Researchers at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IIITA), Ibadan, have advised legume farmers, especially soya beans, to use inoculants to boost nitrogen fixation by the crop and save money spent on nitrogen containing fertilisers.

Giving the advice recently in Abuja at a meeting of the N2Africa Project being implemented by IITA, the researchers said inoculants are natural products prepared from bacteria that sits in the root nodules of leguminous crops and fix nitrogen instead of adding it in form of fertilizer.

According to one of the researchers, Dr. Nkeki Kamai, Coordinator, N2Africa Project Nigeria, inoculant is a new technology of fixing nitrogen naturally in the soil by leguminous crops.

“So instead of farmers to go for fertilizers which are very expensive, you use the inoculants which are natural, affordable, effective, efficient and environmentally friendly,” he said.

Dr. Kamai said the nitrogen fixed in the soil by leguminous crops would still be beneficial to crops like maize, among others.

He explained further: “If you uproot leguminous crops, there are some areas in the roots that fix nitrogen naturally in the soil. So, inoculants are prepared legume rhizobium strains that sit in the root nodules of leguminous crops and fix nitrogen instead of adding it in form of fertilizer.”

The expert said an inoculant called NoduMax is produced in large quantity in Nigeria and is being used by soya beans farmers who are already benefitting from yield increase of about 3-5ha compared to 1– 2ha obtained in the past.

He said the new technology which has been on in other countries, is just being used in Nigeria especially for soya beans, noting that it is very important and research is ongoing to develop inoculant for groundnut and cowpea as well.

Dr. Kamai said presently, NoduMax costs about N1,000 per sachet which could treat about 2.5ha, adding that a partial budgeting they did confirmed that farmers were really benefitting.

Dr. Alpha Y. Kamara, a Systems Agronomist with IITA, who agreed with the submission of Dr. Kamai said for farmers to benefit maximally from the new technology, they have to embrace best agronomic practices.

“Since the inoculant fixes only nitrogen naturally, you have to apply SSP fertiliser because legumes need phosphorus as well. You don’t rush to plant after the first rain; you must wait for the rains to be steady. Like soyabeans, you plant mid-June or late June. Every activity must be timely,” the researcher advised.

Meanwhile, Edward Baars, Senior Business Development Officer, N2Africa Project, said they are building partnerships and developing information systems to ensure sustainability of the project