No two farmers approach pulse crop fertility the same, but farmers interviewed for this panel all have one thing in common: they all use inoculants

Pulse growers contacted for this issue’s Farmer Panel use a wide range of inoculant products and different combinations. Some use starter fertilizer along with the inoculant and some don’t. But one standard approach was to get the inoculant of choice applied as evenly as possible to the seed and applied just prior to seeding. If the inoculant is applied on the farm, it often goes on just as seed is being loaded into the seed tender or airseeder tank.

Here is how these farmers approach pulse crop inoculants and fertility:

TOM KIEPER RUSSELL, MAN.

Tom Kieper took field peas out of the rotation the past few years, but the western Manitoba farmer plans to include about 160 acres in his crop plans for 2010 to help reduce fertilizer costs.

Kieper, who grew yellow peas for about a dozen years, and then switched them out in 2006 because of low markets and variable yields, says he preferred a peat-based inoculant applied as a slurry for many years. And then in the last two or three years of production he used the TagTeam inoculant — Novozymes’ combination of nitrogen-fixing and phosphate-enhancing inoculants — which was attached to the seed with Grow Tec’s polymer coating.

“I’ve never used any other fertilizer with the peas,” he says. “And I was always pleased with the nitrogen-fixing ability of the crop. The yields may have been all over the place, but there was always good nitrogen in the ground.” Kieper isn’t sure why yields were so variable — some years 65 bushels per acre and others about 10 bushels per acre — but he says seeding depth and for sure the weather were part of the equation.

He says while new inoculant products have come along in the last four years, he will probably use a TagTeam formulation in 2010.

Aside from not needing added nitrogen for the pea crop, Kieper says in the first crop following peas (usually wheat) he can reduce nitrogen rates by about 20 per cent and in the second year by about 10 to 15 per cent.

LINDA SCHMIDT MANNING, ALTA.

In one of the last cropping areas in Alberta’s northern Peace River district, Linda and Ed Schmidt have been growing peas for more than 20 years.

“At one time we used a peatbased product that required a sticking agent,” says Schmidt. “My dad was a honey producer, so we used a bit of honey as the sticking agent. It was a bit messy, but worked quite well.”

Schmidt says they simplified the process by going to the granular TagTeam inoculant. They mix the granular with the seed in the airseeder tank and apply both in the seedrow in a one-pass seeding operation. They use the same product and same process with peas and faba beans.

“We put the seed and inoculant in a single tank and then seed right away, and we have found the crops do an excellent job of fixing nitrogen,” she says. They grow about 350 acres of peas, along with wheat, canola and sometimes barley. And now as they have developed a feed market, they will continue with the zero-tannin faba beans in the rotation as well.

LLOYD AFFLECK BEECHY, SASK.

Depending on the crop, Lloyd Affleck, who farms with his family in southwest Saskatchewan, uses two different formulations of nitrogen-fixing inoculants.

With lentils and field peas, which he has grown for the past 30 years, most recently he has been using a granular inoculant placed with the seed at time of seeding. With chickpeas, which they have grown for the past 15 years, they use a peat-based product, which is applied to the seed. Affleck has been using the MBR (MicroBio RhizoGen) products from Becker Underwood.

Affleck has tried all inoculant formulations over the years. He tried liquid products in the past, and while it was convenient, he didn’t feel the crop produced as many nitrogen-fixing nodules.

He does use a second tank on the air seeding system when applying the granular inoculant — seed in one tank and the inoculant in the other. Granular is a bit more expensive than the peat-based product, but he feels the rhizobia has better survival in the granular.

While he is pleased with the granular and peat products, Affleck says he is interested in a new liquid inoculant from the U. S.-based INTX Microbials (www.intxmicrobials.com),which he has heard is convenient and has a very good shelflife. He plans to investigate that for 2010.

Along with treating all pulse crops with an inoculant, Affleck also includes starter fertilizer in the pulse crop seed row. The blend ranges from two to five pounds of actual nitrogen, about 10 pounds of phosphorus and two to three pounds of sulphur.

“The inoculants are effective, but since growing conditions change, I think it is important to give the crop every chance you can to get it off to a good start,” says Affleck. “Especially in a dry year, some nutrients aren’t that readily available.”

He has done trials where he has seeded pulse crops with extra nitrogen and no inoculant and it did cause them to die back and mature quicker in the fall. On one hand that’s good in a late harvest season, but the die back was simply because they ran out of nutrients, which reduced yield. He doesn’t recommend the practice.

“We have been growing pulse crops for a lot of years and we use an inoculant every year,” says Affleck. “Some people might say you don’t have to, but we feel it produces a much healthier plant, with the best opportunity to increase yields.”

ROBERT WEISGERBER SCHULER, ALTA.

Robert Weisgerber, who has been growing yellow peas and red lentils for much of the past 15 to 20 years, says he finds a peat-based product bought through Farmers of North America (FNA) has been economical and effective.

“I have tried liquid products in the past, but I found they didn’t work as well,” says Weisgerber, who grows about 1,400 acres of pulse crops. “Granulars were just coming out when I first started growing peas. I have tried them a couple times, and haven’t really seen any benefit over the peat-based product.” Weisgerber notes the granular products are more expensive, and it also requires a second airseeder tank for the inoculant.

He applies the peat-based inoculant to seed, at the recommended rate, as he’s loading the airseeder tank.

He usually applies no other nitrogen with the pulse crops, although depending on the field and soil test recommendations, he may add some phosphorus to the seed row at time of seeding.

KELVIN ROTHENBURGER THORNHILL, MAN.

Kelvin Rothenburger uses two formulations of inoculant on soybeans he grows on his farm west of Morden.

A liquid inoculant along with a fungicide are commercially applied by the seed retailer. The treated soybean seeds are trucked to the farm and then transferred into a seed tender by conveyor. The dry peat-based inoculant is applied at that time.

“By using the two inoculants I just have that added assurance that the seeds are properly treated and have the best opportunity for fixing nitrogen,” says Rothenburger. The products are applied at the recommended rate for the seeding rate he uses.

He makes a point of transferring seed from a truck to the seed tender before they are loaded into the soybean planter to reduce the risk of seed bridging or not flowing properly in the planter. Moving seeds from the truck to the seed tender, and then from tender to the planter, helps them to dry after the treatment is applied and improves seed flow. And extra handling is a good opportunity for the peatbased inoculant to mixed with the seed.

Rothenburger seeds soybeans with a four-row planter on 22-inch spacing. He has seeded the crop with an airseeder before, but finds the planter provides more accurate seed placement. In his experience, if the seed is placed too deep, the crop is a bit shorter.

The planter also helps to reduce seed costs. Using the airseeder and having a solid-seeded crop, the seed count is about 220,000 seeds per acre. With the planter, he can get a good stand and optimize yields at a seeding rate of about 190,000 seeds per acre. That is roughly a 15 per cent savings on seed.

Rothenburger supplies no other nutrients when seeding soybeans, but he does like to make sure there is about 30 pounds of residual nitrogen in the soil. He has tried seeding the crop with higher nitrogen rates and lower inoculant rates, and found while the crop may get off to a better start, he didn’t see any difference in yield.

He doesn’t plan for any changes in his soybean program in 2010. His area has had two wet years, and there is plenty of snow cover, which means more moisture. The soybean planter doesn’t work as well in wet field conditions, so if there is too much mud at seeding he may have to seed soybeans with the airseeder.

Lee Hart is a field editor for Grainews in

Calgary, Contact him at 403-592-1964 or by

email at [email protected]

About the author

Field Editor

Lee Hart

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

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