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NIFA Research Supporting Safer Stored Grains

Nifa Author
Lori Tyler Gula, External Communications Manager

The major feed grains in the United States are corn, sorghum, barley, and oats, according to USDA’s Economic Research Service. Corn is the primary U.S. feed grain, accounting for more than 95% of total feed grain production and use.

Today, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will visit grain elevator employees in New Orleans to learn how the wider grain industry has addressed challenges brought on by the pandemic and highlight the recent record level of exports. His visit is an opportunity to highlight research funded by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture that aims to improve the safety of stored grains.

Using Cinnamon and Clove Oil to Preserve Corn Grain

Insect invasion and contamination due to mold growth during post-harvest storage cause significant loss of stored grains and is extremely harmful to human and animal health. Different conventional techniques are in practice to control insect and mold of stored grains. Mostly practiced conventional methods are sanitation of storage bins/containers, fumigation using EPA permitted pesticides and fungicides, and maintaining low storage temperature moisture in the storage bin.
 
Researchers at North Carolina A&T University have found that cinnamon oil and clove oil have great potential to replace toxic pesticides commonly used for corn grain preservation. Because these two essential oils are generally recognized as safe, their use should be environmentally friendly and safer to the agricultural workers.

Evaluating New Technologies to Treat Grain Infestations

Protecting food and feed supply from post-harvest losses will be key to increasing the availability of food and feed come 2050. Post-harvest handling and storage are major components of the 1.3 billion tons of food wasted or lost each year. During storage, there is the risk of increased contamination and toxin development in food and feed commodities, which can lead to issues with human, animal and plant health.
 
Texas A&M University researchers are evaluating new technologies such as ozone and atmospheric cold plasma as methods to quickly reduce infestations and toxin levels in stored grains that lead to reduced quality and post-harvest loss. Specifically, they are trying to reduce toxic compounds called aflatoxins, produced by the common stored grain fungi, Aspergillus flavus. People worldwide are at risk of chronic aflatoxin exposure, which causes liver cancer, impaired immune function, childhood stunting and possible neural tube defects. Likewise, it has a direct impact on livestock through acute toxicity, reduced growth rates and weight, and immunosuppression at low doses.

Exploring Microwave Technology: A Potential Alternative to Controlling Stored Rice Infestations
 
More than 2.9 million acres of rice are harvested in the U.S. When it is stored, rice can be infested with insects such as the rice weevil and grain borer. These insects cause direct product loss, resulting in millions of dollars of economic loss through feeding damage and insect fragments in food. Insects also can cause health hazards including allergic reactions.
 
Methyl bromide has historically been used to control insects in food production and storage facilities. However, methyl bromide depletes the ozone layer in the atmosphere and is no longer used in rice storage. Other insecticides such as sulfuryl fluoride and phosphine have encountered increasing levels of resistance. As a result, University of Arkansas researchers are investigating whether microwave technology could be a potential alternative to remove insects from grains. This technology has been used to kill insects in white maize, barley and rye. This research may have potential for integrated pest management for the nation’s $34 billion rice industry.

 
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