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No nodules on alfalfa/clover in pasture - any way to inoculate after planting?

 
Linc Vannah
Posts: 8
Location: western Colorado
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Hi fellow permies,

I've come up with an herbal "ley" (salad bar pasture mix) of seed to use in reseeding our predominantly cheatgrass/goatgrass field to a diverse, nitrogen fixing, mineral mining, insect attracting, goat/chicken/human forage source. Before I knew about herbal pastures and about the importance of nitrogen fixing bacteria on alfalfa/clover rootlets, I planted an acre or so of the field with a mix of cool season grasses, alfalfa and clover. I didn't innoculate the alfalfa/clover seed with rhizobium meliloti at the time, figuring that the bacteria would show up somehow on its own. It established well, but this spring I dug some alfalfa up in the field and couldn't find any of the nitrogen fixing nodules. I did find them on alfalfa that was growing in my garden though, not sure why (I inoculated black bean seed planted there last year, but that is a different Rhizobium species than R. meliloti.

Would any of you know of a way to introduce Rhizobium meliloti bacteria on already planted Alfalfa and clovers?

Thanks in advance.
 
Kevin Elmore
Posts: 63
Location: West Texas - near Big Bend National Park
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fungi greening the desert solar
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Linc,

I know this might be more work than you planned, but if you have access to a no-till drill you could make a pass over the already planted acre with a very light seeding rate to put in inoculated seed. That would get the bacteria into the ground and it should tend to migrate to the existing plants over time.

My only other thought would be to make a drench of the inoculant and use a sprayer to place on the existing planted acre. Preferably this would be performed during a rain so that the inoculant would be washed into the soil. This is not something I have tried so others may have better options.

Kevin
 
Kelly Smith
Posts: 702
Location: In a rain shadow - Fremont County, Southern CO
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would mixing the inoculant in your water just prior to irrigation (or near the end) help to get it into the field and down to the roots?
i am not sure how much is needed or how much it can be diluted.

now that i read this thread, i suspect my vernal alfalfa wasnt inoculated when planted last year. gonna go dig a few up today to see if i have any nodules on them.

 
Ray South
Posts: 60
Location: Northern Tablelands, NSW, Australia
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Plants tend not form the association with the bacteria if there is N sufficient for their needs. Just one possibility.
 
Linc Vannah
Posts: 8
Location: western Colorado
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Thanks for the responses.

I'll try a mix of remedies, given time to implement. I usually try different experiments in different areas so I can see what works.

1. Try adding R. meliloti in irrigation water.

2. Try spraying water with R. melliloti.

3. Disk one area and replant with inoculated seed.

4. Leave one area as-is for a control.

May take me several months to find out what worked best.
 
K. Johnson
Posts: 57
Location: Missoula, Montana
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Linc,
consider trying a small-scale soil tranfer experiment from your inoculated garden soils out to the pasture. When I was in grad school there were people workingto develop mycorrhizal and rhizobium innoculant and they have had some success. But it is noteworthy that many of the scientists (not students) believed that soil transfers were still a good way to go. Get a bucket of the good stuff and trowel it in around a marked area of alfalfa - probably springtime is best - and see how that goes. You could scale up from there. Or it might take off if the plants are spaced tightly and a light till would move the topsoil around a bit.

I also learned that plants which are normally mycorrhizal, eg nursery grown natives ornamentals, tend Not to form the mycorrhizal symbiosis when they are fertilized. We all assumed the plants were thinking "why bother to spend the energy?". There was similar thinking about the n-fixing bacteria, though I don't know that I ever saw a reference. So if your pasture is rich in N from former fertilization that might explain the scarcity of nodules.

Somewhere in my mass of printed knowledge (but not in my gray matter) I must have some serious refs. I will bookmark this thread and come back to it. I studied mycorrhizae on natives in grad school. I learned (from the best) that the vast majority of wild plants form mycorrhizae. Weeds often do not, which is thought to be an adaptive strategy for success in degraded sites. There are academic citations for that. Small scale soil transfers are definitely a good idea for getting natives established in new or damaged sites. Do some little experiments, take pictures and keep notes!

Good luck to you!
Kathy J.
 
Linc Vannah
Posts: 8
Location: western Colorado
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Thanks Kathy, I'll try that, (spreading some soil from inoculated areas to non-inoculated). Lots of good ideas - what a great forum Permies.com is (thanks Paul!)
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