, Volume 121, Issue 1-3, pp 21-46

Effect of additions on ensiling and microbial community of senesced wheat straw

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Abstract

Crop residues collected during or after grain harvest are available once per year and must be stored for extended periods. The combination of air, high moisture, and high microbial loads leads to shrinkage during storage and risk of spontaneous ignition. Ensiling is a wet preservation method that could be used to store these residues stably. To economically adapt ensiling to biomass that is harvested after it has senesced, the need for nutrient, moisture, and microbial additions must be determined. We tested the ensiling of senesced wheat straw in sealed columns for 83 d. The straw was inoculated with Lactobacillus plantarum and amended with several levels of water and free sugars. The ability to stabilize the straw polysaccharides was strongly influenced by both moisture and free sugars. Without the addition of sugar, the pH increased from 5.2 to as much as 9.1, depending on moisture level, and losses of 22% of the cellulose and 21% of the hemicellulose were observed. By contrast, when sufficient sugars were added and interstitial water was maintained, a final pH of 4.0 was attainable, with correspondingly low (<5%) losses of cellulose and hemicellulose. The results show that ensiling should be considered a promising method for stable storage of wet biorefinery feedstocks.