Proper sanitation is key to strong grain crop

Texas grain farmers will face a somewhat pleasant predicament this fall and summer as they harvest what could be among the biggest crops (wheat, corn, and grain sorghum) in recent years.

The challenge will be finding a timely means of moving all that grain into the market or locating adequate storage to hold it for later sale.

Maintaining the quality of a big crop in storage will be critical, says Roy Parker, Texas Extension entomologist at Corpus Christi.

Sanitation has to be job one, he says.

“Clean everything used to handle grain — bins, augers, combines, and trucks.”He says augers are particularly difficult to clean and that growers may want to run several hundred pounds of grain through them, outside the storage facilities, before starting to fill bins.

He recommends treating bin walls and floors with Tempo insecticide to remove any insect infestations before new grain goes in. “Sweep the bin first to get rid of excess grain and then spray the floor and walls.”

He cautions that Tempo cannot be applied to grain — only to facilities.

He recommends farmers seal all storage bin holes before moving in new grain.

“It's easy to find most holes in an empty bin. Just look for the light.” He suggests looking closely around fan vents and ductwork for openings that may have appeared since last fall. Holes allow fumigants, if needed later, to escape, thereby limiting their efficacy. They also allow moisture to enter the bins and spoil the grain.

Any old grain removed from storage bins should be taken away from the facility, Parker says. “Old grain stacked near storage bins provides a source for insects to reproduce and move into the newly-stored grain.”

Preparing a storage facility, especially a large one, for a new crop is a demanding, complex process.

“Farmers shouldn't wait until the week before harvest to begin,” Parker says. “Most should start six months ahead; some even start sanitation as they empty the bins.” He says farmers should get into bins and dump pits to remove leftover grain.

He also recommends they set combines at the proper level to prevent trash in the grain.

Producers who plan to store grain more than six months should treat it as it goes into storage; Actellic plus Diacon II for corn or sorghum will take care of most stored grain insects, he says. “We need the Diacon II because Actellic is weak on lesser grain borers.”

For other grains — everything but corn — he recommends treatment with Storicide. “We can use this on grain sorghum, wheat, oats and so forth, but not corn.”

Growers who are reluctant to treat the entire grain mass might consider treating the first few loads that go in and then the last few loads with an insecticide, Parker says.

“I also believe they get some advantage if they just treat the top. I have no solid evidence, but I think it's better than nothing.”

But, the best recourse is to treat the entire grain mass. Parker says he's tested stored grain and found that treated grain temperatures are as much as 10 degrees lower than untreated grain with insect infestations. Insect activity heats up the grain, he says.

“Farmers have also told me treatment can reduce their energy bills; they don't have to aerate as often because temperatures in treated grain stay more constant. They also see less caking on walls.”

With grain in the bin, growers or facility managers should insure that the top is level.

“Leveling the grain mass on top improves aeration and makes it easier to apply fumigants needed during storage. We can do this by hand or by removing a core from the bottom of the bin to level the cone at the top. A fairly level surface is important.”

Parker cautions facility managers about over-filling bins. The temptation may be to put as much of a big crop into a facility as possible, but “it's a false economy, especially if gain will be in storage for 8 months or longer. It causes all sorts of problems. We can't seal the bin to fumigate or aerate properly, and we need room to work in the bin.”

Some interest has been shown in storing grain in hermetically sealed sleeves, Parker says, “But we just don't know much about this practice — we simply don't have enough data. Some growers will try it; I know of one who has tried it already. But there are a lot of unknowns with the practice.”

He recommends using existing facilities first.

While grain is in storage, Parker suggests routine checks for hot spots and insect infestations.

Harvest, transportation, and storing grain could create serious challenges for Texas farmers and grain facility managers this summer and fall as they bring in what most expect to be bumper crops of wheat, corn, and grain sorghum.

Growers will want to insure that their investments are protected and that they reap the benefits of a good crop and favorable prices.

Offering clean, high quality grain consistently may not always guarantee a higher price, Parker says, but it will build a reputation and create demand for a grower's product.

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