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New bacteria enhance N-fixing performance

Natural soil molecules recruited to help increase pulse crop growth and yield

BASF Canada and Monsanto BioAg have both added different naturally occurring soil bacteria to pulse crop inoculants to enhance the nitrogen fixing capability and growth of pea and lentil crops.

Pulsea crop growers are no doubt familiar with BASF’s Nodulator and Monsanto BioAG’s TagTeam pulse crop inoculants. They’ve been around for years.

For the 2018 growing season BASF is introducing Nodulator Duo, a product that adds a soil bacterium to the inoculant. It has the ability to enhance and strengthen root development.

Monsanto BioAg last year introduced TagTeam LCO which is a triple action granular inoculant. The LCO component, short for lipochitooligosaccharide, is a natural soil molecule that “enhances” communications in the root zone improving the nitrogen fixing performance of the rhizobium.

Both are granular products to be used with pea and lentil crops.

New from BASF

Early field trials with Nodulator Duo (2017 yield results are not in yet) show including the bacterium with the inoculant produced on average a three bushel yield increase with peas and about a 1.5 bushel yield increase with lentils, says Russell Trischuk, BASF regional technical manager.

“BASF has development projects in different parts of the world,” he says. “And Nodulator Duo is truly a made in Canada product for Canadian producers. We are very excited about that.”

The “duo” is a combination of the Nodulator rhizobium and a strain of bacterium (Bacillus subtillis) identified as BU 1814. They are combined in a solid core granule.

The activity of the bacterium is part of a fairly complex process involving soil biology. “When included with the inoculant in the seed row the native bacterium has a mutually beneficial relationship with the plant,” says Trischuk. “As the root grows and cells slough off and distribute through the soil, the bacterium feeds off those cells and in exchange they colonize the plant root system offering protection of the roots as they grow through the soil.” It’s called a root strengthening bio-film that enhances root and plant growth.

While that process isn’t directly connected to the activity of the nitrogen fixing rhizobium it does have a “very positive relationship”, he says. They’ve measured increased nitrogen fixation, increased nodulation and even the shape and location of the nodules is affected. While the N-fixing nodules usually form near the crown of the roots, the addition of BU 1814 seems to encourage nodulation in different areas of the roots.

What all this science means from a farmer perspective, says Trischuk is a more vigorous pulse crop plant stand, that flowers longer, stays green longer, produces larger pods and more pea and lentil seeds per pod. He says there is even some evidence of crops showing improved tolerance to stresses such as dry growing conditions.

Improved lines of communcations

Including the LCO component in TagTeam LCO improves communication between the roots and the rhizobium which is particularly beneficial under stressful growing conditions, says Jon Treloar, Monsanto BioAg technical agronomist. Their field trials, with peas for example, show up to 2.5 bushel yield increase over competing products.

“The LCO molecule is involved in communicating between the rhizobium and the plant roots,” says Treloar. “The molecule signals the plant roots to prepare for nodulation and nitrogen fixation. That molecule is naturally occurring and always present in the soil, but under stressful environmental conditions (being too cold, too wet, too dry, for example) that communication can be delayed. By adding it to the inoculant we are in essence short circuiting the natural communication process and speeding up nodulation.”

TagTeam LCO was introduced for the 2016 growing season. It showed improved yield performance over the conventional TagTeam and about a 2.5 bushel yield increase over other pulse crop inoculants.

About the author

Field Editor

Lee Hart is editor of Cattleman’s Corner based in Calgary.

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