Grain stores wanted for sentinel role

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Image of a sentinel silo

'Vulnerable' grain stores are wanted as part of a new surveillance program monitoring for exotic stored-grain pests and diseases.

PHOTO: Jim Moran

A program to establish sentinel silos is being launched in Victoria, as part of an early-warning surveillance system targeting the invasive exotic stored-grain disease Karnal bunt and exotic pest khapra beetle.

Sensitive or vulnerable communities of plants and animals have long been used as sentinels, providing an early warning about the presence of pests and disease – or toxic gases, as in the past use of canaries in coal mines.

Victorian grains biosecurity officer Jim Moran believes the grains industry can benefit from a similar approach for stored-grain pests and diseases: “The kind of silos we’re looking for are essentially the exact opposite of those we recommend as best practice for grain storage. We need the most vulnerable, most at-risk grain stores,” he says.

“These silos or grain bins won’t be sealed well, and the grain won’t be treated with chemicals to control insect pests and fungi. They’re probably not inspected on any regular basis.”

He says the most likely candidates are silos or grain bins used for livestock feed on mixed farms or intensive livestock operations, such as chicken, duck or pig farms.

He is keen to find some sentinel sites in coastal areas, near ports, and near large commercial grain bunkers or receival sites.

“These areas represent the greatest risk for a pest or disease outbreak, potentially shutting down export markets,” Mr Moran says.

After an initial survey to identify all insects and fungi present in the sentinel silos, three-monthly surveys will sample only for Karnal bunt and khapra beetle.

The program will provide more rigour to Australia’s ‘area freedom’ status for these pests, which are of international concern, as well as providing early warning of any incursion.

Mr Moran says those who participate will be making an important contribution to protecting the reputation and future of the Australian grains industry. The location of all sentinel silos will remain confidential.

More information

Jim Moran, Agriculture Victoria
03 5430 4479,

Jim Moran can give you advice about taking part in the program or nominating a potential participant. 


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