Pulse School: Understanding nodulation and how to scout for healthy nodules

Maximizing nitrogen uptake is a main priority for pulse growers and ensuring success starts with being knowledgeable about identifying proper nodulation.

Mike Palmier, with MaxAg Consulting, joins us for this episode of the Pulse School, where we discuss when to scout for nodulation, why it’s important, how to assess if nodules are healthy. What happens if nodulation isn’t great? Palmier discusses that, too,

Farmers need to scout for nodulation to assess and ensure their crop is getting enough nitrogen. With having healthy and sufficient nodules, nitrogen application is less likely, as rhizobia, applied with a proper inoculant, creates the small nodules on the root of the plant, which then converts N2, atmospheric nitrogen, to plant available nitrogen.

Scouting for nodulation should start to happen about two weeks after emergence right around the five node stage, however, Palmier says depending on environment conditions, some crops could experience a delay in nodule formation, which could push ideal scouting back three or four weeks after emergence. These conditions include if the area has experienced a relatively cold or wet spring or also, if there is residual nitrogen carryover from the previous crop.

Palmier says a good way to assess the health of the nodules is to look at the range of the nodules on the root.

“The first thing that I’d look at is the breadth of the nodulation, whether we see it on the crown root or if we see it on some of the secondary roots. Some of the factors that would influence that, would be history of pulses on that land. If you’ve had a large history of pulses there, you have native rhizobia built up in that soil, you should have more nodulation through the secondary roots,” says Palmier.

If it’s discovered the roots have poor nodulation, at that point Palmier says is when the call would be made to go apply nitrogen to the crop as it’s not creating enough on it’s own.

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