Inoculants wanted for lesser-grown legumes

The Alberta Forage Industry Network says developing inoculants for sainfoin and cicer milkvetch would help save on costs

LEDUC, Alta. — One of Alberta’s main forage groups will continue to push for the creation of inoculants for lesser-grown legumes, arguing it will help farmers reduce costs.

Alberta Forage Industry Network chair Christine Fulkerth said farmers would need to buy less fertilizer if inoculants, which fix nitrates, became available for legumes such as sainfoin or cicer milkvetch.

“If you don’t have to buy fertilizer, you’re getting the plants to do the work. It saves on costs,” Fulkerth said in an interview following the organization’s annual meeting in Leduc March 5.

“Sometimes fertilizer can negate the fixing ability of bacteria. You’re also making the plant healthier and work for you rather than fight against it.”

She said inoculants on the market are largely for major crops, such as alfalfa, peas and soybeans, but there could be an opportunity to create one for other forages.

The organization has been lobbying federal and provincial governments about the issue and consulting companies to see if there is a business model, she added.

“To get someone to make the inoculant, it has to be viable,” she said.

“At the end of the day, it has to be economically beneficial for a company to do this.”

The forage group will also continue to encourage more farmers to grow forages, Fulkerth added, noting the plants are good for rotations.

“It’s always a challenge when canola prices are high,” she said.

“Some might say, ‘why wouldn’t you grow canola?’ But a lot of these lands were developed under grass.”

The group is also expected to review its position on issues related to genetically modified alfalfa and climate change.

The organization requires itself to review its stance on topics every three years but has previously said climate change is a big challenge facing the world and forages can play a role in mitigating carbon emissions.

On GM alfalfa, the group has said it supports the technology but doesn’t want GM genetics introduced into Western Canada because it could potentially harm exports. Many nations that import forages have strict GM regulations, it added.

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