Research on stored product protection in Australia: a review of past, present and future directions

  • P. J. Collins Agri-Science Queensland, DEEDI, 80 Meiers road Indooroopilly, Qld, 4068 Australia, Cooperative Research Centre for National Plant Biosecurity, LPO Box 5012, Bruce, ACT 2617, Australia


Since its beginning, research into the protection of stored grain in Australia has been driven by market access, in particular, the need to provide insect free grain to overseas customers.
Research began in 1917 when a bumper harvest coincided with disruption of shipping due the First World War and resulted in the unprecedented accumulation of wheat stocks, which were subject to catastrophic attack by ‘weevil plagues’. Initial experiments were of insect life cycles and reproductive rate. This was followed by trials of heat and mechanical disinfestation and fumigation, and preventative methods such as admixture or surface treatment with lime, sand or mineral dusts, and hermetic storage. These technologies continued to be developed into the 1950s along with aeration cooling. In addition, ground-breaking research on mathematical descriptions of grain beetle life tables was published.
The admixture of malathion to bulk grain in the 1960s allowed, for the first time, the export of insect-free grain. However, in less than ten years, resistance in target pests had become so serious that alternatives were desperately required. In response, research began on the development of new grain protectants and alternatives such as controlled atmospheres, manipulation of grain temperature, new ways of using phosphine and the development of new fumigants.
Since the mid-1990s, pest management has become dependent on use of phosphine and maintaining susceptibility to this chemical has become a priority. The greatest problem now facing the Australian grain industry is resistance to phosphine fumigant in target insect pests. Our current short-term priority is the control of phosphine resistance outbreaks, while our more strategic research is aimed at gaining a fundamental understanding of fumigant behaviour in grain storages, the movement and colonisation of grain by insect pests and the mechanisms of selection in insect populations – information that will underpin the development of long-term resistance management.

Keywords: research industry collaboration, phosphine resistance, non-chemical technology, insect ecology, controlled atmosphere
Section: Around the World of Stored-Product Protection