Inoculant companies are meeting the demand by expanding their research on bacterial strains. “New strains are being tested against the current standards, and that’s good,” Maloney says. 

“I see great development in the area of mixed strains of rhizobia,” he adds. “I’m seeing seed inoculants with two or more strains of bacteria, maybe a biological fungicide and other biologicals added to enhance the growth of root nodules and root hairs/root mass to improve nutrient uptake.”

Soil environments change year to year and within a year. Some strains of bacteria survive in lower pH levels, whereas others prefer higher soil pH levels. Some strains can perform in soils with higher levels of residual nitrogen. “Soybean inoculants undergo extensive testing to measure their compatibility with seed-applied fungicides, insecticides, nematicides,” Maloney says. “Current inoculants are bred to be aggressive, not lazy, nodulators.”