Integrated pest management of a crop should not stop after it has left the field. The last thing that you want to have happen is for a crop that you worked hard all summer to get to harvest to be lost due to poor management while it is being stored in the bin. It is important to realize that storage of grains will not improve the quality of the grain. The quality of the grain will be at its best immediately after harvest. The goal of bin storage is to protect and maintain that quality.
Before putting grain in the bin, there are several steps that you should take to prepare the bin for new grain. One of the most important steps to take is to thoroughly clean the bin to remove any old, previously stored material from all components of the grain bin system. This includes the augers, fans, and the bins themselves. If you can tell what grain was last stored in the bin, it still is not clean enough.
While cleaning the bin, take time to make sure that the bin is sealed correctly and that the seals are not failing. A common area for a seal failure to cause damage is at the base of the bin where the bin rests on its cement base. This area is just one spot where moisture can enter the bin and cause significant spoilage. Also make sure to check the seals around doors and hatches. Screens should also be in place on roof vents to prevent larger animals from entering the bins. Aside from keeping a grain bin dry, keeping it sealed appropriately will also prevent the entry of insects, birds, and rodents.
Grain bin sanitation should also extend to the areas around the outside of the bin. At a minimum, at least 10-15 feet around the outside of the bin should be kept clean. This includes keeping it mowed and cleaning up spilled grain. Leaving favorable habitat and a food source intact that close to the bin is essentially creating a refuge for many of these pests. Not doing anything to prevent this is asking for trouble. Keeping this area cleaned up and maintained will prevent pest populations from building up within such a close proximity to your bin.
Some common insect pests that are found in grain bins include flat grain beetles, saw-toothed grain beetles, red flour beetles, and Indian meal moths, just to name a few. The challenge with these insects is that they, as well as their eggs and larva, can be harbored in old debris and grain remnants, hence why bin sanitation is so important. There are several preventative insecticides that can be added to the grain while putting it in the bin, as well as preventative products that can be added as a top dress after the bin is full. Fumigation, although not used as frequently as it once was, is also an option for insect management. As with any pesticide, the label is the law. Make sure to read and follow the label and use as directed.
Management of the bin while there is grain being stored is also important when considering pest management and grain quality control. Aeration will help to keep grain dry as well as disturb insects that may have made their way into the bin. Temperature monitoring is another way to manage grain quality, both from moisture and insect management perspectives. Keeping the grain bin at the appropriate temperature will prevent moisture from being drawn into the bin. It can also slow down or altogether prevent insect life cycles from repeating. Insects typically require certain amounts of heat units to progress from one life stage to the next, and if that can be slowed down or prevented, this lessens the need for chemical treatments.
It is important to realize that relying only on chemical options for insect management can be ineffective and costly. Without implementation of other integrated pest management strategies, chemical treatments are going to hurt your bottom line. It is essential to work strongly on the prevention aspects of grain bin pest management, rather than focus all your time, money, and effort on the reactive treatments. An ounce of prevention is worth its weight in gold by the time you are ready to move the grain out of the bin. Employing integrated pest management strategies into your grain storage systems can result in cost savings, from less reliance on chemical treatment, and better overall product quality.
Frank Becker is an OSU Extension Agriculture and Natural Resources Program Assistant and IPM Program Coordinator. He may be reached at 330-264-8722.
CFAES provides research and related educational programs to clientele on a nondiscriminatory basis. For more information, visit cfaesdiversity.osu.edu.