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Soybean Production



A soybean crop can obtain up to 50 to 75% of its nitrogen requirements from the air when functioning nodules are present.




Seed Inoculation

Nitrogen fixation is critical for high soybean yields. For nitrogen fixation to occur, the nitrogen-fixing bacteria known as Bradyrhizobia japonicum must be established in the soil through seed inoculation. Soybean can obtain up to 50 to 75% of its nitrogen requirements from the air when nitrogen-fixing bacteria have established functioning nodules on the roots.

The soybean-bacteria symbiosis is mutually beneficial

The soybean plant gets nitrogen from the bacteria, while providing the bacteria with carbohydrates. When soybean seed germinates, the bacteria invade the root hairs of the seedling and begin to multiply. Nodules, which house the bacteria, form on the roots. Under field conditions, the first nodules form within a week after seedling emergence and become visible as they increase in size. Active fixation begins in the V2 to V3 stage, after which the number of nodules and the amount of nitrogen fixed continue to increase. The soybean demand for nitrogen is highest from the R5 to R8 stages.

Do you need to inoculate your fields?

The decision on whether or not to inoculate depends on whether the field has a recent history of healthy-looking soybean. Most soils in Iowa have a good population of B. japonicum if soybean has been grown in recent years. However, if a field is new to soybean, or has been out of soybean for more than three to five years, it is good insurance to inoculate.

Current recommendations for Iowa are to inoculate the seed if:
1) the field has never been planted to soybean
2) soybean have not been grown in the field in the past three to five years
3) the soil pH is below 6.0
4) the soil has a high sand content
5) the field has been flooded for more than a week, creating anaerobic conditions

Inoculation products

Bradyrhizobia japonicum can be added as a liquid, a granular peat inoculant, or as a peat-based powder. The different forms can be seed-applied or used in-furrow. Inoculant is relatively inexpensive and several new products have entered the market, creating a renewed interest in seed inoculation even on fields that have a history of soybean production.

Evaluation of soybean inoculants in 2007

Currently, there is a lot of interest in soybean seed inoculation. Several new products have entered the market and created a renewed interest in seed inoculation even on fields that have a history of soybean production. As a result of this renewed interest, a soybean inoculant evaluation trial was initiated in 2004 in Iowa to evaluate these products. In 2007, eleven different inoculants were tested at two locations (Gilbert and Vincent) in Iowa. In both Gilbert and Vincent, none of the inoculants resulted in a significant yield increase over the non-inoculated plots (Table 1).  There was no treatment by location interaction.         

Table 1. Soybean yield influenced by inoculants at Gilbert, IA and Vincent, IA during 2007.

Averaged Across Locations
Company
Product
bu/acre
Non-inoculated control
64.6
ABM
Excalibre
59.7
Becker Underwood
NOD+
59.5
Becker Underwood
NOD+ with extender
64.9
Becker Underwood
Vault
60.0
EMD Crop BioScience
Cell-Tech SCI
59.5
EMD Crop BioScience
NI-65SC-4†
63.9
EMD Crop BioScience
NI-65SC-4/NI-50S-3†
62.4
EMD Crop BioScience
Optimize
61.0
Precision Labs
Launcher PRO
61.3
Precision Labs
ProSurge
63.1
Mean
 
61.6
LSD (0.10)
 
NS‡
CV (%)
 
11

†Experimental products
‡NS, not significant

Recommendations for 2008

The decision on whether or not to inoculate is still dependent on whether the field has a recent history of healthy-looking soybean. Iowa has a good population of B. japonicum in most soils, if soybean has been grown in recent years in the field. Most cultivated fields include a rotation with soybean, so the need to inoculate with more bacteria rarely exists. The practice of inoculating fields that have been out of soybean for more than three to five years may still be a good insurance practice due to the inexpensive nature of the inoculant. The last four year’s of data was inconclusive as to whether any of the new inoculants will consistently provide a higher yield in a corn-soybean rotation. More years of data are needed before we can draw any final conclusions. The evaluation of soybean seed inoculants will therefore continue in 2008.

 

Last Update: 12/20/07

Copyright 2003-. Palle Pedersen, Iowa State University Extension.
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