Ensuring the value of a forage inoculant investment starts by handling the products with a little extra care, according to Dr. Bob Charley, Lallemand Animal Nutrition forage products manager.
“Inoculants contain live, viable bacteria and need to be handled carefully,” Charley said. “Some of these challenges can be addressed by the manufacturer. Then, the responsibly passes to the end user.”
Both the manufacturer and producer should follow the same three tips:
1. Keep the product away from heat and direct sunlight, following recommended storage instructions.
2. Keep the product away from moisture.
3. Keep packaging sealed until mixing to limit oxygen exposure.
Heat, moisture and oxygen can kill living microorganisms of the inoculant in dry form, both in a concentrated formulation — like a water-dispersible product format — or as a more diluted dry granular product. Ensuring that these organisms remain viable is critical to good field performance.
Before inoculants arrive on the farm, manufacturers must ensure that the product is produced according to high-quality standards. Then, the inoculant needs to be formulated and packaged to protect the live bacteria in the product.
With quality products, formulation and packaging protect them from oxygen and moisture. For example, heat-sealed, impermeable foil packaging helps keep out oxygen and moisture. Some product formulations include molecular sieves to tie up residual moisture. Inoculant packaging can also be flushed with nitrogen — an inert gas — during filling and sealing to displace oxygen and help prevent damage to the viable microbes.
“Producers should see that manufacturers keep the product protected from high temperatures by storing product frozen and shipping it to the farm on ice or in refrigerated trucks,” Charley noted.
Once the inoculant arrives, producers must continue to keep the product cool, preferably in a refrigerator or freezer.
“This is especially important if you might be carrying some product over to the next season,” Charley explained. “Look at the label. Read it, and understand what it says about storage and shelf life. High-quality products will often recommend a shelf life of 18 months or more.”