Comparison of Farm-produced and Commercial Microorganism Inoculants: Cost, Nutrients, and Biological Constituents

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2022: $11,852.00
Projected End Date: 11/30/2022
Grant Recipient: Unadilla Community Farm Education Center, Inc.
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
Matt Bedeaux
Unadilla Community Farm Education Center, Inc.
Ben Tyler
Unadilla Community Farm Education Center Inc.

Information Products


Not commodity specific


  • Crop Production: biological inoculants, fertilizers, foliar feeding, nutrient cycling, nutrient management, organic fertilizers
  • Education and Training: demonstration, farmer to farmer, mentoring, networking, on-farm/ranch research
  • Farm Business Management: apprentice/intern training
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, soil stabilization
  • Pest Management: biological control, integrated pest management, prevention
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture, permaculture
  • Soil Management: composting, earthworms, nutrient mineralization, organic matter, soil analysis, soil chemistry, soil microbiology, soil physics, soil quality/health

    Proposal summary:

    The use of microbial inoculants has been proposed to reduce the need for chemical fertilizers. Yet despite the growing number of so-called “bio-fertilizer” products available to the farmer, a method of producing inoculants on-farm represents a potentially cheaper and more effective alternative. This project seeks to use local materials and Korean Natural Farming (KNF) methods to produce indigenous microbial (IMO) inoculants whose chemical and biological constituents will be compared to compost and commercial microbial inoculants. Recommendations for the adaptation of KNF techniques to northeastern US climate and resources will be provided, and costs of each method of microbial inoculation will be compared. Results and implications will be shared in two article publications (>1000 readers), directly to Unadilla Community Farm Education Center Inc. interns (~40 young farmers), on a locally based podcast (700 listeners), and at a webinar attended by National Young Farmers Coalition members (500 invitations).

    Project objectives from proposal:

    This project seeks to:

    1. Quantify chemical and biological properties of IMO produced using Dr. Cho’s published methodology and compare them to those of a commercial microbial inoculant and farm-produced compost. Knowledge of such properties will allow the author to comment on the agricultural benefits of each method.
    2. Track labor and monetary costs of these 3 methods and provide a cost/benefit analysis of each inoculant option. This will allow farmers to make more informed decisions on available inoculation options.
    3. Study effects of bran type (locally available wheat bran versus non-local rice bran) on chemical and biological constituents of IMO. Provide recommendations for an IMO methodology adapted to northeastern US climate and available resources.
    4. Apply IMO, compost, and commercial inoculants to crops and make anecdotal observations to inform future research.
    5. Share results and meaningful recommendations in multiple agricultural audiences via written articles, a webinar, and a podcast.
    6. Teach research methods and KNF theory and practice to community members and interns at Unadilla Community Farm Education Center Inc.
    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.