Apply inoculant with your self-propelled chopper and never stop to fill a tank.

It's possible with super-low-volume inoculant applicators being introduced by Pioneer Hi-Bred International. Custom harvesters are the primary target market, says Gene Gengelbach, Pioneer's silage inoculant marketing manager.

“As forage harvesters get bigger, people are running tremendous amounts of silage through them,” says Gengelbach. “They don't want to carry large amounts of water on the chopper, and they can't afford to keep stopping to fill a water tank.”

With an Appli-Pro super-low-volume (SLV) applicator system, no water tank is needed. As with Pioneer's current Appli-Pro system, dry inoculant comes in 2.5-liter bottles. The user adds water to hydrate the inoculant, shakes the bottle well and screws it onto the applicator.

The current applicator then meters the concentrated solution into a stream of water from a tank, and the water carries it to the silage.

The super-low-volume applicator, however, uses air from a compressor to deliver the inoculant-water solution. The total amount of liquid applied is 10 ml/ton, so each 2.5-liter bottle treats 250 tons of chopped forage. Each applicator holds two bottles.

“A harvester can carry bottles already mixed with water, and all he has to do is screw one on and go,” says Gengelbach.

The company teamed up with Harvest Tec, an application equipment manufacturer in Hudson, WI, to develop the patent-pending applicators.

Pioneer tested their accuracy and durability on several farms over the past two years. Only 250 will be manufactured this year for distribution as part of an inoculant promotion. Broader availability is anticipated for next year.

He hopes the invention will attract harvesters who presently don't apply inoculants because of the hassle involved.

“It's very accurate and easy to use, and you don't have to take a big water tank to the field,” he says.

He says the application accuracy is equal to, or better than, that of the current Appli-Pro system. “We're very concerned about getting very accurate application. Getting the right amount of inoculant on every ton you chop is very important.”

The next step toward greater accuracy may be variable-rate technology that senses the amount of forage being chopped and automatically adjusts the inoculant application rate. Working with a company that makes forage harvesters, Pioneer is testing a chopper-mounted sensor that records the throughput and changes the inoculant rate on the go.

“That will remove a lot of the guesswork,” says Gengelbach. “The operator won't have to estimate how much is being chopped per hour.”

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