Providing practical information to help you protect your farm from biosecurity risks

Seeking grain stores as sentinels for pests and diseases

December 4, 2015
Jim Moran and sieve

Jim Moran wants to know what’s in your silo. There are two probes and sieves for the first two people to offer their silos to the Sentinel Silo Program.

Victorian Grains Biosecurity Officer, Jim Moran, is lifting surveillance in the grains industry to the next level by starting a Sentinel Silo program.

Australia already has sentinel bee hives, chicken flocks and other sentinel plant and animal surveillance programs, and Jim wants to recruit the owners of grain stores that can act as sentinels for the grains industry too.

Sentinel plants or animals are early indicators of the presence of a pest or disease, often because they are more sensitive or vulnerable to infection.

Sentinel grain stores may be more likely to become infected because chemicals are not used to treat pests, or because they are largely unmanaged, possibly for months at a time.

“The Sentinel Silo program in Victoria wants to hear from any grower interested in participating, but I’m particularly keen to hear from farmers who don’t use chemicals to control insect pests and fungi. This might be more common where grain is stored on-farm for animal feed,” says Jim.

Livestock producers, owners of mixed farms that have a grain storage bin, bunker or silo are likely to be good candidates for this program.

“We realise that this goes against our best practice biosecurity advice that we would normally give for producers whose grain is destined for export markets and needs to be free from insects.”

“But the grains industry needs to survey sites regularly to give rigour to our area freedom status and to allow early warning of an incursion,” said Jim.

“It’s a big risk not knowing what’s really going on out there in the silos across the state,” said Jim.

By surveying sentinel silos every three months he will be able to report with a greater certainty that exotic pests are absent from grain stores in Victoria.

“Our aim is to survey the same grain stores by inserting insect probes, sieving grain and using new pheromone traps,” said Jim.

The location of all sites will be kept confidential and participating farmers will be doing agriculture and the grains industry a huge service as well as getting information on improving their own grain storage systems.

Jim also needs sites that are near the coast or a port, a big grain bunker or receival site.

“These sites would represent the worst case scenario for a pest or disease outbreak, potentially shutting down export markets.”

“If you or a grower group are interested, I can provide biosecurity information and training to improve hygiene and biosecurity at these sites over time,” he added.

The first two growers to be signed up for the program will receive an insect sieve and grain probe, valued at $170. Please call Jim Moran at the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources in Bendigo on 03 5430 4479 or email