop and with harvest complete it’s time to evaluate last year’s input purchases to ensure you made the most out of your budget. 

Inoculants are often not top of mind during this process, but they are a critical component in pulse and soybean production as a poor nodulation can’t be corrected in-season and can devastate a crop’s yield potential.

A Numbers Game #

When it comes to ensuring good nodulation, numbers matter; more specifically viable rhizobia available at the time of planting and first possibility of nodulation matters a lot.  Rhizobia come in many types of inoculants and are even leftover in the soil after a previous crop. Lower quality inoculants and background populations in the soil are more susceptible to losses from everyday stresses, meaning you may not have the numbers you need when it matters most. 

This risk is increased on fields that experience flooding or drought.  Rhizobia are a living organism that need oxygen and water to survive and successfully nodulate the crop. Flooding and saturated soils cause bacteria to drown from lack of oxygen and during drought like we experienced this past season bacteria dry out and die.

Don’t Hesitate – Inoculate #

Nitrogen fixation from pulse and soybean crops is an increasingly valuable resource with fertilizer costs on the rise.  A 50 bushel pea crop requires 130 lbs/ac of nitrogen and a 50 lb soybean crop requires 200 lbs/ac but because these crops are effective nitrogen fixers in combination with rhizobia, they do not require nitrogen fertilizer application.  A nodulation failure risks potentially losing hundreds of dollars per acre in nitrogen value and potential yield, which makes inoculants a sound investment that reduces production risk. 

It’s always best to inoculate seed as close to planting as possible to maintain rhizobia viability and using a good quality product ensures it will remain viable under tough conditions or if seeding is delayed for any reason. 

Consider double inoculating fields that have experienced flooding or drought and in fields with little recent cropping history of the same pulse or soybean crop type.  This is best done by applying two different inoculant formulations like a liquid on-seed plus a granular in-furrow to provide a higher number of rhizobia in two different placements to ensure robust nodulation even under tough conditions.   

For more inoculant insights and advice, contact your BrettYoung Regional Account Manager.

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