Five points to help assure forage inoculant performanceFive points to help assure forage inoculant performance
Trials help build confidence in efficacy of a tested inoculant; however, not all research may be as valuable as it appears at first glance.
July 1, 2016
Applying a forage inoculant to a crop at harvest requires a leap of faith, as the producer will not see the resulting silage until it is opened weeks, or even months, later.
“To get best results, producers should use inoculants that are proven with independent, scientific research in the target crop,” according to Dr. Bob Charley, forage products manager at Lallemand Animal Nutrition. “The trials should validate the efficacy of the product at the application rate stated on the label and, ideally, be published in a reputable journal or presented at a scientific conference.”
Trials help build confidence in the efficacy of the product tested. However, not all research may be as valuable as it appears at first glance. Charley recommends making sure that the research is:
1. Performed with the specific product formulation. There can be wide differences among specific strains of inoculant bacteria, so discount generic data.
2. Fits the crop being ensiled. Inoculants can perform differently when applied on different crops due to variations in dry matter content, ensiling challenges and susceptibility to aerobic spoilage.
3. Conducted at independent research facilities, such as universities.
4. Published in reputable journals. Trials published in scientific journals are peer reviewed.
5. Validates the intended application rate. Data should be from studies using the level that will be applied following product recommendations.
“These five points should be validated for any inoculant product offered,” Charley said. “Without data to show claims being made have been proven, it really is a case of ‘buyer beware.’”
Producers should also consider their own local conditions, farm practices and silage history — although not all of these factors can be reflected in independent research. For instance, slow feedout rates may point to using an inoculant that's proven to increase aerobic stability.
“While it is a stretch to expect to see a specific trial showing the inoculant’s performance under slow feedout rates in your state or region, producers facing those management challenges should absolutely look for data on the product’s ability to enhance aerobic stability,” Charley said.
“It comes back to looking for the independent trial's data to validate the efficacy you need,” Charley recommended. “I ask producers to think back to challenges they experienced in previous years. Then, look for an inoculant that can help them overcome those obstacles. Asking for proof that an inoculant can do the job you need is your right and can help ensure your inoculant investment is returned to you in the form of high-quality silages.”
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