While many of the grasses are suitable forages for livestock while they are young, if they are grown to maturity of the seed-heads, their stems and leaves become more highly lignified and the cell wall polysaccharides become more tightly aggregated. While this level of maturity is necessary for harvest of the seed grains, the leaves, stems and husks are not sufficiently digestible to be of nutritional value to livestock. They become agricultural residues of very little value.
Application of the CSI process opens up the tightly aggregated polysaccharides to make them more accessible to the digestive enzymes in the intestinal tracts of ruminant animals. Simultaneously, the low molecular weight lignins that can limit access to the polysaccharides are removed.
CSI has carried out treatments of both corn stover and wheat straw. In both instances tests by an animal nutrition laboratory showed significant enhancement in digestibility by cows. The key differences between the original residues and the CSI treated residues is that the latter released significantly greater amounts of monosaccharides earlier in the process and the total amount digested was much higher. It is anticipated that treatment of corn stover residues in the Midwest Corn Belt could provide a valuable new nutrient that can be added to the ration given to livestock.