With harvest on the horizon, growers are being reminded that grain store hygiene will be at the heart of maintaining crop quality post-harvest.
With fewer crops in the ground than most would hope and some rocky global markets, growers are likely to be holding onto grain for longer this season in order to get the best price.
But one important aspect of grain marketing which is often forgotten about or pushed to one side is getting stores ready for harvest.
Stores which are not properly cleaned out or are harbouring insects from last year’s grain run the risk of potential losses as large as those seen from pests and disease in the field, says Ken Black of Bayer Environmental Science.
He says: “It is not the nicest job on-farm, but it is critical. It is the end of the process of growing the crop in the field, nurturing it through the growing season, then getting to the end where you harvest your crop and put it into the store. This part of the process is essentially the easy part of the job.”
The cleaner the environment harvested crops go into, the better the chance of having a higher quality crop when you come to sell it, he says.
Mr Black says: “Really it is about cleanliness. If insects have somewhere to live or a food source, whether it be dust or grains left over from last season, they will be there waiting for fresh crop to come in.
“As soon as it does, they will start the process of attacking that grain and breeding.”
As insect numbers rise, temperatures will increase, running the risk of more mould, therefore more damage, he says.
“It is a snowball effect of problems.”
Mr Black says the first step is to give the store a thorough clean from roof level, where possible and safe, downwards.
He says: “Removing all that dust, debris and loose grains from last year, paying particularly attention to cracks, crevices, ledges and cracks in walls – anywhere dust or debris can accumulate.
“If there is dust there, there is a good chance insects or eggs will be there.”
The next step is to make sure all debris which is now at ground level is swept from the floor and removed from the grain store through dumping or burning.
Mr Black says: “It should be as far away as possible. Do not just leave it outside of the store, because there is a risk that any insects in there can climb their way back in.
“Do not forget while you are doing it to clean out any drying floors, wind or fan tunnels.
“Elevators and conveyors are also areas which are often forgotten about. Some people will use leaf blowers to give them a really thorough blow down.”
Laying pest traps at ground level and on any ledges or tops of walls will give an idea of whether further action needs to be taken after a thorough clean down.
Mr Black says: “The earlier you can do this ahead of harvest the better, because it gives you more time to create a clean environment and monitor insect activity.
“Then if there are signs of insects, you can then choose how to treat it.”
If insects are still present in the store, insecticides and smokes can be applied to ensure any insects left in the store are controlled.
Mr Black says: “The earlier you can do this, the more chance you have of that residual effect controlling what you have in there.”
For the latest advice on marketing your grain this season, including more information on store preparation, tune into the Crop It Like It’s Hot podcast, ‘Everything you need to know about marketing your grain this season’, available now on Acast, Apple, Google and Spotify.
For more information, visit croptecshow.com/podcasts