26 Mar Bang For Your Buck: Nitrogen Fixation vs. Fertilizer
Nitrogen is the nutrient most heavily used by legumes. It is important that the plants have a readily available supply if they are to reach their yield potential. Soils on their own will rarely have the nitrogen levels needed to meet crop demands, leaving growers with two options to ensure an adequate supply: fertilizer application or seed inoculation.
Fertilizer application allows growers to supply the soil with the nitrogen levels needed for a productive crop. However, application methods can result in nitrogen lost to the environment through leaching or denitrification. This can reduce fertilizer use efficiency to 20-50%. Plants also spend energy to take in the nutrient through the roots, as well as to convert it to the proper form needed for growth and development. The presence of nitrogen fertilizer can also slow any fixation that may already be occurring.
Seed inoculation provides the crop with the nitrogen-fixing bacteria needed for root nodule formation. Since nodules are a part of the plant, nitrogen is self-contained within the plant and less vulnerable to environmental loss. The bacteria fix the nitrogen in the form needed by the plant, so it is immediately ready to use. Fixation also increases or decreases as the needs of the plant change over time. Seed inoculation can potentially have inconsistent results, as different environmental stresses may impact performance, though new technologies such as XiteBio’s AGPT® (Advanced Growth Promoting Technology) help to overcome those stresses and provide more consistent nodulation.
The use of a premium seed inoculant to ensure a well-nodulated crop can provide benefits and efficiency that chemical fertilizers are hard-pressed to match. These are just some factors for growers to consider when making decisions on inputs for the upcoming year.
Image source: XiteBio Technologies Inc.