Extension tailored for regional challenges

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The GRDC National Grain Storage Extension Project regional team delivered more than 345 workshops nationally since 2013, during the 2012–15 phase of the project.

Workshop presenters Philip Burrill, Peter Botta and Ben White share their observations about the challenges and opportunities of grain storage in each region.

Northern region

Photo of Phillip Burrill

Phillip Burrill

Factors that promote insect activity in grain storage in Queensland and northern New South Wales include warm temperatures when wheat and barley are harvested, increased humidity from the summer storm cycle, and a higher moisture content of grain at harvest compared with southern areas and Western Australia.

“This higher moisture content, combined with subtropical ambient conditions and a year-round source of food from both summer and winter crops, creates ideal conditions for grain-storage pests,” Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries senior agronomist Philip Burrill says.

Strong domestic demand for grain from feedlots, piggeries and layer/meat chicken farms in Queensland and northern NSW has helped drive a surge in on-farm storage.

“Growers with suitable on-farm storage can also better manage harvest-time logistics and position themselves to take advantage of a strong container export market, with buyers sourcing grain direct off-farm to fill contracts,” Mr Burrill says.

Mr Burrill says that growers who follow the key storage guidelines (the segregation of quality traits, and the use of silos that are gas-tight and, later, easy to clean) and who carry out monthly pest checks, can not only take advantage of market opportunities, but also find themselves as preferred suppliers.

His top tip for growers is to invest in storage that is easy to clean, aerated, and set up for monthly grain sampling to check quality and detect insects. A good ladder will enable growers to access the top lid of the silo and maintain gas-tight seals (AS2628) into the future. 

Southern region

Photo of consultant Peter Botta

Peter Botta

Consultant Peter Botta says growers in the southern region are investing in on-farm storage for a range of reasons.

“In the eastern states, on-farm storage gives growers options into domestic and export markets, while in South Australia – where the majority of grain goes to bulk handlers – growers tend to set up storage to improve harvest management.”

He says regardless of the motivation for investing in storage, growers can benefit in the long run by taking a forward-thinking approach.

“You might only plan to store grain on-farm for a short time, but markets can change, so investing in gas-tight sealable structures means you can treat pests reliably and safely and leave your business open to a range of markets.”

When Mr Botta speaks to growers at workshops, he suggests they approach storage as they would purchasing machinery:

“Growers spend a lot of time researching a header purchase to make sure it is fit-for-purpose. Grain storage can also be a significant investment, and a permanent one, so it pays to have a plan that adds value to your enterprise into the future.”

His top tip for growers is to decide what they want to achieve with storage, critique any existing infrastructure and be prepared for future changes: “A good storage plan can remove a lot of stress at harvest – growers need a system that works so they capture a better return in their system.” 

Western region

Photo of Ben White

Ben White

WA’s export focus means western growers need storage systems that meet stringent market demands, according to workshop presenter Ben White.

Industry reliance on phosphine – the mainstay of pest control in grain storage – is under threat as grain markets become increasingly sensitive to pesticide residues and key insect pests develop phosphine resistance.

“Alternatives to phosphine are limited and costly,” Mr White says. “Replacing phosphine with sulfuryl fluoride, which must be applied by a professional fumigator, could cost the WA bulk-handling industry an extra $40 million per year.”

He urges growers to practise grain-storage hygiene and consider alternative pest-control tools, such as aeration, and emerging technologies, such as controlled atmosphere.

“WA has the lowest adoption of aeration of all states, at less than one per cent. However, trials run by the Mingenew–Irwin Group show it is an economically sound option, with aerated seed silos saving more than $2 per tonne, predominantly through increased seed viability compared to non-aerated structures.”

His top tip for growers is to choose the right equipment and not skimp on ‘extras’ such as aeration controllers.

Gas-tight sealed storage (Australian Standard AS2628) is important for effective fumigation.

More information:

Philip Burrill
philip.burrill@daf.qld.gov.au

Peter Botta
pbotta@bigpond.com

Ben White
ben.white@kondinin.com.au

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Travelling insects help resistance spread

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Region North, South, West