Aeration has a key role in best practice for on-farm grain storage

Aeration has a key role in best practice for on-farm grain storage

28 July, 2016

To improve the effectiveness of on-farm grain storage, Plant Biosecurity CRC researchers are working on-site with industry and growers to develop best practice guidelines for stored grain pest management.

With the amount of grain stored on-farm increasing, controlling insect pests is a key target for quality control.

“Insect control has become more challenging as insects develop resistance to the key fumigant phosphine” said Dr David Eagling, program coordinator for grains at the Plant Biosecurity CRC.

“And with phosphine playing such as key role in insect control in grain storages, the search is on for alternatives that will support growers in maintaining quality. We’ve developed a strong portfolio with options such as aeration and nitrogen, and we’ve been working with grain growers east of Geraldton in WA, directly field testing the options as a partnership with the Mingenew-Irwin Group,” he said.

Spread over several farms in the Mingenew area the trials are monitoring insect pests, ambient conditions and moisture levels in twenty gas-tight 70-tonne capacity sealed silos. The main focus of the research is to fine-tune the use of aeration for pest management, to make it cost-effective and to make it efficient.

Image: MIG grower member Murray Thomas and PBCRC grains program leader Dr David Eagling at an on-farm trial site testing aeration in Mingenew, WA.

The research, a partnership between the Grains Research Development Corporation and the PBCRC, has seen aeration fans fitted to sealed silos at three different locations and measurements taken fortnightly over the storing period from early December to mid-April. These results were then compared to similar silos with no fans.

“We found a number of benefits resulted from continuous aeration of silos. We saw temperatures lowered by 12 degrees Celsius, decreases in humidity by 40 per cent, and increased seed viability,” said Dr Eagling. “And we also saw pest insect densities reduce by over 60 per cent which will play a role in helping reduce pressure on fumigants such as phosphine”

“Most importantly, there was an economic benefit to the grower of $2.09 per tonne when using aerated silos.”

Image: An aeration unit for a silo.

This research is translating into practical outcomes with an economic benefit for the Australian grains industry. Already there is farm-to-farm uptake of these aeration practices in the Mingenew area, as well as adoption by visiting grower groups.

“We’re very grateful to the efforts of our partners at the Mingenew-Irwin Group. They have been very proactive is expanding awareness of the work and its benefits through workshops and training activities and this in turn has helped with further adoption of the demonstrated best practice,” said Dr Eagling.

Birchip Group (Victoria) members visit the team at the Mingenew-Irwin Group and discuss the benefits of aeration fans.

Next steps are continued consultation with industry so any guidelines developed can then be used to inform activity at each site, putting in place an integrated process to deliver and deploy research outcomes to grains end-users.

“We continue to learn from all our on-site work, fine-tuning our research outcomes so that they are relevant to the industry,” said Dr Eagling.

The CRC funded project is a joint program with the Grains Research Development Corporation in collaboration with the Mingenew-Irwin Group. The CRC work has been supported by participants including the bulk grain handlers CBH Group, Viterra and GrainCorp, along with the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.

PBCRC project: Grain industry delivery sites (3076)

Project Leader: Dr David Eagling, Plant Biosecurity CRC

Participants: CBH Group, GrainCorp, Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Viterra

Partner organisations: Mingenew-Irwin Group

Key themes: grain, market access