Date of this Version
Canadian Journal of Microbiology 54 (October 2008), pp. 876–886.
A 3-year field study was conducted with field corn from 2005 to 2007 to test the hypothesis that microbial inoculants that increase plant growth and yield can enhance nutrient uptake, and thereby remove more nutrients—especially N, P, and K—from the field as part of an integrated nutrient management system. The field trial evaluated microbial inoculants, which include a commercially available plant growth-promoting rhizobacteria (PGPR), arbuscular mycorrhiza fungi (AMF), and their combination across 2 tillage systems (no-till and conventional till) and 2 fertilization regimes (poultry litter and ammonium nitrate). Data were collected on plant height, yield (dry mass of ears and silage), and nutrient content of corn grain and silage. In addition, nutrient content of soil was determined, and bioavailability of soil nutrient was measured with plant root simulator probes. Results showed that inoculants promoted plant growth and yield. For example, grain yields (kg·ha–1) in 2007 for inoculants were 7717 for AMF, 7260 for PGPR+AMF, 7313 for PGPR, 5725 for the control group, and for fertilizer were 7470 for poultry litter and 6537 for NH4NO3. Nitrogen content per gram of grain tissues was significantly enhanced in 2006 by inoculant, fertilizer, and their interactions. Significantly higher amounts of N, P, and K were removed from the plots with inoculants, based on total nutrient content of grain per plot. These results supported the overall hypothesis and indicate that application of inoculants can lead to reduction in the buildup of N, P, and K in agricultural soils. Further studies should be conducted to combine microbial inoculants with reduced rates of fertilizer.