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Beneficial Bacteria

By Randy Simonson, Ph.D.
Technical Services Manager

Soybean inoculants are stains of Rhizobia bacteria, which have a symbiotic relationship with soybeans. The soybeans provide the Rhizobia with carbohydrates and the Rhizobia are able to take nitrogen from the air and convert it to nitrogen usable by the soybean plant.

If a field has never had soybeans on it, it is imperative that an inoculant be used. But even if soybeans have been planted on a field, you may still benefit from the new more aggressive and effective Rhizobia. Companies that sell inoculant have also found ways to increase the number of bacteria available per seed. Some provide up to 1 million bacteria cells per seed.

Ed Oplinger, University of Guelph, has done a lot of research on soybean inoculants. He has seen consistent yield increases of 3 to 10 bu/acre from using these new inoculants, and recommends inoculating soybeans every year in lighter soils. A summary of his research can be seen at: http://www.uwex.edu/ces/soybean/research/pubs/99inocadvice.htm.

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