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Published by: hazmee on May 06, 2008
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Order no.P3.5.1Agdex 102/28
On-farm storageof organic grain
Agfact P3.5.1, first edition 2000Revised January 2004R.Neeson
Many producers of organic grain make use of on-farm facilities for the storage of grain. Proper storage allows growers to:store seed for sowing future crops;store stock feed for drought proofing or futureon-farm use;dry or store grain to suit market demands or to achieve higher market prices;add further value or processing;manage cash flow/tax planning.Successful storage requires protecting grain frominsect or animal pests, preventing contamination by moulds or physical contaminants, andmaintaining the viability of the grain and itsnutritional and manufacturing properties. ThisAgfact describes how to achieve these objectivesin ways that comply with the National Standardfor Organic and Biodynamic Produce.
Organic farming can be defined as a system of sustainable farming that produces agricultural products without the need for artificial pesticidesor fertilisers. Biodynamic farming is a similar system utilising lunar and planetary rhythms inthe farming calendar, as well as a number of microbial preparations to improve soil health.Both follow a set of well defined, publishedstandards that constitute an organic qualityassurance (QA) system.In recent years there has been a dramaticincrease in the demand for organic and biodynamicgrain and grain products, arising largely fromfood safety and environmental concerns in food production systems. Markets into Asia have beenidentified for Australian organic wheat flour andnoodles, rice and rice flour, soybean productsand barley, while organic and biodynamic wheathas been exported to Europe.
If a farm and produce are to be certified ‘organic’,the farmer’s methods of production and storagemust comply with standards for organic farming.The farm is inspected by an organic certificationorganisation on a yearly and random basis to
Robyn Neeson, Alternative Farming Systems Officer, NSWAgriculture, Yanco
Jonathan Banks, CSIRO Stored Grain ResearchLaboratory, Canberra.
Riverina Organic Farmers Organisation membersinspect a grain silo with CO
disinfestation capability.
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ensure that standards are being met. The certifier’sstandards cover all the requirements of the National Standard for Organic and BiodynamicProduce. Since January 1993, exports of organic produce have been required to meet this standard.Some Certifier’s Standards give details on grainstorageOrganic certification aims to guarantee theintegrity of the product ‘from paddock to plate’.Production, storage, transport, handling and packing facilities must conform to organicstandards in order to maintain the organicintegrity of the product.The National Standard for Organic andBiodynamic Produce prescribes that all productsgrown to organic standards must also be handledor stored in a manner that prevents contaminationor substitution with substances or products notcompatible with the Standard. The use of  pesticides is generally not permitted, thusexcluding many widely used postharvest pestand disease control measures.
Some storage problems result from conditions before or at harvest. Some are caused byconditions during storage. Grain quality loss prior to storage can result from weather damagein head, incorrect or delayed drying or incorrectharvester settings. Grain with high dockagecontent or damaged grain is more difficult tostore well than sound, clean grain. Grain qualitylosses after harvest can include moulding andmould toxin contamination, loss of viability and processing quality (e.g. baking quality, maltinggrade, excessive free fatty acid content, reductionin oil yield) and gross loss of product.In general, grain in long-term storage should be held cool and dry. Grain quality loss after harvest results primarily from excessively highstorage temperature and moisture content. Thesemay be present at the time of binning or mayresult from the action of pests (insects, mites,moulds), respiration of the grain itself, or  physical causes such as moisture migration,solar heating or water leakage into the bin.Effective grain storage requires management of the grain temperature and moisture and controlof grain pests.
Retaining grain quality during storage involvessatisfactorily managing the physical storageenvironment to prevent infestations developingand to maintain seed viability. This includesmonitoring the condition of the grain, maintaininggood hygiene levels, knowing when and what pest control methods to use, and controllingtemperature and moisture levels in the grain.Under Australian storage conditions, mouldsare readily controlled by storing only dry grainand keeping it dry. Moulds develop typically athigher humidities than that found in wheat of about 13.5% moisture content. Moulds must becontrolled to avoid tainting the grain and toeliminate the risk of mycotoxin formation instore. Mycotoxins are chemicals produced bymoulds that are toxic to humans or livestock.The principal pests of dry grain are insects,the main ones being beetles, moths and booklice(psocids). These may be controlled by reducingthe temperature of grain in storage, but they arenot eliminated. Typically, storage of grain at 20ºCor less reduces problems from grain insect pests, but a disinfestation stage is typically required tomeet trading standards.Anumber of organic-compatible practices areuseful in maintaining the quality of stored grain.These include harvesting strategies, storagedesign and layout, grain storage management practices, monitoring pest incidence, controlledatmosphere storage, heating and coolingtreatments, and inert atmosphere vacuum packaging.
Harvesting strategies
Harvesting at the correct time can avoid yieldlosses and minimise postharvest storage problems. Grain testing before harvest allowsquality control of the product grade, leading toa better understanding of the on-farm storagerequirements. Weathering of seed often occurs before low moisture levels are attained, reducingquality and storability. Colour of the seed coatcan also be influenced by storage conditionsand/or delays in harvesting.Where there are facilities for handling anddrying grain that is too moist (greater than13.5% moisture content for cereal grain), thegrain can be harvested as soon as possible after maturity is reached. Grain harvested at higher moisture content will cake and mould quicklywhen in store unless dried or cooled quickly. Itis also above normal market and receival limits.If drying and conditioning facilities are notavailable, grain should be harvested at or belownormal receival limits for moisture. These areusually set at 12.5% for wheat, 12% for barley,oats and triticale, 8% for canola and 9% for sunflower. Cereal grain stored below theselimits should be stable over long periods andeasily storable if protected from pests andweather. Oilseeds should be aerated using well-controlled aeration if they are to be stored for more than a month.
Grain storage management practices
Good hygiene
within grain handling and storage premises is a primary goal so that the quality of the products handled is not compromised throughcontamination. In a premises registered under the
 Export Control Act 1982
, contaminationrefers to insects, rodents or any other noxious or objectionable matter as described in the ‘Grains,Plants and Plant ProductsOrders’. These Ordersare complementary to the National Standard for Organic and Biodynamic Produce.Infestation in cereal grains can be expectedto become obvious in 2–3 months under mostAustralian storage conditions unless precautionsare taken, and can originate from a variety of sources.Good hygiene in grain storage facilities can be achieved by ensuring that storages facilitate:easy cleaning and inspectionregular equipment maintenance and removal ograin residues in sheds, around silos, in headers,augers, field bins, trucks, animal troughs andin silos after emptying.Good storage design should be complemented by:proper training of staff in safety and hygiene-related issuesthe establishment of a system for recording andchecking hygiene proceduresthe development of action strategies shouldcontamination occur.Adopting a HACCPbased management systemcan greatly assist this process.
Grain moisture
 grain temperature
arekey factors affecting the number and species of insects infesting grain. Growers can manageinsect populations by controlling the temperatureand moisture content of their grain in storage.(See ‘Grain management by cooling’, below.)Other important management practices are
rotation of stocks
to ensure they do not becomesources of infestation and
destruction of old stocks
that are likely to be heavily infested .
Monitoring pest incidence
The use of insect traps in storages and surroundscan significantly reduce the amount of timeneeded to search for insects, detecting pestswhile growers sleep.For most storage pest species, traps can detectthe presence of insects at lower population levelsthan is usually possible by visual inspection.Insects detected by trapping are an early warningthat control measures need to be taken.Various types of insect traps are available:pitfall traps catch insects as they fall into acontainer from which they cannot escape;crevice traps provide a physical environmentinto which insects crawl and remain;bait traps contain food or some other form of  bait attractive to the insect.Simple and effective insect traps can be madefrom items found in most homes. Traps designedfor specific applications and pests are availablecommercially.
Reducing the initial infestation
Every effort should be made to reduce theopportunity for initial infestation of insect pestsand mice. Remove all grain and plant materialfrom equipment used for harvesting, storage,transport and processing so that there is littleopportunity for insect pests and mice to survive.High pressure air is often the most suitablemethod for cleaning equipment, but high pressurewater can be used where it will not damageequipment, and vacuum cleaning is suitablewhere there is reasonable access. Plan thecleaning sequence so that cleaned areas cannot be re-contaminated and use suitable personal protection when using high pressure air. In areaswhere machines cannot be thoroughly cleaned,the use of Dryacide
may be beneficial but thisshould not be used as an alternative to cleaning.Reducing harbours around storage areas, suchas rubbish and long grass, will minimise mice problems. Aclear area exposes mice to their natural predators.The potential for insect infestation can begreatly reduced by keeping the grain temperatureas low as possible at and after harvest and bystoring dry grain as soon as possible in a sealed,white-painted silo. Disinfest within a month of storing grain. Never add freshly harvested grain to silosretaining the previous year’s grain unless it has been effectively treated by a controlled atmospheredisinfestation. Thoroughly clean out silos and preferably leave them empty for a time beforestoring the new season’s grain.
Experimental use of CO
in a maize bunker,Peoria, USA.
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