Ecosyl Products Limited offers a full range of proven high quality additives for grass, legume and cereal/legume bi-crop silages to fit any forage harvesting situation. This aim of this technical article is to provide more information about Ecosyl silage additive and its mode of action.

Ecosyl silage additives contain MTD⁄1, a high performance strain of Lactobacillus plantarum discovered by ICI. MTD/1 has many unusual characteristics that make it ideal for use in forage treatments.

A highly efficient producer of lactic acid, it acts over a wider range of pH and temperature than most other strains of L. plantarum. It is also very osmotolerant so it works well in both high and low dry matter situations. These strain-specific characteristics make it active throughout the fermentation process so additional ‘helper’ bacteria are not required.

  • Works over a wide pH range – pH 7.5-3.5
  • Works over a wide temperature range – 8 to 45°C
  • Works in aerobic & anaerobic conditions
  • Works over a wide range of crops
  • Works at high and low dry matter- extremely osmotolerant

MTD⁄1 bacteria are all harvested at the peak of fitness, making them extremely robust, fast acting and highly effective over a wide range of crops and conditions. Further patented encapsulation preservation technology helps protect the bacteria during freeze-drying and formulation technology ensures the final silage additives are easy to use with long shelf lives.

MTD⁄1 is different

Most silage inoculants contain L. plantarum but there are many different strains, each with its own characteristics. Just as there are differences between Hereford and Holstein cattle, although they are both members of the species Bos taurus, no two L. plantarum strains are the same and the proven performance of MTD⁄1, is unique to MTD⁄1. Some products contain more than one type of bacterial strain (called helper strains). Independent research (Rook & Kafildazeh, 1994) has shown that MTD⁄1 does not need helper strains.

MTD⁄1’s on-farm benefits

  • MTD⁄1’s efficiency maximises lactic acid production, helping fermentation even when grass sugars are low and conditions difficult (Moran & Owen, 1993)
  • MTD⁄1 works across a wide range of ensiling conditions (Moran & Owen, 1993)
  • MTD⁄1 has been shown to increase the ‘D’ value of grass silage by an average of 3 units, helping to maximise production (Owen, 2002)
  • MTD⁄1 Has been shown to improve milk yield by 1.2kg per cow per day (Kung & Muck, 1997).
  • MTD⁄1 is recognised by silage experts worldwide to have more supporting trial evidence behind it than any other inoculant (Kung & Muck, 1997).

The Proof

Ecosyl is the most widely researched inoculant in the world, with supporting trials in the following categories:

  • 15 dairy trials
  • 19 beef trials
  • 40 intake⁄digestibility⁄ME trials
  • 200 fermentation trials

Most of these trials have been published. The large number of trials ensures it has been thoroughly tested over a wide range of crops, ensiling conditions, etc and that the positive results are repeatable, not one-off results.

Ecosyl also believes that the only true proof of the efficacy of a silage inoculant is if it leads to improvements in milk or beef production – if you would never select an AI bull with a proof based on the performance of one or two herds, why do it with a silage additive? Additive claims based on the results of just one or two trials lack depth and do not demonstrate the consistency with which the benefits may be achieved on farm. It is important to demonstrate improvements in at least five dairy or beef trials carried out at independent research institutes or universities.

MTD⁄1 has a wider proof of animal performance than any other inoculantas evidenced in reviews by Weinberg & Muck (1996) and Kung & Muck (1997). Performance claims are not based on the best results but on the average of all trials, making the claims reliable and consistent.

To date, there have been 15 independent dairy cow trials worldwide and these trials show that Ecosyl consistently produces more milk and works across a wide range of Dry Matters.

Regression analysis of all 15 Ecosyl dairy trials
(Each pair of points represents the results of an independent, fully replicated trial. The lines indicate the best statistical fit for each treatment over the range of DMs)

All 15 Ecosyl dairy trials

There have been a total of 19 beef trials with Ecosyl, 10 with growing cattle and 9 with fattening cattle.

In 13 of the 19 experiments, Ecosyl treatment increased DM intake. In eight of the 14 grass experiments in vivo digestibility was determined on the silages, Ecosyl-treatment on average giving a significant 3.8 units higher digestibility. It has been concluded that the improved liveweight and carcass gains from Ecosyl treatment resulted from a combination of higher intakes and improved digestibility of the treated silages.

DoubleAction Technology

It is well known that there are a few inoculants that give animal performance benefits but independent trials have shown that most are not particularly effective at improving the aerobic stability of the silage. Chemicals are a robust option for this but will not give the same animal performance benefits.

It was this fact that prompted Ecosyl’s research into producing acid⁄inoculant hybrid additives and the development of DOUBLEACTION Technology. The result is a range of additives that provide the full fermentation and animal performance benefits of MTD⁄1, plus reduced aerobic spoilage from potassium sorbate.

Why sorbate?
For years propionic acid has been used in agriculture as an anti-fungal agent but, while it is known to be effective, it is unpleasant and hazardous to handle and high application rates are required to make up for the high volatile losses, making it expensive to use. The straight acid is also corrosive to machinery. Buffering reduces some of these problems but it is still very expensive.

Ecosyl were keen to find a safe but effective alternative and chose to examine acid-based preservatives commonly used in the food industry such as sodium benzoate and potassium sorbate.

Sorbate was considered the more suitable for the following reasons:

  • Potassium sorbate is the most widely used food preservative in the world and is effective at a much lower concentration than propionic acid and its salts.
  • Potassium sorbate has better anti-fungal properties than sodium benzoate.
  • Potassium sorbate is effective at lower concentrations than sodium benzoate.
  • Potassium sorbate is an approved ruminant feed additive.

The anti-fungal activity of sorbate increases as the pH falls so a rapid MTD⁄1 fermentation is beneficial.

Why is DoubleAction Technology different? 
Normally potassium sorbate kills moulds, yeast and bacteria (see the red line in the graph below). ECOSYL Products scientists had to solve this problem before they could develop the bacteria and acid products. To do this they developed novel Double Action technology. All products contain bacteria and potassium sorbate in direct contact.

This development has enabled all the Double Action products to have a minimum two year shelf life (see the green line in the graph below).