Growers could save 50-100kg/ha of nitrogen by applying friendly bugs to wheat crops, according to research carried out by Masstock as part of a European programme.
The firm had been testing various soil bacteria for their ability to either increase yields or replace nitrogen as part of the Rhizobacteria for reduced fertiliser inputs in wheat (RHIBAC) since 2002, Masstock's Colin Lloyd said at a press briefing.
Initially statistical yield responses had proved elusive, he admitted. But for the 2008/9 season two new strains of bacteria were trialled that had plant growth-promoting properties as well as being able to fix nitrogen or release phosphorus.
In total four bacteria strains were each incorporated in a compost with the seed of four varieties and drilled in mid-November. Two doses of 75kg/ha of nitrogen were applied in the spring, and the bacteria-treated plots were compared against plots that had received the same nitrogen strategy. In addition, other plots were treated with nitrogen doses ranging from 0-250kg/ha were included in the trial.