On-Farm Testing of Johnson-Su Compost Extract as a Biological Inoculant in Wheat and Soybeans

Project Overview

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2023: $49,846.00
Projected End Date: 03/31/2025
Grant Recipient: MN Wheat Research and Promotion Council
Region: North Central
State: Minnesota
Project Coordinator:
Melissa Carlson
MN Wheat Research and Promotion Council

Information Products

2023 On-farm Research Report (Conference/Presentation Material)


  • Agronomic: soybeans, wheat


  • Crop Production: biological inoculants, nutrient management
  • Education and Training: demonstration, on-farm/ranch research
  • Soil Management: composting, soil microbiology

    Proposal abstract:

    High yielding wheat and soybean crops require high amounts of applied N and P fertilizer. We will determine if fertilizer rates can be reduced by using furrow-applied Johonson-Su bioreactor compost extract. We hypothesize that this extract will inoculate the soil with beneficial microorganisms to work symbiotically with crop roots to supply additional soil nutrients that are inaccessible by the crop. This could immediately benefit farmers by reducing their fertilizer needs and improving the health and biological activity of their soil. Reducing fertilizer use while maintaining farm profitability is a huge hurdle that must be overcome as industrial agriculture moves towards more environmentally sustainable methods of production. We will test the compost extract at scale with our cooperating farmers to determine if this homemade biological inoculant is economically profitable and can reduce fertilizer needs. We will also conduct small plot trials to assess the effect of compost extract inoculation with varying levels of fertilizer to determine the optimum amount of fertilizer needed with and without compost extract. We will share these results in various grower meetings and printed and electronic publications hosted by both the MN Wheat Council and the UMN to reach producers in MN, ND, SD, and eastern MT.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    At the conclusion of this research, we aim to:

    1. Demonstrate methods to economically create and use a Johnson-Su Bioreactor on a commercial crop farm to wheat and soybean
    2. Determine if N and P fertilizer can be reduced by using compost extract applied in-furrow at planting 
    3. Evaluate fungal and bacterial species diversity and quantity in compost extract 
    4. Educate regenerative and conventional farmers about the principles and methods behind the compost extract application to wheat and soybean and how to replicate the process on their own farm
    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.