Just a quick post to mention the first results of my Soybean Inoculant experiments. The experiments were to see if:
Commercial soybean inoculant was able to be used for a second season despite the use by date on the packet.
I could produce my own diy inoculant using soil from pots in which soybeans had been grown.
The reason that I need to use Soybeam Inoculant is that the native rhizobia are not present in UK soils. My reason for growing soybeans was to see if they reduced the incidence of scab in a following potato crop. I bought some inoculant from the USA, but didn’t want to keep buying it for four years until all of my beds had some soybean rhizobia present. The packet was supposed to be only good for a single season.
I planted up four Rootrainers with pre germinated soybeans, collected from plants grown last year. Three were planted up using soil from pots that had grown soybeans last year. The fourth had commercial inoculant sprinkled over the seeds when sown.
The Results So Far
Today I planted out the rootrainer that had the commercial soybean inoculant added. All of the plants had rhizobia present in root nodules, as can be seen from the pictures below.
Soybean roots colonised by rhizobia
The first picture shows the rhizobia in nodules on the roots of a soybean plant.
Soybean rhizobia colonising roots
The second picture is of the same roots but as a close up. There were not a lot of root nodules, but it has only just warmed up, so microbial activity would have been low until recently. As the weather warms up, root colonisation should increase.
DIY Soybean Inoculant
It will be at least a week before the first of the roottrainers with the DIY soybean inoculant is planted out in my new polytunnel. I will wait until then to see if my attempts to create my own inoculant have been successful.
In my Sustainable Grains design I referred to the fact that I was waiting for books to arrive to allow me to continue my research into Small Scale Grain Growing. I am gradually working my way through an abundance of information, but there is plenty to be encouraged about. This includes observations of the continuous production of wheat in the same fields, with interplanted legumes, and measurements of grain yields with legume interplants as part of a formal experiment. Both of these were recorded by Sir Albert Howard in India.
I’m using a wet day to take the time to commit to writing my thoughts on soil fertility and soil building.
I’ve not made a secret of my belief that the ‘digging is bad for the soil’ argument is too simplistic. I liken it to the way that you warn a child about fire by repeatedly saying ‘HOT’. Eventually your child will need to know how to make and use fire for themselves. In gardening terms the argument that digging is harmful is fine as a general warning, and for people who are happy not to delve deeper into soil and its’ workings, but once you have a decent knowledge of the subject it is possible to be more specific.
It’s funny how ideas, or inspiration, comes into us. This one relates to my Chicken Scavenging System. I have been using a shredded Miscanthus product for chicken bedding. It is about the same price as a bale of chopped straw, but is grown without chemicals, is a perennial, and most importantly works well. My long term aim is to house a single flock of chickens, and possibly another of ducks, on a deep litter system, with the raw materials coming from on site. Probably a combination of Common Reed harvested from gray/brown water systems and Swale, along with tree and shrub prunings, straw from my grain growing, and bamboo. In the medium term, I have two deep litter systems, along with two conventional poultry houses, and another house due to be used soon.
After a year of growing grains, it became clear that I needed to create a more formal research strategy for my Small Scale Grain growing Experiments. I have carried out quite a bit of research, and have devised a plan that should enable me to do this more effectively.