Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Inoculate Your Soybeans

One thing grandpa taught dad was to inoculate legumes. In those days it was mostly clover as the main legume on the farm. We planted our first soybeans in the 70's so the tradition of inoculation went right on.

Then scientists thought that rhizobia bacteria lived in the soil long enough that it wouldn't pay to inoculate once soybeans had been planted and inoculated. The bacteria would live on.

That notion spread until 1995 when Dr. David Kuykendall was working on a sugar beet project for USDA in Beltsville, Maryland looking at soil bacteria. In his search for other organisms he discovered superior strains that competed for a place to live in the symbiotic relationship of soybean roots.

This strain was sold to Urbana Laboratories in St. Joseph, Missouri. My friend Leon Bird saw the product at a seed meeting and brought it to Ohio. I got some from him and started testing it. I always got a response of 2 bushels or better and up to 7-8 bushels on some fields.

Another friend planted wheat into his soybean field where he had tested the product by filling half the drill with seed and inoculant and the other half untreated. The crop visibly showed the extra nitrogen all summer and into the combine but when he planted the wheat, it still showed the extra nitrogen produced. The wheat was dark green and taller where he had treated the soybeans and less green and shorter where he hadn't. We don't like striped fields but this one proved the power of the inoculation.

Years went by as farmers learned about the product and the company was sold to Becker Underwood. Leon always stayed in contact with Dr. Kuykendall and asked him if he had any other strains. He said "yes, I have some with more potential than the first."

They came up with 3 superior strains in one product and a new company was formed, Advanced Biological Marketing. A local farm boy, Dan Custis did all the leg work and became president of the company. They provide new, proven biological materials to wholesalers, retailers and direct to farmers but the new America's Best Inoculant was and is the mainstay product.

The old peat moss based forms called humus inoculant still have a place but take time to inoculate the seed. Liquid formulations were introduced and rapidly grew in sales as farmers learned their advantage. Many farmers treat their own seed with chemical seed treatment with liquid inoculant while bulk filling drills and planters.

A polymer was found that would make it even easier to treat the seed and extend the life of the living bacteria. Now a farmer can apply his own or the seed treater or source of soybean seed can pre-inoculate the seed, making it easy to inoculate soybeans.

Dr. Jim Beuerlein at Ohio State University was initially asked to test the famous "USDA strain" discovered by Dr. Kuykendahl. Dr. Beuerlein now has the most extensive soybean inoculant test data in the U.S. His results show very positive results over the years and when he speaks to farmers he always recommends inoculants.

Farmers easily on their investment so it is considered a standard practice again, just like when grandpa inoculated clover 100 years ago.

Isn't it amazing that what comes around goes around?

Ed Winkle


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