Grain handling and processing facilities are an essential component of the food supply chain. Without them, many of the in-demand pantry staples wouldn’t be possible. With the current health pandemic already disrupting supply chains across the globe, the last thing operators and suppliers need is a pest infestation to halt operations.

The grain industry already faces pest pressures because of the constant influx of product. It can be challenging for facilities to keep pests out due to the sheer quantity of material being brought off rail cars, trucks or barges.

Invasive or native, pests need certain things to survive and reproduce. While no two facilities are the same in layout or operational procedures, all grain processing facilities face pest pressures due to the availability of food, water and shelter.

While rodents and stored product insects are common in grain handling facilities, other types of pests can sneak in on their quest for food, water and shelter. Cockroaches and flies are a few of the pests that can spread harmful bacteria and pathogens throughout your facility. In addition to spreading germs and being a nuisance, a pest infestation in your facility can leave you with tainted goods and lost profits. Shipping damaged or contaminated goods not only disrupts the supply chain but can also harm your business’s reputation.

Whether you’re storing grains or processing them and shipping to customers, working with a pest control professional to implement an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program can help keep pests away from your facility.

IPM emphasizes preventing pest issues by implementing methods such as sanitation, exclusion and maintenance rather than using chemicals as a first defense. Not only is it more cost-effective to help prevent pests than treat them, it’s also safer for your products and helps maintain efficiency. When it comes to food safety, a strict sanitation program is one of the most effective measures to keep pests out.

A stringent sanitation program can help discourage pests by eliminating attractants such as food and moisture. With little to no food and water available, pests are more likely to look elsewhere for the essentials they need to thrive. Use the following tactics to help prevent pests in your facility:

  • Clean up regularly: Maintaining proper sanitation is of the utmost importance when it comes to pest control. Ants, flies and other pests are attracted to food and waste odors, so it’s important to sweep on a regular basis and clean up any spills immediately. This is especially important in those areas around receiving where spillage regularly occurs. Add rain to that grain and you have a great “soup” for fly breeding.
  • Dumpster management: Make sure dumpsters are situated as far away from your building as possible, at least 100 feet, and keep the area around them clean as well. Whenever those dumpsters are pulled, clean up the area before they are returned.
  • Seal exterior openings: Make it as difficult as possible for pests to enter. Seal openings with rodent resistant materials to prevent easy access and inspect regularly, often the sealants we use don’t last forever.

Disinfecting a facility

With heightened public concern over virus transmission, it’s important to disinfect your facility as well. Dirt and grime can create a protective barrier for germs, so a surface must be cleaned before it can be properly treated. All hard, non-porous high-touch surfaces should be disinfected as often as possible to help reduce the spread of bacteria and pathogens. In facilitates as automated as grain handling, this may be limited to a few control panels, locker room, drive room and break area.

Disinfecting these areas inside your facility is part of the multipronged effort to prevent the transmission of pathogens between your employees.

As a rule of thumb, all areas that require disinfection or sanitization should be clear of dirt and grime prior to treatment. Without removing buildup, the treatment won’t work properly. When selecting products to keep your facility pathogen-free, read the label to adhere to the product’s intended use for the most effective results.

Pay attention to the toxicity levels of a product. It’s best to use a powerful, low-toxicity disinfectant to kill bacteria and pathogens that may be living on surfaces.

You should also communicate with your pest control provider regularly. While strict sanitation measures can help deter pests, it doesn’t eliminate them forever. Your pest control provider will be able to recommend and implement the best treatment plans for any pest issues that may arise.

Your customers expect quality grains from your business, which means there’s no room for error when it comes to pests and food safety. By upgrading your sanitation program, you’ll be showing pests the door in no time and maintaining your customers’ confidence in your business.

Judy Black is vice president of quality assurance and technical services for Rollins, Inc. A board-certified entomologist and PMP Hall of Fame recipient, she has more than 30 years of experience in the pest management field and is an acknowledged leader in the industry. For more information, email [email protected] or visit