by Dee Ward-Thompson, BPCA Technical Manager, UK

The impact pests can have in the milling and grain industries needs little introduction. In this article, Dee Ward-Thompson, gives an insight into some of the current issues in pest control – and sets out the major factors of note for the sector.


Keeping stock

Rats and mice love grain. It"s one of their favourite foods and is used as the base for a number of rodent poisons we see on the market today. As a result, grain conservation can be significantly impacted if an infestation takes hold in silos or bins. In environments seen by rodents as a giant free-for-all food store, it"s important that a professional pest controller applies a range of skills to protect the contents from attack.

Excluding rats and mice from grain stores should be the first line of defence. A large part of pest prevention is thinking ahead and identifying potential causes and entry points before infestations occur. Professionals won"t just place rodenticide around the site. They will also do "proofing" work to keep grain stores pest-proof. This might be as simple as sticking wire wool in gaps or applying mouse-proof mastic. Making improvements on every visit will soon create rodent-hostile surroundings.


Joined-up thinking

The successful outcomes from this approach have seen more companies delivering Integrated Pest Management (IPM) services, working more collaboratively with the client as opposed to in isolation to achieve good practice. IPM builds a complete picture of effective preventative methods which can be delivered by a variety of methods including inspecting premises on a routine basis and reporting on the status of pest infestations, organising and undertaking a programme of treatments, as well as using pest control equipment or chemicals to control and eliminate target pests.

Good practice also results in fewer products being used, and the adoption of resilient preventative methods and practices – which is particularly significant in light of recent research.


The issue of resilience

BPCA has been highlighting the importance of expert pest control for many years – and a report revealed this year illustrates clearly why it"s so important. A study by the University of Reading has revealed a new generation of rats carrying a genetic mutation that makes them resistant to conventional poison. The report, commissioned by the Campaign for Responsible Rodenticide Use (CRRU), has identified "the massive extent of L120Q resistance across central southern England."

While the report highlights the situation in the region, it makes it clear that the data is not available for the rest of the UK. That means resistance is in rat species across a swathe of the country. The report also states that rats without the genetic mutation are being killed off by poison, so the resistant species are taking their place, leaving a growing population of resistant pure-breds.

This rise in resistance could be due to a number of factors, and it is most likely the spread has been accelerated by the application of rodenticides, by amateurs doing it themselves, or employing an unqualified individual to try to resolve the problem.

Linked to resilience is the issue of responsibility. In his recent blog, "Pests in farms and in grain stores," Martin Cobbald, Director of a BPCA Member Company, talked about this approach and provides insight into the CRRU rules, which stipulate that if rodenticide is put down, then it should only be in response to a live infestation.

Martin advises that if rodenticides have to be used, then a proper site environmental assessment needs to be done to help prevent secondary poisoning – and that rodenticides should never be used for monitoring purposes as this could cause undue risk of harm to the surrounding environment. This, he says, this pushes towards monthly visits as a minimum and, especially, a heavy focus on proofing and habitat management.


The implications

All this points to the fact that pest issues need to be tackled head-on to prevent a problem that has all the potential to become an issue of major national concern and it"s vital that the grain and milling industry, sectors which can suffer significant impact from rodent activity, take the right steps now and are protected professionally to prevent a challenge in years to come.

Clearly there is the financial impact of lost stock. As well as rats and mice eating their way through feedstuff, this can manifest itself in other ways. This can include clustering insects, which generate heat, causing the product to spoil, thereby wasting stock.

Other issues to consider include the safety implications caused by chewed electricity cables – as well as the dangers of rodenticide misuse, particularly in relation to resistance issues discussed above. However, one of the most important factors is obviously food safety. There are many ways this can be compromised by a pest infestation.

One example is through rodents causing a contamination issue with their urine, droppings, fur, and dead bodies. And there are many other scenarios where pests can compromise food safety by being on the premises.


Being protected professionally

It is a legal requirement that foodstuffs are protected from pests and potential contaminations, as per the Food Safety Act. Professional pest control should be considered as a vital tool in adhering to this legislation. The most effective method to ensure protection and compliance is to introduce a pest management maintenance cycle programme, with regular, targeted activity undertaken by a professional management professional.

The pest management maintenance cycle proposal slots into an organisation"s scheduled operations to offer value and peace of mind. As well as tackling rodents, pest management professionals can also address other troublesome pests in grain silos and bins, including the wide range of moths, beetles and weevils they attract, to ensure complete protection.

Through the development of a routine maintenance cycle programme, a complete picture of effective preventative controls can be built, and relevant actions introduced. This will include inspecting premises on a routine basis and reporting on the status of pest infestation, organising and undertaking a programme of treatments, as well as using the latest equipment and techniques to control and eliminate target pests.

"Through the development of a routine maintenance cycle programme, a complete picture of effective preventative controls can be built, and relevant actions introduced"

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