Aims: To determine the utility of vacuum-packed polythene bags as a convenient, flexible and cost-effective alternative to fixed volume glass vessels for lab-scale silage studies.
Methods and results: Using perennial ryegrass or red clover forage, similar fermentations (as assessed by pH measurement) occurred in glass tube and vacuum-packed silos over a 35-day period. As vacuum-packing devices allow modification of initial packing density, the effect of four different settings (initial packing densities of 0.397, 0.435, 0.492 and 0.534 g cm(-3)) on the silage fermentation over 16 days was examined. Significant differences in pH decline and lactate accumulation were observed at different vacuum settings. Gas accumulation was apparent within all bags and changes in bag volume with time was observed to vary according to initial packing density.
Conclusions: Vacuum-packed silos do provide a realistic model system for lab-scale silage fermentations.
Significance and impact of the study: Use of vacuum-packed silos holds potential for lab-scale evaluations of silage fermentations, allowing higher throughput of samples, more consistent packing as well as the possibility of investigating the effects of different initial packing densities and use of different wrapping materials.