Can Beneficial Bacteria Help Growers Improve Vegetable Yields?

Ecological Laboratories’ Quantum Growth Series impacts plant photosynthesis, increases nutrient uptake, and enhances soil biology for a stronger, healthier crop.

The agriculture industry’s long-running crusade to do more with less has fostered some interesting conversations about where farmers should focus their efforts. From labor-saving automation to variable-rate applications, growers are finding ways to be sustainable while saving time, money, and energy.

Similarly, manufacturers, retailers, and trusted advisors are developing new solutions to help them accomplish these goals, without sacrificing the crop. When it comes to that last part, many now understand that the devil’s details are in the dirt. Improving soil health to foster a thriving underground ecosystem is an essential part of minimizing inputs and maximizing yield.

Beneficial Bacteria Boost Soil Health

Ecological Laboratories has been working in this space for nearly 50 years. The biotechnology company develops and manufactures specialized beneficial bacteria formulations that improve everything from wastewater management to aquaculture environments. Now, with the introduction of its Quantum Growth Series, Ecological Laboratories offers a product line designed to benefit vegetable growers and other specialty crop producers.

“The Quantum Growth Series uses a collection of different species of bacteria, several of which are very hard to find commercially because they’re incredibly difficult to stabilize,” says Aaron Sane, Director of Agriculture Sales at Ecological Laboratories. “One of the strains of bacteria we use is a photosynthetic bacterium,  Rhodopseudomonas palustris, that, like a plant, produces 5-aminolevulinic acid (ALA). ALA is critical building block for plant chlorophyll.”

“Chlorophyll is essential for plant photosynthesis but is consumed during the process,” he continues. “The plant must regenerate chlorophyll in order to continue photosynthesis but that regeneration is limited by the availability of ALA. Photosynthetic bacteria can augment plant supplies of ALA and contribute to increased chlorophyll production. With that, we can directly impact and improve the plant’s photosynthetic capacity, which is a pretty unique position to be in with a biological product.”

The live bacteria in the Quantum Growth Series have other soil-boosting benefits as well. When applied in the right amounts at the proper time, the product can fix the soil’s nitrogen and improve plant uptake by solubilizing other key nutrients that tend to get tied up in the soil, like phosphorous, zinc, iron, and molybdenum.

Lastly, the Quantum Growth Series enriches the soil biology.

“When you look at the food pyramid or ecosystem that exists in the soil, bacteria are a foundational lifeform, almost like plankton or algae in the ocean,” Sane says. “The product is basically food for other bacteria, beneficial nematodes, fungi, and the higher lifeforms that perform a variety of functions in the soil.”

Using the Quantum Growth Series on Your Crop

Perhaps the biggest benefit of the Quantum Growth Series is its compatibility with any vegetable, growing system, or soil type. Sane compares the product to taking a probiotic.

“If you give a human being who was in South Africa a probiotic versus giving it to someone that’s in Singapore or Iceland or wherever, the probiotic will tend to work for all of these people because that’s part of our own ecosystems,” he says. “It’s the same with beneficial bacteria, so they will work similarly in many different soil types on many different farms.”

To reap these benefits, growers simply apply a half gallon of product to each acre of the vegetable crop through the drip irrigation line or using a sprayer. When this is done at transplant and the beginning of bloom, growers can expect a well-developed root system and a dark green hue to their plants. There’s also the option to apply the Quantum Growth Series again at the beginning of fruit set and two weeks later. Sane says the first two applications tend to have the biggest overall impact.

“The earlier the Quantum Growth Series is introduced to the plant, the greater impact will be on the plant’s development because you’re setting it up to be healthier and to produce a higher yield later on,” he says, noting that a third-party study that looked at the Quantum Growth Series’ effect on tomatoes revealed a 18-percent increase in yield. Similarly, a study from Rutgers University showed a 24- percent increase and a 30-fold return on investment on green peppers when using the product.

“Through the application of our products, we’ve seen dramatic increases, not only in the bacteria, which we expect to see because we’re adding bacteria, but also in the higher lifeforms that aren’t in our product,” Sane says. “Additionally, we’ve seen substantial root system development and increased chlorophyll production.”