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Opinions on legume innoculation?  RSS feed

 
shauna carr
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Location: Sonoran Desert, USA
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I was wondering what the current thoughts were on adding legume inoculation - commercially prepared sources of rhizobia - to the soil when planting legumes? Is it necessary? Is it a shortcut? Does it cause any problems? Any OTHER way to add sources of rhizobia, like, I don't know, getting some soil from other legumes of the same type, near the roots, and mixing it in where you are planting new legumes?

I have read that rhizobia are, I don't know if I'm going to use the right term here, plant specific, I guess? Each legume species has a particular type of rhizobia that is tends to pair with, basically? If that's true, is this an issue for introducing commercial preparations?


I am VERY new to permaculture and I'm trying to do my whole yard - slowly - but I'm looking at the legumes first for the soil, here, as there are a lot of native legumes that need no extra water and survive my desert temperatures well. So I'm just trying to do what I can to make things turn out the best.

I'd appreciate anyone's opinions, experiences, or even pointed fingers in the right direction to explore this. Thanks!
 
R Scott
Posts: 3351
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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It is the usual permaculture answer: IT DEPENDS!

They can be present in the soil already. For example, you don't NEED to inoculate clover or alfalfa or soy-compatible beans here because there is enough in the soil bank already. Adding them will speed up nitrogen fixing early on, but not needed for a perennial production. I do need to inoculate some beans, as there is no natural presence of the right rhizobia.

It is fairly cheap (compared to the seed anyway) and can't hurt--so I do it anytime I can. If I don't have it, I don't skip planting if there is a window of opportunity to plant before a rain.

I wonder if you could add it to a compost tea to apply after seeding?
 
shauna carr
Posts: 84
Location: Sonoran Desert, USA
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Oh, I hadn't thought of the compost pile! Thanks! And I'm glad to hear that for perennials - that's the majority of what I'm planting at first.

For legume annuals, does the rhizobia STAY in the soil once legumes have grown there? Go dormant, hang around, stay attached to roots from dead annuals if they are left in the ground? Or I guess in other words, if annual legumes were grown successively in the same place, every year, would it slowly show an increase of these rhizobia over time, do you know?
 
R Scott
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Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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They seem to stick around, but I have no scientific proof other than a small sample observation.
 
shauna carr
Posts: 84
Location: Sonoran Desert, USA
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I think I know what you mean, R Scott. I've noticed a couple places in my yard where I've been growing native wildflowers that are also legumes and it SEEMS like they grow better in the following years. But my observation has only been limited, so I was never sure if it MIGHT be that or something else. Thanks.

EDIT: oh, and i found this just when I was looking for more! Looks like some of this does go back to the soil, as long as we're leaving the dead plants where they are, which I usually am anyway.
http://aces.nmsu.edu/pubs/_a/A129/
 
Jennifer Wadsworth
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Location: Phoenix, AZ (9b)
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I've noticed that our native legumes don't seem to need inoculation (probably because the rhizobia are already present) but other legumes do. Many inoculants are specific to a certain family of legume but you can buy a "full spectrum" mix as well if you don't know yet what you might be seeding. I've used both and both seem to be equally beneficial.
 
R Scott
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Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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cool.

Hey Jennifer, do you have a link for a "full spectrum" inoculate? That sounds like something I should have on hand..
 
Jennifer Wadsworth
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Ah HA - The old memory is working today! I purchased what I call the "full spectrum" inoculant from Bountiful Gardens (associated with John Jeavons of Biointensive Gardening fame): http://www.bountifulgardens.org/Fungal-and-Bacterial-Inoculants/products/9/ I think the one I purchased was the "garden combo". Looks like they've added some fun new products to their lineup. Now I lust for soluble mycorrhize...
 
R Scott
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Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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THANK YOU!! bookmarked.

I need a bulk order of that soluble mycorrhizae!

I think that would be the perfect addition to a compost tea application to regenerate land. I will be giving it a try this summer as I start intensive grazing and reseeding of my pasture.
 
Jennifer Wadsworth
Posts: 2679
Location: Phoenix, AZ (9b)
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R Scott wrote:I need a bulk order of that soluble mycorrhizae!

I think that would be the perfect addition to a compost tea application to regenerate land. I will be giving it a try this summer as I start intensive grazing and reseeding of my pasture.


I was thinking the EXACT same thing. I just got done making a batch of compost tea yesterday for my PDC class. Just finished spreading it around the urban homestead this morning.

Please post pictures of your operation when you get it up and running. You should definitely write something for Permaculture News.
 
shauna carr
Posts: 84
Location: Sonoran Desert, USA
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Thank you, Jennifer!
 
Bippy Grace
Posts: 13
Location: Elgin, Texas 581 ft elevation/ zone 8b/ 34 inches avg. rainfall (hah)/ Mediterranean climate
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I use it. My two cents: it's not expensive, it can't hurt, and if you lack it even in the small area around the seed, it's going to help. Having native legume inoculations in the soil is awesome, but you can't guarantee it's going to be there. It seems like cheap insurance to me, especially since most of the reason for me to plant legumes is to fix nitrogen in my severely depleted soil, and to eat yummy peas and beans. Not having the seeds or soil inoculated could handicap me on both of those counts, so for me, it's a no brainier.

If my patch was a little more established, my soil less OMG horrible, or legumes had been grown in my ground before? I might not be so 100% on it. Right now? Oh yeah, I put it in EVERYTHING.
 
shauna carr
Posts: 84
Location: Sonoran Desert, USA
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A question I wasn't sure if anyone happens to know the answer to: if you take a legume that has none of its particular family of rhizobia present, and put it in the soil without innoculant, is there any way for it to EVER get that bacteria? Is that bacteria ever, say, present in minuscule amounts in the bean itself, for example? Know of any DIY type of legume innoculation?


Because it looks like there will be no purchased innoculant added for my yard, unfortunately. I have bad reactions to so many things that for every product I wish to use, I have to call up the companies and find out what ingredients are present ASIDE from the substance I want. Like, other than strains of rhizobia, what other substances might be present to add bulk, to make the product flow on production machines, to preserve it, and so on. Because if things on my 'bad' list are present, it can make me react when I use it, or when I touch the soil in the same area, or even sometimes when I try to eat foods grown in that area later.

And so far, all the companies I'm finding with inoculant look like they HAVE other substances added, but that they can't disclose what they are because it's proprietary (including that awesome stuff you had, Jennifer). So...guess I'm looking at mostly native legumes, at this point, unless I can find a way to add other rhizobia to the soil that I don't purchase. :-/

Anyone has any ideas, I'd love to hear 'em, honestly.
 
Landon Sunrich
pollinator
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Location: Western Washington
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Shauna, I just started a thread here before reading your. I don't know if it will work but it is an Idea and I am trying it. Many times commercial seeds will come per-inoculated as is the case with some peas I have hanging around

http://www.permies.com/t/35535/plants/Crazy-Bean-Scheme
 
Michael Vormwald
Posts: 154
Location: Central New York - Finger Lakes - Zone 5
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It seems to me that using inoculate is good insurance to get things going well. Moisten the seed and place in a plastic bag with some inoculate and shake to coat the seed, then plant as usual.
 
shauna carr
Posts: 84
Location: Sonoran Desert, USA
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Thanks, Landon - I will go check that out!
 
Ann Torrence
steward
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Any thoughts on storage life of the inoculant I might have left over? Keep in the frig? Buy fresh each year?
 
Jennifer Wadsworth
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Location: Phoenix, AZ (9b)
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The bag didn't have info on it, eh? I think it doesn't last forever, even in the fridge. I'd call whomever you got it from.
 
John Elliott
pollinator
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Ann Torrence wrote:Any thoughts on storage life of the inoculant I might have left over? Keep in the frig? Buy fresh each year?


What do you mean "left over"? Why would you want to incarcerate these living beings in your frig?

I'd like to remind everyone on this thread of one of the goals of permaculture: no external inputs. If you have a healthy biome in your backyard, the bugs that you add should stick around and reproduce. It's only if you have a field that you plow and solarize and then spray with herbicide/pesticide/fungicide/chemical fertilizer that is going to require you to "buy fresh each year". Achieving permaculture success means that over time you order less and less legume inoculant, mycorrhizal fungi, etc.

It's a lot easier to tell if fungi are present in your soil; they will sprout mushrooms after a heavy rain. With bacteria, there is no tell-tale sign to look for. You could look where clover reappears in the same place year after year and seems very healthy. I infer from the health of the clover in my back yard that they are properly inoculated. On the other hand, the clover in the front yard has yet to look like that. That tells me that something* is not right in front and that I may need to bring some of whatever is doing well in back and help it to colonize the front.

*could it be that more biochar in the back yard is the cause of this? I think you might have put me on to something. Hmmmm.
 
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