Grain Fumigation


04/2023 Edition

By Levi Farrell A.C.E.


Fumigation of commodities has become one of the most complex and dangerous tasks fumigators can undertake. Not only are you dealing with a solid that behaves as a liquid when confined, more often than not, you also have an internal application to contend with as well.

Safety should always be first and foremost. Knowing exactly what condition the grain is in, what temperatures you will be contending with, and with the addition of all of the technologies, LOTO has become a nightmare. Many systems now can be run through the use of an application on a phone, and we even have a fully automated, unmanned terminal in Minnesota. Understanding the angle of repose for each commodity, length of time in storage, has it been unloaded at all, these are all questions that you should know the answer to before breaking that plane. And ALWAYS have a confined space monitor on you and someone with you that knows what you are doing. This application usually involves tarping the mass with plastic sheeting and applying solid phosphine under the tarp. Make sure you have enough people to apply the required fumigant in a timely manner.

Another option, which is somewhat safer, is exterior sealing. This involves the use of aerial lifts to seal the gap at the eave and any eave vents. You will also need people trained in the use of lifelines and working at heights. Maintaining communication with people on the ground is paramount. Something very small falling off of a bin with an 80-foot eave height is going to hurt someone whether they’re wearing a hard hat or not. Make sure the area is clear and that people are aware of what you’re doing so you don’t have any surprise visitors. Keep all materials and tools either tied off or in a bag. This type of sealing usually requires the use of a specialized machine called an HDS (Horn Diluphos System) to apply the phosphine gas externally into the bin. This machine dilutes pure phosphine down to levels that are not flammable, 10,000 ppm.

The next challenge is the type of storage you are dealing with. Flat storage, ground pile, bin, ship, barge, bladder, silo, etc. Each of these has its own challenges and advantages. Some of these are better suited for the use of grain protectants, especially in aging structures that will not hold lethal levels of fumigant.

This article could easily be a book. The takeaways are safety, safety again, and efficacy. If you would like a quote on a project, need someone to brainstorm options with, or training, please do not hesitate to reach out to us. Be safe out there.