Q. I received my inoculant weeks before harvest time. Does it require any special storage or handling?
A. Inoculants contain live, viable bacteria and need to be handled carefully, though not much different than how you’d treat vaccines for your livestock herd.
In general, you want to keep heat, moisture and oxygen away from inoculants. Those are the three variables that can kill an inoculant in the dry powder, or granular, form. Manufacturers can keep the product protected from temperature by storing product frozen and shipping on ice or in refrigerated trucks. Then the responsibility passes to the end user to keep the product cool — preferably in a refrigerator or freezer, especially if you might be carrying some product over to the next season.
For good field performance, I recommend selecting an inoculant that will remain stable for some time following hydration. Some products contain stability enhancers, which can extend the tank life after rehydration, as long as the inoculant is kept cool.
In case of weather or equipment delays, return the rehydrated inoculant to the refrigerator or add ice blocks to maintain the temperature around 40 F. Insulated applicator tanks can help keep inoculants cool even in the field.
These are general tips. Always read and follow storage and shelf life instructions on the product label for information specific to your product.