I should have done this rather than posting. I just looked it up online. Here's what I found...
"Are additives containing bacteria selected to grow quickly and dominate the bacterial population in the silage. Traditional inoculants contain homofermentative LAB, e.g. Lactobacillus plantarum, Pediococcus spp., to increase lactic acid production and so increase the rate of pH drop and decrease the production of acetic and butyric acids. Newer inoculants have been developed containing bacteria proven as aerobic stability enhancers, e.g. Lactobacillus buchneri, either on their own or in combination with the traditional inoculant organisms. "
Sounds nothing close to organic to me, "newer ones have been developed" no thanks, I'll stick to compost and organic fertilizer. Maybe a nitrogen boost toward the end.
That may not be all bad. Beneficial bacteria is a good thing. So I don't want to completely knock it yet. It just has scary names.
At the risk of sounding highly un-technical, the inoculants add GOOD thingamajigs to the soil in the spot where you want peas & beans to grow if you haven't planted these things in that spot before.
If you HAVE planted those things in that spot before, it is said that you don't NEED to inoculate again since the thingamajigs are already there, although I have heard people who do it every year anyway, just to be sure.
Inoculating is supposed to increase your yield--I hadn't heard that it really did anything else.
I realize this is an old post but I just happened upon it. Legumes do fix nitrogen in the soil; however, they require certain types of beneficial bacteria to do it. If you've never grown legumes in your soil, the bacteria won't be very plentiful; hence the need for an inoculant the first year. Unless you solarize your soil or something, though, they will still be present after that, though it never hurts to add them again. You put some in a bag with your pea seeds, shake it up and then plant them - the inoculant sticks to the seeds. I've done it before and it definitely made a difference in how well the peas grew and produced.
I think the "new development" just means they've grown out cultures of bacteria selectively to select for the best ones for the job.
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