Australian Inoculants Research Group

Overview

Biological nitrogen fixation, where rhizobia in legume root nodules convert atmospheric di-nitrogen into ammonia for plant growth is one of the great success stories in applied soil biology.

In an era of rising costs, the role of rhizobia to "fix" biological nitrogen within legume root nodules is more important than ever. The replacement of nitrogen fertilizer with biologically-fixed nitrogen is estimated to save Australian agriculture approximately $4bn per year. Legumes provide an economically and environmentally sustainable source of nitrogen and usually soil nitrogen increases where they are grown.

For over 55 years, the AIRG (and its predecessors) now located at the Central Coast Primary Industries Centre, Ourimbah have controlled and maintained the quality of legume inoculants through collaboration with industry and R & D bodies.

Abundant nodulation of faba bean with effective rhizobia

What does AIRG do?

Australian farmers have access to the best legume inoculants in the world

  • AIRG under the control of the NSW Department of Primary Industries (NSW DPI) Soils Unit, has an Australia-wide mandate to ensure that the country’s farmers and producers have access to high quality legume inoculants and inoculant products containing prescribed numbers of effective root-nodule bacteria (rhizobia)
  • There is a continual commitment to legume inoculant research by government, university and the various R&D funding bodies
  • AIRG has a strong link with the University of Sydney and a MOU for collaborative R&D expansion
  • AIRG bridges the gap between research and commercial production of legume inoculants
  • Consumers can now be even more confident of the superior quality of Australian inoculants thanks to the AIRG's Code of Practice which establishes a set of protocols and independent testing standards for assessing legume inoculant products for quality. Inoculant companies who are signatory to the Code with NSW DPI and produce inoculants that comply to the standards are able to display on their product a quality ‘green tick’ logo. The green tick is the logo of the AIRG and is a registered trade mark of NSW DPI. For more information download the National Code of Practice and Quality Trademark

Inoculating legumes is cheap, costing less than $5/ha, yet can result in an extra $200-300 worth of N in the crop or pasture. For example, inoculation of soybean on the Liverpool Plains, NSW increased nodulation from almost zero to 100%. Grain yields were increased by approximately 1.5 t/ha, worth today $900/ha, dwarfing the $5/ha cost of inoculation.

The cost of legume nodulation failure because seed was not inoculated correctly or because of low quality and faulty inoculants is substantial. Australian farmers inoculate about 2.5 million ha or 50% of the legumes sown annually. Essentially all of the estimated 2.7 million tonnes of nitrogen fixed annually by legumes growing on about 22.5 million ha of land can be attributed to either current or past inoculation, valued at $4bn.
Inoculation has played a key role in the success of legumes in this country and AIRG and its predecessors, ALIRU, AIRCS and U- DALS have ensured that Australian farmers and producers have always had access to inoculants of the highest quality.

The simple answer is that such a development would put at risk the production of grains such as lupin, chickpea, faba bean, pastures and livestock, and would cost the individual farmer or producer money. The cost of a nodulation failure of 100 hectares of soybean could exceed $60,000. Clearly, the continuing and uninterrupted use of high quality legume inoculants has a very large economic benefit to Australian farmers. The use of AIRG quality assessed and approved inoculants is strongly recommended.

AIRG is proudly funded by

BASF Agricultural Specialties Pty Ltd
New Edge Microbials Pty Ltd
Novozymes Biologicals, Ltd
Grains Research & Development Corporation (GRDC)
Rural Industries Research & Development Corporation (RIRDC)
NSW Department of Agriculture
Nitrogen Fixation Program (NFP)

For further information

Contact:
Australian Inoculants Research Group
NSW Department of Primary Industries
Central Coast Primary Industries Centre | University of Newcastle Ourimbah Campus | North Loop Road | Ourimbah NSW 2258
Locked Bag 26 | Gosford NSW 2250
T: 02 4348 1948 | F: 02 4348 1910

E:greg.gemell@dpi.nsw.gov.au
E:elizabeth.hartley@dpi.nsw.gov.au
E:jade.hartley@dpi.nsw.gov.au