Farm-Grown Microbial Soil Inoculants: Effects on Bread Wheat Yield and Quality

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2011: $9,767.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2013
Grant Recipient: University of Maine
Region: Northeast
State: Maine
Graduate Student:
Faculty Advisor:
Dr. Eric Gallandt
University of Maine

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: wheat


  • Crop Production: biological inoculants, organic fertilizers
  • Education and Training: extension, workshop
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems, holistic management, organic agriculture
  • Soil Management: organic matter, soil analysis, soil microbiology
  • Sustainable Communities: employment opportunities, social capital, sustainability measures

    Proposal abstract:

    The aim of this project is to evaluate the efficacy of two farm-produced microbial inoculants and one commercially-available inoculant on organic bread wheat yield and quality. Fostering a diverse and balanced community of plant growth promoting microorganisms (PGPM) is recognized as a key aspect of soil quality and sustainable crop production (Higa and Parr 1994; Barassi et al 2007). While there are many commercial inoculants available, research-based information on their effectiveness is inadequate. We were asked by a prominent Maine organic farmer to test a purchased inoculant that he uses in wheat (MycoApply®). Alternatively, microbial inoculants can be produced by farmers themselves. We will evaluate two emerging on-farm inoculant production methods: one developed by USDA-ARS researchers for arbuscular mycorrhizal fungae (AMF) that has shown positive results in vegetables and fruit; and one based on centuries old Korean practices of culturing indigenous micro-organisms from soil (IMO). AMF, IMO, MycoApply®, and relevant control treatments will be compared in greenhouse and field trials for their effects on bread wheat growth, nutrient uptake, yield, and grain quality. Partial budgets for each approach will account for inoculant costs and changes in returns. Outreach will include an Extension factsheet, presentations at field days, and a hands-on workshop for producing microbial inoculants on farm. This project will help farmers evaluate whether to use microbial inoculants and whether inoculants can be produced effectively on their farms. It addresses the sustainable agriculture goals of fostering healthy soil and productive crops while reducing off-farm inputs and maximizing on-farm resources.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1) Evaluate the effects of 2 farm-produced and 1 commercially available microbial soil inoculants on bread wheat growth, nutrient uptake, yield, and grain quality.

    2) Evaluate the costs and returns associated with producing and using the different inoculants.

    3) Provide results and recommendations to farmers through grower publications, presentations at field days and conferences, and a hands-on workshop.

    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.