Pulse School: Storing inoculants safely


Inoculants are produced each year, and a fresh batch will start rolling off the production line just before spring arrives. An inoculant product is different from other crop inputs, and there are some do’s and don’ts when it comes to storing your pea, lentil, chickpea, or faba bean inoculant products.

In this episode of the Pulse School, Ashley Smith, brand manager for inoculants at BASF Canada, joins Kara Oosterhuis to talk about the best ways to handle and store pulse crop inoculants.

“We’ve really got to remember when we’re handling and storing inoculants, treat them as they are: they’re living, breathing organisms, very different from our synthetic chemistries,” says Smith.

Inoculants are a biological product and proper handling and storage of them is very different from synthetic chemistry products. Keeping them warm will help keep the organisms in the product alive — zero to 20 degrees is a great parameter to work with says Smith.

“When you have temperatures that either get way too hot, or way too low, you can affect the survivability of the actual organisms, the rhizobia and any other additional biologicals that are included in the products,” says Smith.

Temperature fluctuations can also cause increases or decreases in moisture within the bag, especially with granular inoculants, that can cause compaction and cut off the oxygen to the rhizobia. (Story continues below video)

If you’re getting your inoculants early, storing them in a heated location is a good idea. Storing them off of a pallet is also a good practice, as stacking the bags can cause that compaction issue, and lumps and clumps will form within the bag. Granular or peat-based inoculants can be picked up as they’re coming off the production line, whereas liquid inoculants are produced much closer to the start of the growing season.

“By using an inoculant, new each season, you’re ensuring that your crop has an available rhizobia population that is competent,” says Smith. “By competent, I mean it’s designed to fix nitrogen, create that symbiotic relationship with the plant, and that plant ensures that it has nitrogen through the growing period.”

As rhizobia strains become naturalized, say after a few seasons of growing pulse crops, they can become less effective at (or not effective at all) creating that symbiotic relationship with the plant.

Taking that concept one step further, there are different strains of the same species of rhizobia bacteria, and different bacteria form that symbiotic relationship with different species of pulse crops. Rhizobia leguminosarum bv viceae, strain 1435 is the specific strain for peas and lentils, for example. Chickpea and faba bean inoculants have two different strains within the product that are effective for those crops. Strains change year to year as more effective strains are found, so inoculating each year is a best management practice.

The next thing to consider is the best formulation for your operation, whether a granular, peat, or liquid inoculant is best to put through your set-up — if a granular needs to go in-furrow, or if you need a liquid or self-adhering peat product. Since seed treatments are a fungicide and are there to control other living organisms, you have to make sure they compatible with the inoculant, says Smith.

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