With fertilizer prices reaching record levels, pulse and soybean crops have the tremendous advantage of supplying their own nitrogen, thanks to rhizobial inoculants. But how do you maximize your inoculant efficiency to make sure that you maximize yield at the end of the day?
Nitrogen Fixation 101
Nitrogen fixation is a biological process that supplements your crops and increases their nitrogen content, essentially acting as a biofertilizer that reduces the need for chemical fertilizers for crops like peas, lentils, chickpeas and soybeans.
Key to the process are nodules, small, tumour-like growths. When the right bacteria are present, nodules form on plant roots, which works synergistically for both the plant’s root material and the bacteria itself. The nitrogen-fixing rhizobia bacteria present within the nodules convert inert nitrogen gas (N2) found in the atmosphere into ammonium (NH3) which is essential to the growth of plants.
Ignacio Crippa, Technical Service Leader (International Sector) for Rizobacter, describes it as a symbiotic relationship between a plant and the bacteria, although it’s the plant that is ultimately in charge of that working relationship.
Nodules Are Not All The Same
Experienced growers understand the importance of nodules, but not all nodules are the same, Crippa says. The rhizobia in inoculant are far more effective at promoting nitrogen fixation than those leftover in the soil from previous crops. This is because bacteria are not genetically stable, and while they may have come from inoculant strains selected for their nitrogen-fixing efficiency, those characteristics begin to vary and over time their ability to fix nitrogen is often reduced.
He adds that the location of nodules also has a great impact on the amount of nitrogen they can deliver to the plant. Nodules on the primary root fix about 10 times more nitrogen than those located on secondary roots. You can increase nodulation on the primary root by applying an inoculant on or near the seed and utilizing new technologies like Rizobacter’s Osmo Protector Technology, to provide bacteria with enhanced on-seed life and performance under adverse conditions or Bio-Inducer Technology that accelerates earlier nodulation.
A Sensical Solution
Crippa says there are many reasons to invest in proven inoculant products for your pulses and soybeans. New inoculant technologies from Rizobacter ensure more consistent nodulation and enhance plant growth, and the fertilizer savings make inoculants a sound investment to ensure adequate nodulation and maximize biological nitrogen fixation.
For more information on nitrogen fixation, or for an overview of the solutions that Rizobacter offers, contact your BrettYoung Regional Account Manager.