Inoculant Frequently Asked Questions

Why should I use inoculant on my crop?

A quality inoculant gives a faster more efficient fermentation resulting in:

  • Greater drymatter recovery (less shrinkage, spoilage and run-off)
  • Improved silage and pasture digestibility (higher feed energy levels)
  • Increased animal performance (more milk or meat per tonne of silage fed)
  • Improved stability and less heating when the silage is exposed to the air at feed-out time when compared to an untreated control

In summary, you get better quality silage that allows your livestock to produce more milk or meat.

Will I still get a benefit from using inoculant if harvest conditions are ideal?

Pioneer® brand inoculants have been tested under ideal harvest management conditions. Trial results show that Pioneer® brand inoculants increase silage quality and decrease losses even when environmental and crop harvest conditions are excellent. While silage inoculants are designed to make good silage better - and not bad silage good, the potential gains of using a silage inoculant may be even greater when harvest conditions are less than ideal.

Why shouldn't I apply the cheapest product, aren't all inoculants the same?

Silage inoculants appear similar simply because they contain the same genus/species information on the label (eg Lactobacillus plantarum). However just like two cows differ in the efficiency with which they convert grass to milk, bacteria differ in their ability to improve silage fermentation quality.

Most cheap products:

  • lack animal performance data,
  • lack technical personnel that really understand silage and back-up the product,
  • are derived from a buying strategy of sourcing the lowest-cost unproven bacterial strains,
  • lack quality standards and label bacterial count guarantees.

Pioneer’s bacterial bank Pioneer began building their microbial collection about 35 years ago. “We have 25,000 isolates in our collection,” says Bill Rutherford, Pioneer Senior Research Manager. “We have multiple isolates from every continent except Antarctica. These isolates come from a wide range of habitats, so we have lots of diversity to work with,” he reports. In addition to traditional tests, Pioneer can use molecular tools to locate the most-promising strains from the collection for a given crop. “We’re transitioning from a macro to a micro view, zeroing in on exactly what traits make a great inoculant,” Rutherford adds. Pioneer uses the animal testing facilities on the Pioneer Livestock Nutrition Centre to test new products much more quickly and thoroughly. The combination of molecular and traditional tests allows Pioneer to target the promising strains and test more of them more efficiently than ever before. All strains in the Pioneer microbial bank are naturally occurring. Researchers are simply looking for improved combinations to preserve, stabilise and in some cases, partly digest various forages. “It’s a natural process of nature that we’re helping,” Rutherford says.

How many small (50 MT) bottles will I need to inoculate my maize silage crop?

Match estimated crop yield (row) with your estimated crop drymatter percentage (column) to determine how many small (50 MT) bottles you require per hectare.

How does a silage inoculant actually work?

Once the air has been excluded from a silage stack, anaerobic (oxygen-hating) bacteria multiply and convert sugars to acid. This process is known as silage fermentation and the acid preserves the plant material as silage. All crops contain a range of bacteria that differ in the efficiency with which they convert sugar to acid and the type of acid they produce. The most efficient bacteria produce high levels of lactic acid. A quality silage inoculant contains crop specific strains of the most efficient lactic acid producing bacteria. These are added to the crop at harvest time to produce a high quality fermentation.

How many bacteria do Pioneer inoculants apply?

Applied correctly, Pioneer® brand inoculants provide 100,000 colony forming units (CFU) of bacteria per gram of fresh forage. This is consistent with worldwide standards and is the level that has produced the benefits shown in the Pioneer® brand inoculant trial programme.