As farmers are contemplating their plans for the coming season, they are encouraged to take some time to monitor the cleanliness and maintenance of their silos in anticipation of a winter crop.
Now is the time to deliver a 'knock-out' blow to any resistant pests hanging around grain storage systems, according to grain storage expert Philip Burrill.
Mr Burrill is a Development Agronomist with the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) and a key researcher with the Grain Research and Development Corporation's (GRDC) Grain Storage Extension Project.
He is encouraging growers to make the most of having empty or near empty silos and undertake a major clean, alongside repairs, record keeping set-up and long-term planning.
"When there is no grain in storage and no old infested grain around the property, you can reduce storage pest numbers to very low levels," Mr Burrill said.
"This is a good time to 'land a heavy blow' on any resistant storage pests."
Actions like clean out silos and equipment and treating with Diatomaceous Earth (eg Dryacide(tm)) are among Mr Burrill's to do list, as is removing any piles of old grain residues that will allow pests to breed.
Likewise check inside empty silos and grain sheds.
Consider making changes to improve hygiene and fill those gaps in the silo base or shed floors that trap grain with quality gap fillers.
"Check carry over grain or planting seed held in storage for pests," Mr Burrill advised.
"If insects are found, fumigate in a sealable silo with phosphine."
It is unfortunate many growers in the northern region had little or no harvest, but Mr Burrill pointed out dry periods give growers an opportunity to spend time really assessing their grain storage systems.
"This can mean undertaking a major clean, as well as improvements and repairs and maintenance, which can translate to major gains in terms of reducing the risk of storage pest resistance, as well as giving growers a chance to consider long-term plans for on-farm storage facilities."
Further actions Mr Burrill suggests for growers keen to improve their grain storage systems include following up on repairs and minor improvements to storage facilities, such as silos and sheds.
"This will improve the efficiency of harvest intake and grain sales out-turn," he said.
"Fix damaged silo lids and other infrastructure and make any changes that will ensure silos are easier to clean in the future."
Check storages meet required standards
Phillip Burrill is a Development Agronomist with the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) and a key researcher with the Grain Research and Development Corporation's (GRDC) Grain Storage Extension Project.
While there is downtime, he encourages farmers to pressure test 'sealable' silos and locate leaks, improve the seal plate design or replace damaged rubber seals.
"Do pressure testing on completely overcast days, or early morning before sunrise," he advised.
"Check that silos meet the required standard: three minutes half-life pressure test for smaller older silos or five-minute (AS2628) standard pressure test for new and large (> 150 tonnes) silos.'
An effective fumigation will only be achieved in a gas-tight silo that meets these standards, he noted.
Safety around sheds and silos is another issue Mr Burrill draws farmers attention to by assessing and make any changes that will improve safety around silos.
"Consider consulting with the appropriate authorities to put powerlines underground in areas where machinery is regularly moving," he suggested.
"Small ladders can be made to make access to silos safer and ensure there is a safe storage area for fumigation products."
Signs or warning tape indicating silos under fumigation should be a priority; as is fitting aeration cooling fans to silos that currently have no aeration.
"Set up a simple storage record keeping system," Mr Burrill said.
"Up-to-date records will assist growers work towards establishing their individual reputations as reliable suppliers of pest-free grain, which meets the quality specifications required by buyers. Monthly records should include details of any pests found."