Friday, February 6, 2009

Inoculate Your Beans

Gardeners, have you ever inoculated your green beans? Peas, snap peas, sugar peas?

Remember in science class when they taught the boring subject of symbiosis? I was raised in a rural community so most of the teachers were from farm families. They applied learning to the farm as much as possible because that is where many of us lived.

Legumes are the miracle protein crop of the world. Legumes take free nitrogen from the air and store it in their seed.

Those seeds give us the amino acids, the building blocks of protein the animal kingdom needs. How do they do that?

It starts when the legume sprouts. They have two true baby leaves in the seed called cotyledons. As these break through the soil the plant tissue is scratched or scarred and rhizobia bacteria in the soil colonizes on the scarred tissue.

Does your soil have these bacteria? Most soils do. To ensure inoculation of legume seeds man colonized the bacteria from healthy soil and made inoculants from them.

Grandpa taught dad to always inoculate the legume seed. Legumes include:
Locust trees
Adzuki Beans
Black Beans
Black-eyed peas
Broad Beans (Fava Beans)
Butter Beans
Calico Beans
Cannellini Beans
Chickpeas (Garbanzo Beans)
Great Northern Beans
Italian Beans
Kidney Beans
Lima Beans
Mung Beans
Navy Beans
Pinto Beans
Soy Beans, including black soy beans
Split Peas
White Beans

Any many more! You can be sure your soil has enough beneficial rhizobia bacteria by applying it to the seed.

When you purchase legume seed, ask for inoculant. If they say huh?" you know you are dealing with someone who doesn't understand this basic science we all should have been taught in grade school. It is one of those principles that make the world go round.

I have been looking for a cheap but effective garden inoculant and found this:

Cooper Seeds

Now 50 lbs of legume seed is going to last you a lifetime so you might order one for you and the neighbors or the garden club or whatever. Just keep it in your freezer and the bugs will come back to life when introduced to the soil via your planted seed.

Nationwide, this basic principle has the impact of hundreds of millions of dollars of impact to our crops, our food! Maybe the bailout bill ought to include this!

The principle one is soybeans, our number two cash crop in America but when you calculate all the other legumes planted in this country the impact is much more far-reaching!

My tip for today is "don't speculate, inoculate!"

Ed Winkle


  1. In our area (Oregon) you can not really buy the old black peat based inoculants. The new stuff is a white powder clay-based inoculant. It seems to build up a static charge when flowing through my rubber small seed tubes and then attracts any moisture in the air. Before long the tubes are completely plugged. I have no problem at all with the peat based inoculants.
    I suppose this is progress.
    Also, I see Garbonzo beans on your list. Did not realize they were Chick peas. Hispanic fellow that used to work for us always plants a corner of one field on our place to Garbonzo beans. It always is a failure. Would like to make it work one year!

  2. I wonder if plain garden inoculant would work on the garbonzo beans? Maybe chick peas have their own inoculant but I have never seen one.

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