Having a little back and forth with my friend, Ed Winkle, on inoculant. He sees great gains in yield putting inoculant on the seed. Unfortunately some farmers get discouraged when they do a trial and only see a one bushel advantage using inoculant.
On our farm, we look at things a little different than most. Let’s say for example that on average you gain 1 bushel using inoculants year in and year out. It’s still a great deal when you look at the return on investment.
1 bushel X $11.00 = $11/Acre gained
$11 gain – $2.75 cost (varies by product, custom treating, etc.) = $8.25 Net Gain
$8.25 net gain divided by $2.75 cost X 100 = 300% Net Return on Investment
Treated seed May 1 and harvested October 1 = 5 months from time of investment to time of harvest
300% ROI divided by 5 months X 12 = 720% Net APR ROI
The only problem I see is that you can only use so much inoculant each year. I wish I could put every dollar I had into inoculants because the return on investment as a farmer is so fantastic!
My feeling is that most fields have a number of things that are out of whack. My Blank Slate field would be a good example: low organic matter, soil erosion problems, drainage problems in the lows, high soil pH, low fertility, etc. Adding one correct practice may not show results in and of itself. Once you figure out the worst thing in the field that’s really killing your yields and you eliminate that, then everything else starts working better.
Problem is the Good Lord wants to keep us working hard so he reveals things slowly so we don’t get big egos and think we know it all. Either that or I’m just a hard headed Norwegian that doesn’t listen too well. Probably a little of both.
The bottom line is to look at your fields individually and treat the problems specific to each field. When I travelled to Ukraine in 2006, this was one of the concepts they had a hard time understanding. They wanted to treat every acre exactly the same way, and they expected each acre to produce the same. It doesn’t work that way and never will. There are too many variables.
Find the biggest problem in each field and deal with that first even if it’s costly like adding drainage tile, soil amendments, etc. Once you have that BIG problem out of the way, everything else will start working better and you can pick off one little issue after another until your yields soar.
As for rhizobia inoculants for soybeans, Ed’s right. Use them every time. They will give you a great return on investment.