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Keeping Fumigation Costs in Line
by Lynn Grooms

Milder than normal fall temperatures and delayed killing frosts in much of the country this season could create the “perfect storm” for pest pressures in grain bins. The situation only heightens the importance of keeping fumigation costs in line.

Improving the cost efficiency of fumigation is one reason why Dow AgroSciences developed its Precision Fumigation tools and techniques and a Windows-based software program that enables operators to calculate appropriate dosages of fumigant.
Jeff Welker, market development manager; and Suresh Prabhakaran, global research and development director, Dow AgroSciences, explain that the company’s Fumiguide software allows operators to conduct “what if” scenarios. They can take into account the types of pests to be controlled, temperature, length of exposure to the fumigant and the level at which bins are sealed. The Fumiguide helps operators to better calculate the amount of gas they would need to do an effective fumigation job.

Dow AgroSciences developed the Precision Fumigation tools (which takes into account pest, exposure time, temperature and Half-Loss Time) and software program to be used with its ProFume gas fumigant.

Operations have improved their sealing techniques after consulting the Fumiguide software.

Initially registered by the EPA in January 2004, ProFume is a replacement for methyl bromide, which was phased out in January 2005 in compliance with the Montreal Protocol. Methyl bromide was phased out over concerns about its contribution to ozone layer depletion.

ProFume was registered by the EPA with tolerances for dried fruits, tree nuts, cereals, small grains and small grain processed products. Since August 2005, the EPA approved an expanded label, which means the fumigant can now also be used for food processing facilities, pet food facilities, warehouses and shipping containers. Forty-eight states (excluding New York and California) have registered the expanded product label and only New York has yet to register the original.*

Dow AgroSciences reports that since the EPA accepted federal registration for ProFume usage, millers and processors have begun to incorporate the fumigant into their existing Integrated Pest Management programs.

ProFume and phosphine, another gas fumigant, are currently being used in grain operations around the country. Both are very effective and offer broad-spectrum control of stored product pests, says Welker. An advantage to the former, he says, is that it works faster, thus providing more flexible fumigation times for grain elevators.

There also has been documented evidence of insect resistance to phosphine, says Prabhakaran, noting that use of ProFume could help break the resistance barrier. ProFume’s active ingredient, sulfuryl fluoride, is inorganic in nature and does not bind to the commodity. This enables more gas to be available to control pests, adds Prabhakaran.

Welker points out that methyl bromide is an organic molecule that binds to commodities and provides less penetration of airspace to control pests. Methyl bromide aerates slower while sulfuryl fluoride “degases” more quickly, allowing quicker turnaround.

Shutting down for fumigation can cost operations, especially ones with large throughput, a great deal of money. Quicker turnaround, therefore, can mean significant savings, says Welker.

Users of ProFume are required to go through a training program which is administered at no cost by Dow AgroSciences. The training has three components: classroom, academy and an assisted on-site fumigation.

Classroom training helps familiarize operators with dosage calculations and aeration. The academy program involves hands-on training where operators learn to use clearance (for re-entry purposes) and monitoring devices. After participating in these programs, operators must pass a test of their skills and particpate in assisted fumigation. A Dow AgroSciences representative monitors the fumigation to ensure that procedures are properly followed.

After completing the first two phases of the training, the operator also is given a Fumiguide program to install at his or her facility. The program allows the operator to print reports that essentially are “blueprints for fumigation,” says Welker.

The program improves the efficiency of fumigation jobs by allowing operators to manage different scenarios, says Welker, adding that they do not have to guess at how much gas will be needed for different applications, for example. He also has seen operations improve their sealing techniques after consulting the Fumiguide.

Welker tells of a commodity fumigator who now likes his job better because he has a better understanding of the dynamics of fumigation. That . . . and helping to save his customers more in fumigation costs.

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