Renewable Farming

In ag biologicals, sometimes small-company products offer the biggest profits

A 25-bu. soybean yield gain resulting from any kind of product catches your attention. When the product is an inoculant, that’s hard to believe. But in this case, the University of Guelph shows this result from the average of 18 replications of the inoculant, compared with 6 replications of untreated control plots. The numbers: 62.6 bu. for the treated average, 37.2 for the control average.

November 12, 2018   By Jerry Carlson — We’ve been helping a Canadian friend, Dave Sutherland of the Lignition Corp., Brantford, Ontario, field-test a soybean inoculant imported from a British firm. Our farmer-run tests have shown positive yield response. Even in soils which have raised soybeans many years, beans respond when you apply a fresh nitrogen-fixing species on the seed.

It’s hard to coax farmers under time pressure to conduct random-rep, scientific trials, so we’ve remained low-key about reporting our results.

Now, the University of Guelph tests offer a strong signal that Legume Technology of Nottinghamshire, UK, has a microbiologist research staff with exceptional understanding of nitrogen-fixing rhizobacter microbes.

We’ve noted that smaller firms with a passionate, long-seasoned staff of microbiologists can often field “biologicals” which the multinational corporations can’t muster simply by spending more research dollars.


The chart at right sums up the University of Guelph trial data. The top yield average from six reps was 66.6 bu. of soybeans, coming from LIQUIFiX at planting. That application date — at planting — topped the control yield by 29.4 bushels.

In these tests, the Legume Technology product, LIQUIFiX, applied at planting time, averaged three bushels higher than the 59.5-bu.yield from beans inoculated at planting time with Cell-Tech, sold by Monsanto BioAg before Bayer’s purchase of Monsanto Corporation. (Note: Many of the web links to Cell-Tech are no longer online.)

The three application timings were intended to evaluate the optimum treatment point. The old-fashioned mode of treating right before planting looked best. 

Update November 23, 2018:  In response to some questions, Dr. David Hume points out a highly relevant background fact: The inoculant was tested on soil which had never raised soybeans.  Here’s his message:

Hi Jerry, 

Thanks for your phone message and e-mail.
There a couple of things that I think should be mentioned in the article. One is to emphasize that the U of Guelph trial was conducted on virgin soybean soil (had never grown soybeans previously). Soils like that here in Ontario have almost zero soybean rhizobia (note nodule numbers in the uninoculated control treatment at R1 (first flower)).
The second thing would be to see if Dave Sutherland has data with LegumeFix on soybean fields that have grown lots of soybeans over the years and what kind of responses in yield were obtained.  Typically we get 1.5 to 2 bu/acre improvement with older inoculants.
A third thing would be to emphasize that the Legume Technology inoculants worked well in the virgin soil even though they had been applied 30 and 50 days before planting. Our data said that Optimize applied commercially 120 days before planting gave no significant yield improvement over the untreated control treatment.
This trial was conducted using Pioneer P06T28R soybeans which are Roundup Ready R2’s. We have run a lot of trials using non-GMO and RR soybeans. We don’t see differences in ability to nodulate.

Here in Iowa I’ve been an inoculating enthusiast for many years. One of my first experiences with inoculating soybeans was as a high school student in 1952. I worked as a farmhand during summers for an older cousin, Maurice Hoxie. My inoculating job:

1. Load two bags of soybean seed into a 55-gallon mixing drum mounted horizontally like a rotisserie on a stand. The drum had a closable hatch on the side, and a crank. 

2. Mix a small measure of dry black inoculum powder into a quart of water, pour it into the loaded drum. The powder came in a round, yellow-and-black one-pound can. “Nitro….” something. I wish I could recall the name.

3. Turn the crank, rotating the drum until the seed was uniformly coated with tiny black flecks of inoculant.

4. Load the four-row Allis-Chalmers soybean planter.

Maurice’s farmer neighbors considered him just a little far out, putting “bugs on beans.” But in those bottomland gumbo soils along the Nishnabotna River in southwest Iowa, the Hoxie soybeans consistently outyielded the neighbors’ beans. Good bean yields also helped Maurice to become the first farmer in Page County, Iowa to buy a self-propelled combine.

Inoculants haven’t gained a lot of new attention in recent years. Farmers apparently accept that the seed company’s “treated seed” offers what they need.

Certainly, the LIQUIFiX product is worth conducting your own field tests in 2019. It’s one of the easier trials to run: If you have, say, a 16-row planter with seed boxes, treat seed in half the boxes so you have 16 rows of inoculated seed alternating with 16 rows of untreated seed. Harvest following the rows instead of diagonally, and watch your monitor’s yield map.

Renewable Farming LLC has access to LIQUIFiX for you. We’ve marketed other Lignition Corp. products, biostimulants LigniSeed and LigniLeaf, for several years.

Here’s the complete table of data from the University of Guelph field trial. This is consistent with the type of data which Dave Sutherland has been compiling on his product lineup for the past decade. Dave Sutherland, who has more than two decades of ag chemical, seed and pesticide marketing to major Canadian co-ops, has retired from that role to focus on Lignition Corp., the firm owned by Dave and his wife Lena. Here’s the point he made in reference to LIQUIFiX:

“The little companies with dedication and years of deep knowledge can outperform the major firms consistently on seed inoculants. It’s all about purity and cleanliness, plus years of accumulated experience with living biologicals. The huge multinationals can’t just throw money at it and match this kind of personal passion — they’re just about volume and finding some way to sell more pesticides and traited seed.”