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« Erica Hanks : A Gardener with Style | Main | Crown Town Compost Delivers »
Thursday
Feb182016

The Magic Behind Jack's Beanstalk 

 

With a quick dip in flour, breadcrumbs, and seasoning, an ordinary chicken breast becomes a mouth watering morsel that critics fawn over and diners wait in line for. A quick dip in legume inoculant won’t deliver such instant, finger licking gratification, but it can deliver legendary bean harvests and soil fertility that are just as magical.

 

 

Like a comic book superhero given one special gift, legume crops possess the unique ability to capture nitrogen from the atmosphere and store it in root nodules. There, the nitrogen is transferred to the surrounding soil, in a useable form where it can benefit plants grown in the following season. The process of concentrating nitrogen in the legume root nodules is performed by naturally occurring bacteria called rhizobacteria.  Legume inoculants are essentially living rhizobacteria delivered via a powder or liquid which helps it stick to a treated seed. Don’t underestimate the power of these microscopic magicians  - inoculant not only enhances soil structure and fertility, but also improves top and root growth, and yields of the treated plant. New plantings of legume seeds should always be treated with rhizobacteria inoculants, especially because other naturally occurring bacteria compete for space on legume roots.  Treating seeds with rhizobacteria inoculant ensures a strong presence of nitrogen fixing rhizobacteria once the seed germinates.  And because inoculants are made with living bacteria – whether in powder or liquid form - it’s important to note of the product’s expiration date, and always use fresh inoculant if in doubt.

Inoculate seeds just before planting, and carefully follow product guidelines. With most powdered inoculants, seeds are first moistened, then coated with the powder. Some growers even use milk and molasses as a wetting agent which also provides food for the rhizobacteria while helping the powder stick to the seeds.

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