Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Does Soil Inoculant really work?

When I have problems with digestion I often benefit from eating yogurt that contains the Acidophilus bacteria. There are products that can help a plant’s roots, like yogurt can help a person’s stomach. These products are often made out of nitrogen-fixing bacteria (rhizomes) and are touted as helping legumes get good head-start. Products in this class are often loosely referred to as “soil inoculants”.

Yogurt contains beneficial bacteria.

At first I thought that rhizomic soil inoculant was some kind of propaganda marketed by gardening companies to lure gullible gardeners into spending more money on their products. However, a recent experience has taught me otherwise. A while ago I had been given a gift certificate from a family member to a large seed company. I could not find too many open-pollinated seeds in their catalogue so I chose to add soil inoculant to my purchase. I didn’t think the inoculant did too much the first time I tried it and I had nothing to compare it to. In hindsight though, my first crop of peas was better than any other crop I have had since.


Soil Inoculant contains beneficial bacteria.

I have been growing Chinese Long Beans the last few years and have noticed that they often take a while to sprout. Recently I tried soaking my Chinese Long Beans overnight, then draining the water and rolling the seeds in soil inoculant. Within a few days half of the seeds began sprouting. They continued to sprout again and again. I have never seen such high germination in this seed variety and can only attribute it to the soil inoculant. Since then the beans have continued to grow at an accelerated rate in comparison with growing them in years past. I don’t believe that using soil inoculant for legumes is the only thing legumes need, though I do believe the inoculant helps germination rates, increase plant vigor, and speed up the time between sowing bean seeds and reaping a crop.

Step 1: Soak Beans overnight

Step 2: Put soil inoculant in a container.

Step 3: Rinse out beans

Step 4: Mix inoculant with beans

Step 5: Plant beans with inoculant

Step 6: Watch your plants grow!

There are a variety of soil inoculants out there and I cannot speak to the effectiveness of any other variety than the one I used. Some have a few good bacteria varieties while others contain a host of beneficial organisms. One farmer even conducted an unbiased comparison of the affect of using inoculants (and some other things) in his soilGiven my recent success with soil inoculant I will definitely consider investing in these bacteria in the future.

12 comments:

  1. Since my science classes were eons ago and I like to know more, can you tell me if these are organic and what organic gardeners would use? Some things that they sell out there change the soil or add things to the soil I would not want and many times are synthetic...thx

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    1. Soil inoculants are fully organic. They are made from benefical bacteria that occur in nature, but may not be at the levels needed, in a gardener's soil, to help legumes grow properly. Just as yogurt often contains beneficial bacteria for a person's stomach soil inoculants contain beneficial bacteria (usually including nitrogen-fixing rhizomic bacteria). The companies that make these products have to grow or culture them under specific conditions to have the bacteria grow properly. Some inoculants include beneficial bacteria that can aid in breaking down pathogens. Hence - some of these bacteria concoctions that help gardener's beans (and other plants) grow better are also used to treat human waste.

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  2. I really have had good success using inoculants for my beans and peas my harvests have quadrupled since using a beneficial bacterium I also use a mycorrhizae fungi but I absolutely agree with using a inoculant. Very sensible...

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    1. Thank you so much for your reply. I'm glad to hear that there are others who are noticing good results from this product. I was just reading your blog and wondering - have you ever purchased seed from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange? They are definitely my favorite seed company. They tend to select their plants based on disease resistance and vigor. They tend to be on the cutting edge of new open-pollinated vegetable varieties.

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    2. I do business with southern exposure seed and since I am a member of seed savers I get a lot of stuff from them as well. I also deal with baker creek heck I deal with 10 or more seed company's every year. This year I have 57 varieties of tomatoes coming along and I might find another along the way. I believe I am growing 10 varieties from wild boar farms that is probably the most from any single source then probably heritage tomato seed they have a nice selection of dwarfs...good luck on those tomatoes...

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    3. Wow - that is quite a lot more than I have room for in my garden. Between both my gardens I probably have about 300 square feet (total) that I work with.

      I have been very pleased with dwarfs in the desert. I'm not a member of seed savers yet. Perhaps one day I'll choose to save up the money to do so. I just looked at the two last seed companies you mentioned. With the price of tomato seeds, I should go into the tomato seed business!

      Thanks for the encouragement on the tomatoes. Each year my growing efforts bring me a little closer to what I am trying to accomplish.

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    4. Your doing awesome! I enjoy reading your blog keep it up... I have fun reading about your adventure in gardening and heck if you want to try some of my better heat tolerant tomatoes I will be glad to send you some seed for your fall planting...

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    5. Thank you so much for your support! It means a lot to me that people enjoy reading about my gardening exploits. I'm trying to learn from my mistakes. I'll definitely consider some more vareties though I don't think I'll regrow too much this fall. The amount of work I put into tomatoes is rarely recipocated by the a bountiful harvest. Perhaps I will let my Stupice Tomato Vine take over the space where many of the other varieties have been up-rooted.

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  3. It is amazing how much beneficial bacteria and fungi help plants, something my compacted clay soil is rather starved of!

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    1. Thanks for the reply, Indie.
      If it works well here in Tucson it just might work well in the Carolinas. I wish you the best with your legumes!

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  4. DOES ANYONE KNOW IF OTHER VEGGIES IE PEPPWRS TOMATOES LETTUCE AND FLOWERS WOULD BENEFIT FRON INNOCULANTS?

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    1. There has been some anecdotal evidence, but most research I have read finds no noticeable difference in adding inoculants – especially if gardeners are already amending their soil with healthy finished compost. Firm evidence of improved growth and yields with inoculants has been demonstrated only with leguminous vegetables.

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