With harvest just around the corner now is a good time to ensure that your grain storage facilities are prepared for harvest. This is because, as is proven every year, safe, effective grain storage is key to assuring crop quality.


When coupled with a little cooperation from Mother Nature, growing a crop takes good management. Whilst we can't control the weather, we are able to have a profound influence on whether the grain that we harvest is kept in good condition – from when it is harvested, right up until when it is either fed or sold.

 

Now, grain store preparation is probably amongst the least glamorous jobs on an arable farm, although in many cases, it's one of the most crucial. That is largely because investing a significant amount of time and money to produce tonnes of grain, only to see a proportion of it lost or downgraded to a lower-value specification due to poor grain store management.
 

This scenario, where grain is lost through bad practice, is not only incredibly frustrating, but it is also easily avoided through a series of simple and easy to follow measures.


Good storage, good price
Although the claim that the quality of your storage procedure and equipment is directly correlated with the price it sells for does sound like a rather brave one, every year it is proven to be true in
most cases.

 

On the other hand, producing a good crop, only to have its condition deteriorate in storage, is also an unnecessary loss of income - which in a normal financial climate, let alone the volatile current one, is a concern that all of us should prioritise.
 

So why do we store grain and risk it perishing in the first place? Well, compared with selling grain at, or near harvest time, grain sold at a later date usually receives a higher price (providing market specifications are met). It's very simple supply and demand economics.
 

In most cases, feed wheat sold for a November movement attracts a UK£4/tonne (UK£1 = US$1.26) premium over the harvest price, with May movement providing a further UK£7/ tonne, with these economic incentives meaning that grain is often stored for long periods, prior to being processed.

 
That said, the risk taken often justifies the reward as during this time, grain quality and safety may deteriorate without appropriate intervention and insects and mites are also likely to be introduced from the store structure and equipment.

 

This is because even small quantities of grain provide a food source, allowing pest problems to spiral out of control very quickly, whilst the same can also be said for rodent populations. However, cleaning alone does not eliminate all pests in empty stores, nor will pesticide treatment.
 

Grain remains a 'living' crop
According to The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), the key to safe storage of grain is to use an integrated pest management (IPM) approach to prevent, monitor/
detect and control any issues.

 

Where possible, an industrial vacuum cleaner should be used to remove debris, paying special attention to clear out harder- to-reach areas. Your conveyor system may also be harbouring surprisingly large amounts of the storage fungus Penicillium verrucosum too. Best practice is also to ensure that any collected rubbish, including the contents of the vacuum-cleaner, is removed and disposed of safely, sustainably and well away from your storage facility.


If you decide to use chemicals, always read the label first to ensure that you only use appropriate food-approved disinfectant/ sanitiser and leave for long enough for it to dry before storing grain. The permitted cleaning products and previous store uses may depend on supply chain restrictions – check for approval and suitability before use.


We should also bear in mind that following its harvest, grain remains a 'living' crop – it respires and is susceptible to infection by moulds and infestation by pests. It is important to monitor temperature and moisture content, and to use targets to inform store management.


It is important to understand and manage the quality of your grain. As part of this, accurate sampling is required to guide management and provide a robust record of all the grain that leaves the farm.
If precautions and safety are not first and foremost in everything we do, then farming is potentially a very dangerous occupation.


It is very easy to take for granted slip into autopilot when the actions that we perform every day become exactly that. For this reason, a regular review of safety procedures is very important – not only to make sure everyone is aware of what they are but also to remind ourselves and our colleagues why they are there in the first place.


Harvest is an exciting time for everyone, but please, take the time to plan every step of the way and come home safe to your loved ones.

 

About AHDB
Created in the UK using powers granted under the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006, The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) is a levy board funded by farmers and growers and some other parts of the supply chain.

 

The organisation aims to enhance farm business efficiency and competitiveness in the areas of: pig, beef and lamb production in England; milk, potatoes and horticulture in Great Britain; and cereals and oilseeds in the United Kingdom.
 

It achieves this goal by undertaking research and development and farm-level knowledge transfer activity, providing essential market information to improve supply chain transparency and undertaking marketing promotion activities to help stimulate demand and to develop export markets. These are activities which most individual farm businesses could not afford to do themselves.
 

Note from the editor:
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Article contributed by Andrew Wilkinson, Milling and Grain magazine.

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