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ARS Research Elevates Grain Storage Practices

By Linda McGraw
April 20, 2000

Spreading good news and good practices for integrated pest management among grain elevator operators is key to saving the wheat industry millions of dollars from losses caused by stored grain insects.

Agricultural Research Service researchers in Manhattan, Kan. and state researchers have gathered scientific data that grain elevator managers can use to thwart damage caused in stored wheat by the lesser grain borer, rice weevil, red flour beetle, and rusty grain beetle. These insects cost the U.S. wheat industry about $500 million annually.

Since the summer of 1998, Federal and state researchers have been monitoring insect levels and current pest management practices at 13 elevators in Kansas and 15 in Oklahoma. This is a collaborative study between major grain handling companies, Kansas State University, Oklahoma State University, and ARS. The work focuses on day-to-day elevator management practices--how these practices affect the cost and effectiveness of insect control and how that impacts the economics of moving and storing grain. This is the largest study of its kind, according to ARS entomologist David W. Hagstrum at the Grain Marketing and Production Research Center in Manhattan.

Hagstrum and his team have identified three main ways to improve integrated pest management: (1) cooling the grain earlier in the storage season, particularly right after it enters the bin; (2) cleaning empty bins more thoroughly; and (3) fumigating wheat only when insect infestations reach unacceptable levels. Research data collected during this study substantiate that these recommendations are cost-effective.

The Kansas-Oklahoma areawide project is one of several ARS programs developed in response to USDA’s 1998 Integrated Pest Management Initiative. As a result of the project, researchers will have developed an integrated pest management program for wheat stored at elevators by 2002.

ARS is the chief research agency for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

For a longer report, see the April issue of Agricultural Research magazine.

Scientific contact: David W. Hagstrum, ARS Grain Marketing and Production Research Center, Manhattan, Kan., phone (785) 776-2718, fax (785) 776-2792,