Ensuring the value of your forage inoculant investment starts by handling the products with a little extra care, recommends Bob Charley, Ph.D., Forage Products Manager, Lallemand Animal Nutrition.
“Inoculants contain live, viable bacteria and need to be handled carefully,” Dr. Charley says. “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 away from heat and direct sunlight, following recommended storage instructions
2. Keep 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 their dry form, both in a concentrated formulation — as in a water-dispersible product format — or as a more diluted dry granular product. Ensuring these organisms remain viable is critical to good field performance.
Before inoculants arrive on the farm, manufacturers must ensure 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 it from oxygen and moisture. For example, heat-sealed impermeable foil packaging helps keep out oxygen and moisture. Some product formulations also include molecular sieves to tie up residual moisture. Inoculant packaging can also be flushed with nitrogen, which is 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,” Dr. Charley notes.
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,” Dr. Charley says. “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.”