Special One Grain chairman James Moore says "we see grain stored on-farm as money in the bank. But to maximise its value, you need to have a storage protocol, and that's what this checklist provides".
PHOTO: Liz Wells
A desire to help its members maximise the value of their stored grain has seen Walgett’s Special One Grain spark an online initiative that looks set to benefit growers across Australia. And it all started with a phone call.
In June last year, Special One Grain chairman James Moore rang Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries senior agronomist Philip Burrill to ask him how best to develop a checklist growers could use to ensure the grain they turned out of their silos was as good as the grain that went in.
What resulted was the ‘Storage Checklist’, which itemises the pitfalls of on-farm storage systems and draws on GRDC research, Mr Burrill’s experience in dealing with growers and grain buyers, and Special One Grain’s understanding of what would work on-farm.
Mr Burrill says the checklist is available for growers everywhere to self-audit their on-farm storage system.
“This checklist helps growers identify what they are doing well and where they need to lift their game,” he says.
That could be in the areas of aeration, fumigation, hygiene or access.
“We know that traders have their preferred suppliers, the farmers who consistently out-turn grain from their own storage to meet standards buyers set.
“If farmers use this checklist, and make amendments to their system, they are well on the way to making themselves one of those suppliers.”
Special One Grain has more than 80 grower members, who know only too well how black soils renowned for holding moisture can be a curse when it comes to out-turning grain in wet weather. It is why the checklist includes questions about all-weather access and whether the site can accommodate B-doubles or road trains.
They are questions Mr Burrill says growers everywhere could consider if they want to be the farmer that traders ring when they are a few loads short of filling a contract and cash prices are up.
Mr Moore says many Walgett growers have made big investments in the past 20 years in on-farm storage.
“We see grain stored on-farm as money in the bank. But to maximise its value, you need to have a storage protocol, and that’s what this checklist provides,” Mr Moore says.
For collective marketers like Special One Grain, the checklist has underpinned its move to standardise on-farm storage practices, which enable the company to offer large parcels of grain, including its premium product, Prime Hard wheat.
Mr Burrill says while growers are relying more and more on consultants and agronomists to provide guidance on what to grow and how to grow it, on-farm storage has largely been an area they have tackled themselves.
“A question I put to growers at workshops is what changes they’ve made to their cropping practices in the past 15 years, and then to think about how their storage practices have changed. Sometimes they haven’t.”
He says the checklist is a useful tool for getting growers into the habit of monitoring their stored grain at least monthly for changes in its look and smell, correct operation of the aeration system, and the presence of insects, and recording the results.
“That’s the way to make sure fumigations are done correctly. If you fumigate in a last-minute rush before out-turn, you risk getting the load rejected for containing high phosphine residues, or insects which are still alive.”
Mr Burrill says that when investing in silos, growers should make sure they comply with the gas-tight standard, AS2628, and the rest is up to them.
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