If you are looking for a new, safer, and easier option to boost the quality of your field and crop, biological inoculants have caught your attention. Until recently, their use was uncommon in larger farming operations because of high costs. Now, however, new techniques allow for more massive scale production of these inoculants at much lower cost.
If you are interested in bio-inoculants, the following information should help answer the most pressing questions you may have. Additional, more specific information is acquired from the manufacturer of whichever products you think may best suit your needs.
What is a "Biological Inoculant"?
Biological inoculants are, in short, treatments applied to seed or soil to increase the health of a crop. This may lead to higher yields, produce of better quality, and insure against hardships like drought, high winds, flooding, and generally poor soil quality.
The treatment itself is made up of specific bacteria, fungi, and algae that provides benefit via a symbiotic relationship with a given crop or the soil in which it is grown. For example, a proper soybean inoculant will contain Mycorrhizal Fungi. This fungus improves the root system of each plant, allowing it to absorb more nutrients from a greater area, reducing fertilizer and water waste as well as improving the health of the plant.
What Can a Biological Inoculant Do for Me?
As described above, bio-inoculants have many benefits.
- Water Smart – Soybeans treated with bio-inoculant have been reported to use significantly less water.
- Better Bio-Availability of Nutrients – The organisms present in a well-designed inoculant will help the plants they are designed for, to better manage the nutrient absorption and storage process.
- Promotion of Longterm Soil Health – If used regularly, the biosphere within a given field should retain some of the characteristics provided by an inoculant. If well taken care of, this will improve the health of the soil over time, even with the planting of other crops.
- Stronger Roots, Stems, and Stalks – Plants started from adequately inoculated seeds are more tolerant of environmental stress.
- Additional Fertilizer Need Reduction – With a better absorption process, the need for other fertilizers is reduced.
- Insect Protection – In addition to creating a plant that is more resilient, seed-treatment based bio-inoculants are one of the few ways to combat soil-dwelling pests that may feed on a plant or endanger its health.
- Disease Resistance – Certain inoculants can all but prevent crop-specific diseases.
- Faster Recovery After Flooding – A field that has been flooded for many days will have a biosphere that has been significantly altered. It can take months to recover on its own, if at all. An inoculant can do this almost immediately.
Are Biological Inoculants Compatible with Organic Production?
Many biological inoculants are entirely compatible with organic production. While the specifics will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, the product itself is often considered to be the best way for a farm to switch from relying on chemical-based products to starting the long road to organic certification.
Further, as many organic producers need to keep costs low to retain their certified status and remain profitable, inoculants have proven critical. Lower irrigation needs, resilience to harsh weather, and reduced fertilizer consumption more than outweighs the cost of treatment in most cases.