2012 Annual Report
Challenge #1 – Based on previous work, six layers of silage wrap will support satisfactory storage characteristics for both polyethylene- and oxygen-barrier-wrapped silages. We propose to wrap 40 bales of alfalfa-orchardgrass forage wilted to approximately 50% moisture with six layers of either polyethylene or oxygen-barrier silage wrap (20 bales each). The challenge to each wrap type will be initiated by delaying wrapping, thereby allowing spontaneous heating to occur. Bales will be wrapped immediately after baling, or after intentionally delaying wrapping by 12, 24, 48, or 72 hours. Each wrapped bale will be fitted with thermocouples at baling, and temperatures will be monitored daily. Internal bale temperatures will rise with time delay for this type of forage, and will likely reach 60C or more within 72 hours. This form of heating is generated by aerobic respiration within the bale, and requires oxygen. Theoretically, bales wrapped with oxygen-barrier plastic should exhibit a more rapid temperature decline following wrapping, lower internal bale temperatures throughout the ensuing 180-day storage period, as well as reduced losses of dry matter relative to polyethylene-wrapped bales.
Challenge #2 – This challenge will be structured in an identical manner to Challenge #1, except that only four layers of silage wrap will be used to wrap each bale. Previous work showed that silage bales wrapped with four layers of oxygen-barrier wrap exhibited satisfactory fermentation and storage characteristics, but this approach was clearly marginal for polyethylene wraps. This additional challenge to the oxygen integrity of the wrap should accentuate differences between oxygen-limiting and polyethylene wraps over an identical 180-day storage period.
Challenge #3 – The integrity of the plastic wraps will be challenged even further by maintaining the four layers of plastic wrap used in Challenge #2, but wilting the forage to 35% moisture before baling. This should create bales that undergo a restricted fermentation, and are particularly sensitive to heating and external surface mold. Any conduit for entry of oxygen into these bale packages should produce measurable temperature and/or other responses.