An inoculant’s efficacy relies on the survival of the bacteria applied to the plant all the way through the ensiling process. Bacteria viability depends on the strain and the quality of the production process, formulation, packaging, storage conditions and proper handling. Then, the product must be evenly applied to get the best result.
The shelf life of the inoculant is linked to the recommended storage conditions. Improperly storing the product could significantly reduce its shelf life and efficacy.
- Do not use expired inoculant.
- Check the “best use by” date before applying the product.
- If producers have a stock of product beyond the “best use by” date, test the product viability from an independent laboratory.
Handling Liquid-Applied Inoculants
The bacteria in liquid-applied inoculants can die off quickly following rehydration if not kept cool. Do not allow water with bacterial inoculants to reach high temperatures.
Ask to see the rehydration stability data for any product you are considering. If liquid-applied product becomes slimy, it should be discarded. This indicates that bacteria have died, releasing their DNA and causing the sliminess.
Handling Granular Inoculants
Granular, dry-applied inoculants also die off in the hopper due to:
- Exposure to air
- Absorption of moisture from the atmosphere
- Increasing ambient temperature
The product flow characteristics may also suffer due to the absorption of moisture. Discard granular inoculant left over in the hopper at the end of the day to ensure optimum product performance. Closing the hopper lid does not elevate bacterial survivability.
Viability After Dilution
Bacteria viability after dilution is dependent on the formulation and technology. Some companies have produced high concentration technology that allows for:
- A high concentration that improves use in low-volume applicators
- Low sedimentation of the product for homogenous application
- Ultra-soluble formulation
- Up to 24 hours of stability of the solution after dilutio
Stability of liquid-applied inoculants with and without a rehydration stability enhancer (RSE):
Calibrate application rates for inoculants. Application rates should be checked several times a day. Even distribution of the inoculants is a key factor in their ability to help the fermentation process.
Products are best applied at the chopper box or accelerator on the harvester. For balers and self-loading wagons, inoculant spray should be directed at the pickup or rotor of the machine for best application and mixing on the crop. If possible, use insulated tanks on the application system to help keep the product cool. Ice blocks can be added in the tank to maintain viability, based on recommendations for the specific product from the manufacturer.