Steps for managing insects help prevent crop damage

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Insect infestations in stored wheat can cost a lot of money in treatment expenses or elevator discounts.  The best way to avoid insect problems in stored wheat is to follow preventive management practices from harvest until delivery of the crop for sale.

These steps include conscientious equipment management before, during, and after harvest as well as good sanitation practices.  Other safeguards are thoroughly drying the crop, timely aeration, and frequently checking grain condition.

First, thoroughly clean all equipment wheat will pass through from the field to the storage bin: combines, grain carts, trucks or gravity wagons, dump pits, transport augers or bucket elevators, hopper tanks, dryers, conveyors, and storage bins.  Use a small, wet-dry vacuum cleaner for hard-to-reach ledges and other areas on this equipment.

If a high-pressure sprayer or compressed air were used to clean combines and hauling vehicles last fall, inspect them again.  Pay close attention to areas in the rear of the combine where insects could overwinter in small pockets of debris or grain dust.  Also, remove grain dust that might have accumulated in the corners of hauling vehicle beds.

If planning to use the first load of wheat to clean handling equipment, be sure to keep this grain separate and sell it soon after harvest no matter what the price.  It is better to lose a few cents on several hundred bushels than risk infecting an entire bin of wheat worth several thousand dollars.

Alternatively, you may choose to treat the first load of wheat with a grain protectant.  This will help control insects in the incoming wheat, and aid in prevention of movement of insects upward from beneath the perforated floor.  Though using a grain protectant can be expensive, choosing to treat the first and last loads can be a good investment.

Insecticides labeled for this use are listed at the end of ENT-47, Insecticide Recommendations for Small Grains.

The most cost-effective way to protect stored grain from insects is to follow good sanitation practices in and around the bin.  Use a broom, shovel, and wet-dry vacuum to thoroughly clean the bin and apply an insecticide to all interior surfaces before adding wheat to the bin.

Always follow insecticide label use and storage instructions.  Remember that some products require a time delay between spraying and putting grain into the storage bin.

Here are some more practices for economical insect control in stored wheat:

• Harvest wheat at a manageable moisture level for your particular operation.  Harvest at a moisture level of 15 percent or lower if heated-air drying is not available.

• Adjust combines before and during harvest to reduce kernel damage and limit trash.

• Dry wheat to 12.5 percent moisture content if you plan to hold it a month or longer.

• Clean wheat before storing it.

• Unload enough wheat to form an inverted cone in the top of the bin to provide uniform air flow through the grain.

If having problems with Indian meal moth, consider applying an approved cap-out treatment to the top 12 inches of wheat.

Frequently inspect stored wheat for insect activity and changes in temperature or moisture.

Use fans to cool stored wheat after drying as soon as possible in September and at least once a month during the fall to cool grain below 55 degrees Fahrenheit.

Fumigate by an approved applicator only when sanitation, proper drying and aeration fail to control insect activity.

For more information, please contact the Carroll County Cooperative Extension Service at (502) 732-7030.

Christin Herbst is the Carroll County Extension agent for agriculture and natural resources. Call her at (502) 732-7030 or send e-mail to Christin.Herbst@uky.edu.