Final Report for ES97-016

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 1997: $38,150.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2000
Region: Southern
State: Georgia
Principal Investigator:
Steve Brown
University of Georgia, Extension Entomology, Rural Development Center
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Project Information

Abstract:

The goal of this project is to improve the knowledge base of county extension agents and farm leaders regarding management techniques for maintaining post-harvest quality of grains stored in southeastern states. Training will include consideration of the unique insect and mycotoxin problems associated with high temperature and high humidity conditions during storage and emphasize a systematic management approach.

The University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service along with the Alabama Cooperative Extension Service will work together to conduct a train-the-trainer seminar at the Coastal Plain Experiment Station in Tifton, Georgia on March 25, 1998. The 1890 land grant universities, Fort Valley State and Alabama A&M will be invited to participate along with representatives of key organizations such as the Georgia Corn Commission, the Alabama Feed Grains Commission and the Georgia Corn Growers Association.

The project will address the increased insect and mycotoxin problems associated with grain stored in southeastern states. One of unique problems that will be addressed is field infestation of corn by the maize weevil, the key pest of stored corn in the south.

The training seminar was conducted on March 25, 1998. Thirty trainees attended the seminar and rated it a 9.4 on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 representing the best training they had ever experienced. Classroom as well as “hands-on” training sessions were conducted as planned. The 8-month storage demonstration was conducted and the results were available for viewing at the seminar. Participants saw the results of four different storage scenarios and learned that grain quality and value increased as managements inputs increased. Production of the instructional video tape has been completed and copies have been distributed to program participants, industry leaders and selected university faculty in southern states.

Fumigation workshops were conducted in Walker County, GA on 11/03/99; Crawford Co., GA on 11/09/99; Coffee Co., GA on 11/11/99 and Calhoun Co., AL on 11/22/99 (agenda attached). An additional fumigation workshop for the peanut industry was conducted in Blakely, GA on 08/09/00. A total of 152 attended.

We hope that by communicating the results of this project to people that serve as key sources of information, the project will eventually impact all grain producers and grain handlers in the southeast and improve the quality of our grain and the profitability of grain production. Increased grain production in the southeast will improve crop rotations and increase utilization of minimum tillage systems.

Several grain associations in Alabama and Georgia have already expressed interest in having this training repeated. The Southeastern Wheat Alliance has expressed interest in repeating the training with an emphasis on wheat.

Project Objectives:

1. Conduct a train-the-trainer seminar whereby county extension agents and key farm leaders will receive current information on the management of stored grains. Training will emphasize an IPM approach that minimizes insect damage, mycotoxin levels and pesticide residues thereby maintaining the highest possible grain quality and profitability for the grower.

2. Conduct a demonstration of post-harvest management systems that will begin in the fall of 1997 and be available for observation and training purposes at the seminar to be held in the spring of 1998.

3. Improve the quality of educational materials available to county agents and farmers by producing an instructional video tape emphasizing management techniques discussed at the seminar.

Our original proposal has now ben expanded to include the following objective:

4. To conduct a series of six on-farm grain fumigation workshops in Georgia and Alabama. These workshops are designed to increase applicator awareness of safety issues and improve the efficacy of grain fumigation and thereby the quality of grains stored on the farm.

Education & Outreach Initiatives

Objective:
Description:

Methods

Project Situation

Unfortunately, grain production is marginally profitable in most years. Disease, insect, nematode and weed problems are more severe in the southeast making costs of production higher and yields lower than those in the Midwest. Producers that attempt to store their grain on the farm commonly find that warm, humid conditions create numerous problems that add an element of risk to economics of grain storage.

Despite the widespread and serious nature of grain storage problems in the southeast, there has been little educational effort to address the problem. Most educational programs target production problems rather than post harvest problems. The objectives of this project attempt to address the problem of post harvest losses in the southeastern states.

Outreach and Publications

Results of our training demonstration and the training video tape were disseminated along with other pertinent training information.

Feedback from Farmers and Ranchers

The most prevalent comment we have gotten while conducting this program is that the trainees have never been exposed to the type of information we have presented. Most are very familiar with educational programs addressing production agriculture but have never had training on the management of their crops after harvest. We believe there is an enormous amount of educational work left to do in this area. Most trainees have been extremely receptive to new ideas because they are aware of the losses they have incurred in the past.

Outcomes and impacts:
Outcomes and Accomplishments

Objective 1- A train the trainer seminar was conducted on March 25, 1998 at the University of Georgia’s Rural Development Center in Tifton, Georgia (agenda attached). The program was limited to 30 county agents in Georgia and Alabama through the normal in-service-training programs offered in each state. In addition to the county agents, the president of the Alabama Feed Grains Association participated in the training. Participants received a packet of reference information and demonstration results which they can use to initiate their own county-level training programs. Due to requests for additional training, a second workshop was conducted on July 27, 2000.

Objective 2- The corn storage demonstration was initiated in early September and was terminated at the training seminar. Corn was purchased and loaded into each of four storage bins located at the Coastal Plain Experiment Station in Tifton. Each bin was subjected to different management plans and data was collected to document environmental conditions in the bins as well as insect pest populations, grain quality and grain value. All of this data was presented at the training seminar and the bins were open for viewing.

Objective 3- The instructional video tape has been completed and distributed.

Objective 4 – Five workshops were completed with a total attendance of 152. A publication addressing fumigation issues has been written by Dr. Kathy Flanders (Auburn University) and Dr. Steve Brown (University of Georgia) and published by Auburn University (publication attached).

Project Outcomes

Recommendations:

Post-harvest management of agricultural commodities involves a multi-disciplinary team including at least, entomologists, agronomists, economists and agricultural engineers. Anyone involved in the long term storage of agricultural commodities will agree that post-harvest and pre-harvest management are equally important to their profit margin. There is a tremendous need for research and educational programs addressing post-harvest technologies, especially in the South where the climate is conducive to storage problems.

Potential Contributions

This project will provide a source of reliable information about an agricultural problem that up till now has gotten little attention. We hope that this information will be the impetus for farmers to make better decisions regarding on-farm storage of grains and to do a better job of managing their grain when they do decide to store it on their farms. We are convinced that better management will lead to increased quality of grains from the southeastern states, an improved reputation of southeastern grains in marketing channels and better food and feed products from those grains. Farmers should realize improved profits from grain production making them more likely to grow them thereby improving overall crop rotations and better utilize minimum tillage systems.

We also envision commercial grain handlers benefitting from this project. Although commercial handlers are well aware of the risks involved in long term grain storage, many are too reliant on chemical solutions to insect problems and do not have reliable grain management programs in place.

Trainee Adoption

Trainees have adopted numerous practices promoted during our education program. The most widespread change has been in aeration practices. Most trainees admitted they were doing a poor job managing temperatures in their grain bins and have begun Astep-wise@ cooling procedures following corn harvest. We have had over twenty requests for information sources of aeration controller devices that facilitate that process.

Improved insect monitoring has also been adopted. The number of insect specimens submitted to the University of Georgia and digital images of insects from stored grains has tripled during the duration of this project. 

Perhaps the greatest improvement has been in the area of fumigation where farmers have, as a whole, been guilty of numerous label violations which impacted efficacy as well as personal safety. Although documentation is difficult, emphasis on improved storage of fumigants, better sealing of fumigated structures, and demonstrations of the rapid dispersal of fumigant gases have all resulted in behavioral changes. We have had over 50 requests for sources of fumigant detection devices and personal safety equipment. We know of at least five growers that have gone to the expense of installing closed loop fumigation equipment which results in more efficient and safer fumigations.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.