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Biological power complements inoculants for pulse crops

Nitrogen-fixing rhizobia aren’t just for pulse and legume crops

While the 2020 crop may not be harvested and in the bin yet, early fall is still a good time to be thinking about the 2021 crop and lining up pulse crop inoculants for the coming growing season.

Producers should be lining up inoculant needs this fall to avoid disappointment next spring. In addition to inoculants for pulse and soybean, there are biological products that help non-legume crops – such as wheat, barley and canola – fix nitrogen.

And inoculants for pulse crops are important, says Fran Walley, a professor and researcher in soil science at the University of Saskatchewan. In a report for the Saskatchewan Pulse Growers, Walley says pulse crops inoculated with the proper inoculant will fix between 50 and 80 per cent of the crop’s nitrogen requirements through nitrogen fixation. And that can vary depending on the type of pulse — chickpeas are on the lower end at about 60 per cent nitrogen fixation, while faba beans top the list at 90 per cent nitrogen fixation. Peas and lentils are somewhere in the middle. The point being, to get the most out of the natural ability of pulse crops to fix nitrogen use the proper rhizobium inoculant.

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And as Allison Friesen, technical marketing manager with BASF points out, producers should be lining up inoculant needs this fall to avoid disappointment next spring.

BASF, with the Nodulator line of inoculants, manufactures or cultures all strains of rhizobia used to inoculate pulse crops, including peas, lentils, chickpeas, faba beans as well as soybeans, at its lab facilities in Saskatoon.

“Rhizobium is a living biological organism, so it does have a given life span,” says Friesen. She says fall is a good time for farmers to book inoculant needs — they don’t have to take delivery, but it helps with planning on the manufacturing side so there is sufficient quantity of different formulations available for early spring delivery. She recommends booking now through a local BASF rep.

The Nodulator line of inoculants is offered in different formulations — peat-based, granular and liquid — available for each of the pulse crops. As well, there are Nodulator products for soybeans.

The leading platform for inoculating pea and lentil crops is Nodulator Duo SCG (solid core granular) introduced in 2017, says Friesen. The rhizobium attached to peat along with a soil bacteria, Bacillus subtilis, is wrapped in a solid coating. The coating provides very neat and clean protection for the duo components of rhizobium and a film-producing bacteria. So, how do these two biologicals work together?

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. 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. Researchers have measured increased nitrogen fixation and increased nodulation, with even the shape and location of the nodules affected. While the nitrogen-fixing nodules usually form near the crown of the roots, the addition of the BU 1814 bacterium seems to encourage nodulation in different areas of the roots.

What all this science means from a farmer perspective is a more vigorous pulse crop plant stand, increased root and shoot biomass, and enhanced nutrient and water uptake, all of which helps fortify the root to better manage drought and other environmental stresses. BASF also says the plant flowers longer, stays green longer, produces larger pods and more pea and lentil seeds per pod.

“The formulation of Nodulator Duo SCG protects the biological components, while also being a very clean and dust-free way to handle the inoculant,” says Friesen. While Nodulator Duo is convenient, it does require another tank on a seeding system to handle the granules that are placed in the seed row.

If seeding equipment capacity is a limitation, BASF also offers inoculants that can be applied to the seed. The Nodulator XL products are available for peas and lentils in a self-adhesive peat formulation as well as a liquid.

Friesen says in using the on-seed inoculants it is important to make sure the inoculant is compatible with other seed treatments that may be used on the seed and farmers also need to pay attention to rhizobium survivability. The peat and liquid inoculants need to be properly stored on the farm, and once applied to the seed they need to be planted in a timely manner, within 24 hours.

BASF also offers a complete line of Nodulator inoculants — all formulations — for soybeans, as well. Nodulator SCG (Solid Core Granular) is available for soybeans, while Nodulator PRO 100 is also a popular liquid formulation that combines rhizobia with a biological fungicide.

Properly applied by a commercial applicator, the PRO 100 also offers 100 days of biological survivability on the seed after treatment, says Friesen. Along with the rhizobium, PRO 100 also includes a biofungicide Bacillus amyloliquefaciens that provides suppression of seeding diseases such as Rhizoctonia and Fusarium spp. Research has shown the combination of biologicals can produce up to a six per cent yield increase.

For more information on BASF products visit agriculture.basf.com/ca.

Fix nitrogen in wheat, barley and canola crops

Have you heard of applying a nitrogen-fixing inoculant to your wheat seed at seeding? It is somewhat of newer concept, but Verdesian Life Sciences, one of the newer names among crop nutrient providers in Canada, offers a complete line of pulse crop inoculants along with a unique biological product that helps non-legume crops, such as wheat, barley and canola, fix nitrogen as well.

“Our core business is all about nutrient-use efficiency,” says Joe Olesko, a Verdesian account manager based in Saskatchewan. Olesko has been around the crop fertility industry for most of his career.

Established in the United States in 2012, Verdesian launched Canadian operations about seven years ago. Company products include biostimulants, fertilizer enhancers and stabilizers. “And we also have one of the largest rhizobium strain banks in the world, which allows us to develop inoculants with rhizobium specific to various pulse, legume and non-legume crops,” says Olesko.

With rhizobium tailored to specific pulse crops, Verdesian has several product names, including N-Charge, N-Dure, N-Row and Primo, with inoculants in different formulations — peat powder, granular and liquid — for peas and lentils, as well as dry beans, chickpeas and soybeans.

“Probably one of the unique products we have is a nitrogen-fixing inoculant for non-legume crops,” says Olesko. That product is called Accolade.

Accolade is the first biological growth promoter of its kind, containing Azospirillum brasilense strains, approved for wheat, canola and barley, and can be applied directly to the seed as a seed treatment. “The growth promoter in Accolade helps increase seedling vigour and improves root mass development as it fixes nitrogen in the root zone,” says Olesko.

“It has a demonstrated ability to increase root mass development, which can be a real benefit in both wet years and during dry growing season conditions,” he says. “The increased root development helps the crop make better use of applied fertilizer, optimizing nutrient-use efficiency.”

Olesko says he has been fielding phone calls from producers planning to use Accolade on fall-seeded cereals such as winter wheat and fall rye as they look to maximize root development on these cereals before freeze-up. He also points out the hardy bacteria can be applied to seed intended for spring-seeded crops anytime this fall and winter, as it has up to 220 days shelf life.

Along a similar line, Verdesian has also developed Pre-Vail, a clay-based pre-inoculant for forages, that can be applied directly to the seed months in advance of planting for added convenience. Its combination of nitrogen-fixing bacteria and the biological growth promoter help improve early forage growth and overall stands, says Olesko. He says Pre-Vail can be effective with both legume forage varieties such as alfalfa and clover as well as grass-type forages.

For more information on Verdesian products visit vlsci.com. For an excellent report on inoculants, visit the Saskatchewan Pulse Growers’ website at saskpulse.com and search for a fact sheet on inoculant options.

About the author

Field Editor

Lee Hart

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

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