Biofertilizers a Viable Alternative to Synthetic Nitrogen in Forage Production

cattle grazing on bermudagrass

Beneficial soil microbes applied to bermudagrass in a livestock forage production system have been found to be a viable alternative to synthetic nitrogen applications for fertilization and forage quality enhancement, based on Auburn University research.

“Nitrogen fertilizer accounts for the majority of variable-input costs associated with forage production, and can potentially negatively impact soil, water and air resources,” said associate professor and Extension specialist Leanne Dillard. “Sustainable production of livestock from both grazed and conserved forage production is critical to economic and environmental viability of the livestock industry.”

In two years of a three-year, small-plot study, funded by a SSARE Research and Education Grant, researchers found that bermudagrass applied with plant-growth promoting rhizobacteria yielded similar results to synthetic fertilizer treatments in forage dry matter yield and nutritive value. Those results suggest that plant-growth promoting rhizobacteria may be a viable option for biofertilization of fall-stockpiled bermudagrass, but the researchers stress that further investigation into the effect of beneficial soil microbe inoculants on a larger scale is needed.

Experimental treatments on 18 bermudagrass plots included a negative control, synthetic fertilizer, a single strain of plant-growth promoting rhizobacteria, a blend of three Bacillus species, and a combination of beneficial microbes plus fertilizer. Two applications of plant growth-promoting rhizobacteria were applied at the beginning of each stockpiling season in August and again 30 days later. A third of each plot was clipped in mid-November, December and January of each year to determine dry matter yield and nutritive value.

State Contacts

Alabama’s SARE State Coordinators are vital for expanding sustainable agriculture training for Extension, NRCS, and other agricultural professionals, who will then help producers transition to a more sustainable agriculture.

Ayanava Majumdar

Ayanava Majumdar

Extension Entomologist, Peanuts & Vegetables
Auburn University/Alabama Extension
Rudy O. Pacumbaba

Rudy O. Pacumbaba

Extension Specialist
Alabama Cooperative Extension System
Franklin Quarcoo

Franklin Quarcoo

Assistant Professor of Entomology & Extension IPM
Tuskegee University


AL map colored in red

The Alabama SARE program is facilitated through a joint collaboration between Auburn University, Alabama A&M University and Tuskegee University. Alabama SARE partners with researchers, extension faculty, producers, and community organizers to research and implement the best science-based practices available in all aspect's of Alabama's agricultural system.

in funding since 1988
99 projects
funded since 1988

Professional Development Program

Within each state, agricultural educators work directly with farmers and ranchers to further sustainable agriculture production and marketing practices. Through a program called the Professional Development Program (PDP), SARE state ag coordinators provide support for sustainable agriculture education and outreach strategies.

Organic weed management field day

SARE Fellows Tour

Fellows Program

SARE and the National Association of County Agricultural Agents (NACAA) offer the Sustainable Agriculture Fellows Program, which enhances Cooperative Extension personnel’s understanding of sustainable agriculture and provides broad-based, national exposure to successful and unique sustainable agriculture programs.