Peter Botta says on-farm grain storage now places growers directly in the food supply chain.
PHOTO: Jeanette Severs
Food security and safety systems need to be kept at the forefront during all grain-growing and storage processes, grain storage specialist Peter Botta says.
“Food safety is something that is real in the consumer space. Grain is a food product, so how we manage it is important. We need to store it correctly to maintain the integrity of the product and avoid problems with mould and fungi. When we do have to use protectants, remember that we are putting chemical on this product, so fumigants must be used correctly,” Mr Botta says.
“When we do this, the grain is exceptionally safe.”
He says that traceability is now required down the supply chain and growers who elect to store their grain on-farm are part of that supply chain: “So growers’ systems and management must take on board market expectations. Food safety is definitely part of that.”
About 40 per cent of Australian grain growers now store their product on-farm and need to learn about using protectants and fumigants safely, Mr Botta says.
He expects at least half the national crop will be stored on-farm within five to 10 years – within silos, bunkers and in bags – and sold direct from farm to customers.
To further illustrate the reach of food safety implications, Mr Botta points out that even grain sold to dairy farmers can have potential effects on consumers through the milk produced.
So traceability along the supply chain and growers’ awareness of their responsibilitiesare important considerations for on-farm grain storage.
Hygiene, cleaning storages, treating for insects and managing quality need to be part of a comprehensive management structure.
“Best-practice grain control starts with hygiene. This includes a plan for how to clean up spillage and minimise where insects can collect,” Mr Botta says.
“Essentially, the only thing we now have to take out insects is fumigation using gas-tight sealed storage – and that’s something a lot of grain growers don’t actually have. Fumigation is something we need to get right and using fumigants in storages that comply with the Australian standard for sealed storage is a must.”
He says grain storage management begins with assessing what is currently in place, identifying gaps in best practice, and working out a storage plan to meet current and future needs.
After harvest, Mr Botta recommends hygiene, aeration and monitoring in the storage area to reduce insect infestations, then the use of gas-tight storage for effective, safe fumigation.
“If a grower is not using gas-tight storage then the fumigant is not being used properly. This increases risk to the handler and to the quality and safety of the grain for consumption.”
“For long-term storage, cooling the grain with aeration is a good management tool because cool grain stores for a long time and stores well.
“Technology can help identify humidity and temperature when harvesting and aerating grain.”
Mr Botta also highlights the need to ensure safe work practices around an on-farm facility.
“Something as simple as going up a ladder on the side of the silo to inspect the grain from the top: it’s the best way to do it but you need to ensure it is done safely.
“Also use a full face mask when using fumigants. In my experience I rarely see that on a farm, but you need a full face mask if you’re using phosphine and of course most people would be using phosphine."
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