Everyone has different preferences. Some people prefer cool weather, others prefer warmer climates. Animals also have their preferences. Crocodiles favor a much warmer environment than penguins. Other living organisms like specific environments, too.

Different bacterial strains perform much differently in the presence of different crops. Pioneer studies these differences to determine which ones will proliferate and produce helpful acids in silage made from different crops.

Different strains of bacteria produce different levels of lactic acid in different crops. By understanding which bacterial lines work best in each crop, Pioneer can create more effective inoculants.

Suited to the crop

In the 30 years Pioneer has been developing forage additives, the company has learned a lot about various strains, improving the lineup with each new generation of products. Customers can rest assured the inoculants and additives they buy from Pioneer will suit their specific crop needs.

"Pioneer offers a strong lineup of inoculants for customers," says Kyle Whitaker, forage additive marketing manager at Pioneer. "We’re all about getting the maximum benefit to the grower, which is why we do crop-specific testing on all of our products. We know inoculants designed for high moisture corn may not work as well on grass silage. We test every potential product to determine the reaction on all silage crops."

Pioneer has continually improved inoculants through five distinctive generations of forage additives.

"In the late 1970s, our main goal was to assist in fermentation," Whitaker says. "The products in that first generation were Pioneer® brand inoculants 1177 and 1174."

In the second generation, Pioneer worked on fermentation with crop-specific products. Pioneer characterized bacterial strains by how they made use of sugars unique to the crop being ensiled. Certain strains propagate in the presence of the various sugar structures in individual crops. It’s as if those strains prefer those specific crops.

"We look at the differences in how each strain reacts to the various sugars and match the plants that produce those sugars to see if they’re compatible," Whitaker explains. "This is where Pioneer testing efforts become important."

Listen to the animals

In the third generation, Pioneer began to look critically at animal performance. Researchers were identifying proprietary bacterial strains to improve animal utilization of key nutrients to improve meat or milk production.

During the fourth generation, Pioneer added enhanced aerobic stability. In the fifth generation, Pioneer is focusing on enhanced fiber digestibility.

"The fifth generation gave us a new product, 11CFT," Whitaker says. "Customers are telling us they’re seeing very strong results with 11CFT."

More is on the way. "We have additional products in the pipeline to address fermentation needs for grasses and other forages. We’re looking at products we plan to call 11AFT (A for alfalfa) and 11GFT (G for grasses). Improving fiber digestibility will maximize feed value so customers can get more value per acre, more value per dollar spent growing forages.

Pioneer also is working to develop new strains and combinations of strains to continue improving all of the inoculant traits the company has developed throughout the years. This will offer even better value to customers.

Choices for each preference

Pioneer won’t stop once it’s developed a product for a specific crop. The goal is to give growers choices to suit their individual preferences.

"We have four inoculants for corn silage, three for alfalfa silage, three for grass and cereal silage and two more designed for high-moisture corn, "Whitaker says. "This gives growers a wide range of options and flexibility with their inoculant decisions."

Pioneer has the largest collection of bacteria strains to draw on to develop new and improved products. "We have about 25,000 strains in our library," Whitaker reports. These strains come from all over the world. Many are plant-based strains, some are soil-based strains and others come from animals, both common and exotic.

While several companies can tout the use of Lactobacillus buchneri, for instance, that doesn’t mean they’re all offering the same product. Saying you’re using L. buchneri is sort of like saying you have a dog: You may have a Chihuahua, a bulldog or a St. Bernard. Likewise, strains of L. buchneri can differ significantly.

"Pioneer has tested and patented certain L. buchneri strains of proven value for specific crops," Whitaker says. "This can make all the difference in the world in inoculant performance."

Article reprinted from the July 2009 issue of Pioneer GrowingPoint® magazine

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