For years, I would try to grow Lima beans to no avail. They would never germinate or if they did, they looked weak. I felt like a Lima bean failure. On the other hand, I could grow other beans with only minor problems. But not anymore thanks to bean inoculant. Now I am swimming in beans! Learn how you too can increase your bean yields.
When Bean Inocolant Comes Knocking at Your Door
For some odd reason, I was in a gardening store and some package called inolocant started to call me.
At first it was a whisper. “Hey lady, over here.”
Of course, I ignored it. Who wouldn’t.
Then it got louder.
“Hey lady, I can solve your Lima bean issues.”
Who wouldn’t listen to that line?
“Can you solve my eggplant issues too?” I replied.
The package replied, “I am not a miracle worker. But I can make you jump for joy with an amazing bean harvest. Come over and take a peek.”
Who wouldn’t want a miracle worker for beans?
So I strolled ran ran over to the package and gave it a stern look and said “tell me more.”
Right there on the package, it said “Microbial Inoculants” for beans. Was this the answer?
What are Inoculants?
Get ready for some science.
Beans, peas and legumes convert atmospheric nitrogen into ammonia nitrogen. However, it may not always be accessible to plants. They need rhizobia (Rhizobium and Bradyrhizobium) bacteria to convert the atmospheric nitrogen gas to ammonia nitrogen.
Commercial inoculants introduce rhizobia to the legumes to promote nitrogen fixation. However, growing beans in a field that was previously planted with a bean or other legume crop may not have the appropriate amount of nitrogen fixation for proper growth.
So think Popeye and spinach when thinking of inoculants and beans.
As I mentioned above, I failed on several occasions to grow Lima beans until I used an inoculant. As for my other beans, I grew them without the inoculant but had to reseed patches of them when they didn’t germinate.
The Benefits of Inoculants:
As I mentioned above, I found growing certain beans to be very hard. When I used inoculants with my Lima beans, I received a bumper crop of beans. I noticed that my black beans just kept on producing unlike prior years when I did not use any nitrogen fertilizer for my bean crops.
I am not the only one who saw better yields. Michigan State saw an increase in soybean yield when inoculants were used on virgin soil.
But that’s not all. According to the University of Hawaii, inoculants increase protein in the beans even if the yield is not increased.
“The answer stems from the fact that legume plants produce as many seeds as they can. When available nitrogen is low, the plant reduces the protein content of each seed in order to produce the same number of seeds with a limited amount of nitrogen. By increasing the available nitrogen, inoculation allows the plant to produce seeds with a high protein content.”
There isn’t a one size fits all inoculant. See HERE for a chart as to which inoculate is right for which bean, alfalfa or clover.
When to Use Inoculants
Soybean yields are studied at various universities. The Purdue Extension noted that inoculation as it pertains to soybeans is usually unnecessary when well nodulated soybean crop has grown in the field in the past three to five years. Note the words, “well nodulated.” Sounds like a perfect plant utopia which may not be realistic for all of us.
In that vein, Michigan State University concluded it is better to err on the side of using an inoculant even when soybeans were grown in the same field within a three year period.
“The risk of poor nodule development is too great given the relatively low expense using an inoculant.”
I rotate my crops every three years so I would probably always need inoculates for my beans.
How to Use Inoculants
You can either wet your beans and pour some inoculant on the beans to make a slurry or plant the beans and add some to the soil. I have tried both and find the wetting method to be superior.
Last year I bought a bag of inoculant and barely used it. The bag is for 8 pounds of beans! Unfortunately, the contents of the bag expires in a year so you can’t save it. So, share with a friend!
Watch my video below as I show you how to use the inoculants. You can never use too much.
Ideally, you want to plant your beans within two hours of inoculation since the rhizobia begin to die. After you open the package, be sure to store in a cool place like the refrigerator. (Store product between 40 and 77 F.)
Which Bean Inoculant Do I Purchase?
Intx Microbial LLC, the manufacturer of the product states,
“GUARD-N contains a minimum of 2 x 108 cfu per gram of the following strains of rhizobia: Bradyrhizobium japonicum, Bradyrhizobium sp. (Vigna), Rhizobium leguminorsarum biovar viceae and Rhizobium leguminosarum biovar phaseoli.”
This product covers all the beans I grow. Note, this is not the right inoculant for chickpeas, red clover, or alfalfa. They do sell inoculants for those plants.
Join the Conversation:
- Have you struggled with growing beans?
- Have you used inoculants?
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