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Research Article

Effect of Sugarcane Molasses and Whey on Silage Quality of Maize

Gerardo Uriel Bautista-Trujillo, Mario A. Cobos, Lucia Maria Cristina Ventura-Canseco, Teresa Ayora-Talavera, Miguel Abud-Archila, Maria Angela Oliva-Llaven, Luc Dendooven and Federico A Gutierrez-Miceli

The potential of cane molasses and whey as additives to ensile maize plants (Zea mays Linnaeus) was investigated. Maize stem plus leaves were chopped, mixed with cane molasses and whey, placed in cylindrical plastic containers, hermetically closed and characterized. The pH of the silage decreased significantly in each of the treatments with a faster decrease found when whey was added. The lactic acid concentration was > 60 g kg-1 in silage amended with molasses and/or whey and 41 g kg-1 in the control treatment after 15 days. Acetic acid was the only volatile fatty acid detected in the silage of maize and its concentration was 7.3 g kg-1 when whey was added, but 16.2 g kg-1 in the control treatment. In conclusion it was shown that maize plants can be effectively ensiled with whey in combination with sugarcane molasses as additives inducing a faster production of lactic acid and resulting in a better silage product.

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Gerardo Uriel Bautista-Trujillo, Mario A. Cobos, Lucia Maria Cristina Ventura-Canseco, Teresa Ayora-Talavera, Miguel Abud-Archila, Maria Angela Oliva-Llaven, Luc Dendooven and Federico A Gutierrez-Miceli, 2009. Effect of Sugarcane Molasses and Whey on Silage Quality of Maize. Asian Journal of Crop Science, 1: 34-39.

DOI: 10.3923/ajcs.2009.34.39



Maize (Zea mays Linnaeus) originates from Mexico and is still the main staple crop in large parts of the country. Cultivation of maize has increased in the world and the value of maize as a cost-effective ruminant feed is one of the main reason farmers grow it (McKendrick et al., 2003). Ensiling maize plants gives silage suitable for feeding while preserving its moisture content (Asbell et al., 2001). Water-soluble carbohydrates (WSC) are fermented to lactic acid by epiphytic lactic acid bacteria (LAB), which decreases pH, inhibits the activity of plant enzymes and reduces pathogenic or spoilage bacteria that could decrease the nutritive value of the silage however, it is recommended to add supplements (Davies et al., 2000). The main objective to apply additives for ensiling is to reduce pH more rapidly so as to preserve carbohydrates and proteins and inhibit the growth of microorganisms that might deteriorate the silage (Weinberg and Muck, 1996; Zhang et al., 2000a). Silage additives can be divided into two major groups: fermentation inhibitors (e.g., organic acids) and fermentation stimulators (e.g., strains of lactobacilli or readily degradable sugars) (Hetta et al., 2003; Meeske et al., 2002). The cost and availability of commercial silage additives are often a limiting factor and waste materials can then serve as an alternative. Use of waste materials depends on availability and their possible nutrimental value for cattle. The composition of the waste is also important as plant residues might contain polyphenols and tannins that are known to inhibit microbial fermentation during ensiling (Kondo et al., 2004). Two additives for the ensiling of maize were selected that are easily available in Chiapas (Mexico), that have a nutrimental value for cattle and do contain little or no fermentation inhibitors, i.e., cane molasses and whey. Cane molasses is a waste product of sugar production, an important industry in Chiapas. It has been used as a supplement for cattle manure silage with or without corn stover (Cobos et al., 1997; Martínez-Avalos et al., 1998). Whey is a cheap residue of cheese production and available to most farmers in Chiapas and it has been added to wheat straw and rice bran silage (Daniels et al., 1983). A combination of molasses and dehydrated whey have been used as supplements to ensile fish waste, but little is known about their potential to ensile maize (De Lurdes et al., 1998). The objective of this study was to evaluate the potential of cane molasses and whey as silage additives to whole maize plants.


This study was conducted in research laboratory from Facultad de Medicina Veterinaria y Zootecnia, Universidad Autonoma de Chiapas, Chiapas, Mexico (lat. 16045’0” N, long. 9307’0” W). Volatile fatty acids were determined in Colegio de posgraduados, Estado de Mexico, Mexico. The experiments were realized during the months of February to June 2006.

Maize Genotype and Silage
Maize Maya-2002 hybrid seeds were obtained from PROASE (Productores Asociados de Semillas) Chiapas, Mexico. Seeds were submerged in water for one day, cultivated in the field and harvested after 75 days. The whole plants (stem plus leaves) were chopped in 0.5 cm, mixed with cane molasses (100 g kg-1) and whey (20 g kg-1) and weighted (Table 1). A sub-sample of 5 g was taken to determine the moisture content, which ranged between 600-700 g kg-1. One kilogram of each mixture was placed in a cylindrical plastic container (15 cm height H 12 cm diameter) and closed air-tight with a plastic lid, i.e., mini silos. Each mini silo was an experimental unit and implemented in triplicate. Mini silos were kept at 30°C for 15 days. A 10 g sub-sample was taken after at 0, 3, 7 and 15 days, weighted and characterized (Megaas et al., 1999).

Chemical Analysis
Samples of pre- and post-ensiled mixtures were analysed for pH and dry matter, organic matter, total nitrogen and ash content (AOAC, 1980). The neutral detergent fiber content was analyzed as described by Goering and Van Soest (1970). Lactic acid was determined colorimetrically using standard solutions (0-30 μg mL-1 in 5 μg increments) (Madrid et al., 1999).

Volatile fatty acids, i.e., butyric acid, acetic acid and propionic acid, were measured on a Perkin Elmer Clarus 500 gas chromatograp h (USA) (Cobos et al., 1997). Samples were acidified with 250 g kg-1 metaphosphoric acid, placed in 2 mL bottles and centrifuged at 15,000 rpm for 5 min. Samples were stored at -4°C and analyzed. A reference sample containing butyric, propionic and acetic acid in 4:1 (v/v) was used as a standard.

All results were subjected to a one-way analysis of variance to test for significant differences between the treatments using PROC GLM (SAS statistical package) with the Tukey`s Studentized Range test (p<0.05) (SAS, 1989).


The pH of the silage decreased significantly over time in each of the treatments with a faster decrease found when whey was added (p<0.05) (Table 1). The drop in pH at the onset of the incubation was presumably related to lactic acid production. At the end of the ensilage, however, the pH was similar in all treatments. The pH of 3.8 to 3.9 in the final product is typical for lactic fermentation and indicated that the silage mixtures were well fermented (Davies et al., 2000).

Table 1: Changes in pH and lactic acid production and fiber, total nitrogen, ash, dry matter, carbon and total carbon content (g kg-1 dry matter) of maize plants ensiled with cane molasses (100 g kg-1) and whey serum milk (20 g kg-1)
aMSD: Minimum significant difference (p<0.05), bValues with a different small letter(s) are significantly different between the treatments, while values with a different capital letter(s) are significantly different over time (p<0.05)

The lactic acid production was significantly larger in silage with molasses and molasses plus whey than in the control treatment after three days, with the largest increase found in the latter one (p<0.05). Higher lactic acid concentrations when molasses were added might be due to the rapid degradation of the WSC in the molasses. Those WSC were used immediately by lactic acid bacterium forming lactic acid thereby reducing pH (Weinberg et al., 1988). Additionally, the lower pH helps to hydrolyze polysaccharides in maize leaves so that they become available for LAB (Zhang et al., 2000b). Whey increased acidity and contains components, such as lacto albumins and lacto globulins rich in sulfur amino acids (cysteine and methionine) and minerals (Ha and Zemel, 2003), creating better conditions for growth of homo-fermentative LAB increasing lactic acid production (Zhang et al., 2000a). Whey also contains LAB, such as Lactobacillus delbrueckii, L. helveticus and Streptomices thermophilus used as inoculum in cheese production (Mannu et al., 2002), but presumably also other LAB that induced a rapid acidification of the forage during the early stages of ensiling (Weinberg and Muck, 1996). Fast production of lactic acid is important to obtain high quality silage because lactic acid is responsible for inactivation of plant enzymes and death of undesirable microorganism that might inhibit fermentation or lead to silage deterioration even after that ensiling was over, i.e., silage with a low stability (Opitz Von Boberfeld, 2001). After seven days, the lactic acid production was similar in all treatments due to the degradation of polysaccharides, i.e., (hemi) cellulose, of the maize leaves. Asbell et al. (2001) found that lactic acid was only produced after nine weeks in a maize ensiling and after one month for wheat ensiling, while it was already produced after 15 days in the study reported here.

Table 2: Changes in acetic acid concentration (g kg-1) in maize plants ensiling with cane molasses (M), whey (W) (serum milk) and cane molasses plus whey (M+W) additives
aMSD: Minimum significant difference (p<0.05), bValues with a different small letter(s) are significantly different between the treatments, while values with a different capital letter(s) are significantly different over time (p<0.05)

The N concentration was not significantly different between the mixtures at all times tested for (Table 1). Losses of nitrogenous compounds were thus negligible and indicative of a suitable fermentation, although changes in the distribution of the nitrogenous components might have occurred during the ensilage (Driehuis and van Wikselaar, 2001).

Addition of molasses reduced significantly the neutral detergent fiber content in maize silage compared to the control treatment or maize silage added with whey (p<0.05) (Table 1). The fiber content decreased because cellulolytic microorganisms degraded (hemi)cellulose (Lin et al., 1992). Ash and dry matter contents were not significantly different between treatments (Table 1). This is important because a key factor in ensiling is to preserve the dry matter content thereby reducing effluent production (Haigh, 1999). A negative relationship has often been found between the dry-matter content of the ensiled crop and the amount of effluent produced and silage effluent is a major source of agricultural pollution (Haigh, 1999; Megaas et al., 1999). The use of the additives did not significantly improve the fermentation stability of the silage, but the total production of effluents with cane molasses was significantly lower than that of the control without additives (data not showed) (p<0.05). Organic matter was significantly larger in maize silage added with whey and whey plus cane molasses (p<0.05). The carbohydrate content was not different between treatments.

Acetic acid was the only volatile fatty acid detected in the silage of maize and decreased significantly with the addition of whey and/or molasses (p<0.05) (Table 2). The acetic acid concentration was significantly lower in maize added molasses plus whey than in maize added with cane molasses but significantly larger than in maize added with whey (p<0.05). It has been reported that addition of molasses and lactobacilli reduced the concentration of acetic acid in red clover silage (Hetta et al., 2003). Palatability of the forage increases with lower acetic acid concentrations. However, the presence of some acetic acid is required as it inhibits fungal growth and thus preserves silages susceptible to spoilage upon exposure to air (Weinberg et al., 2003).


It was shown that maize plants can be effectively ensiled with whey and molasses inducing a higher and faster production of lactic acid. Whey in combination with sugarcane molasses can be used to obtain maize silage suitable for ruminants. Further field experiments will be required to determine whether similar results can be achieved in commercial silos.


This research was funded by Fundacion Produce Chiapas A.C. grant No. FPCH/177/04.

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