Ask the Expert: Johnny Wilson, Ph.D.: Mitigating Potential Pest Infestations

The U.S. agriculture industry loses an estimated $2.5 billion annually due to stored grain insects. Grain Journal spoke with Johnny Wilson, Ph.D., technical services specialist for Grain Protection at Central Life Sciences, to find out how grain handlers can protect their commodities and prevent grain insects from eating into profits.

Grain Journal: Can you share a bit about your background and your role at Central Life Sciences?

Johnny Wilson: I’m the technical services specialist for grain protection at Central Life Sciences. I grew up in Central Kansas and studied grain science at Kansas State University. Afterward, I spent about a decade in the animal feed ingredient industry before joining Central Life Sciences about a year and a half ago. Our focus within the technical service group is to analyze the properties of grain and milling processes, correlating them with insect damage, and ultimately preserving quality while quantifying loss prevention.

It’s a concept that entomologists have long understood – bugs cause damage. From an entomological perspective, it’s common sense to eliminate pests from the process. However, from a business standpoint, we need to tie our decisions back to return on investment. All financial decisions must demonstrate a cost-benefit analysis. Therefore, quantifying the damage pests can inflict, whether it’s in terms of dry matter loss, downstream ingredient quality, or even safety aspects, is essential. Procurement teams need this information to make informed decisions rather than relying solely on gut feelings.

GJ: How do Central Life Sciences’ pesticidal products differ from others on the market?

Wilson: Central Life Sciences’ pesticidal products differ from other solutions on the market in several ways. We offer a variety of products tailored to different situations, whether it’s on-farm storage, elevator management, or processing facilities. Traditionally, you might associate certain products with smaller storage options, but with the prevalence of million-bushel grain bins and long-term storage, the landscape has changed. We categorize our products into three main types: preventive, reactive, and holistic solutions.

On the preventive side, we have products like insect growth regulators (IGRs), such as Diacon® IGR, which essentially acts as birth control for bugs. They interrupt the growth cycle of pests before they reach adulthood and cause damage. Moving to the reactive solutions, I dislike the term “rescue” because, by the time we notice the bugs, the damage already has been done. Insects cause dry matter loss, which can’t be reversed even by blending grain. However, we still need to address the problem. A good solution for this scenario would be Centynal™ Synergized Insecticide, which brings a boost to short-term grain storage and provides effective knockdown by combining both an adulticide and a synergist.

Then there are the all-encompassing holistic solutions, like Gravista® Insecticide, 3-in-1 insect control with an adulticide, an IGR and a synergist. Holistic solutions recognize the value in both protection and remediation. Since insects come from various sources, including the environment and the field, we need a solution that targets eggs, adults, and even assists with long-term resistance and metabolism processes. It’s about addressing the issue comprehensively rather than just reacting to it.

GJ: Can you walk us through the application process for these products, including timing and frequency?

Wilson: Application does require some planning but is relatively straightforward. Consider the size of the operation, the type of storage facilities, and the specific product being used. For example, our products are available in both liquid and dry formulations, allowing for flexibility in application method. In general, it’s essential to apply the products onto the grain mass as it moves through conveying systems or during loading processes.

Timing-wise, it’s crucial to be proactive rather than reactive. Regular treatments can help prevent infestations from taking hold, especially during periods when environmental conditions are conducive to pest activity. Frequency of application may vary depending on factors such as the duration of storage, the severity of pest pressure, and the product’s residual efficacy. By integrating a pest control maintenance schedule, operators can effectively manage pest populations and protect their grain investment.

GJ: Safety’s always a concern. How does Central Life Sciences ensure safety and compliance with its products?

Wilson: Safety’s a top priority for us. None of our products require applicator licenses, and all are food-grade, minimizing PPE requirements. We’ve designed them for user convenience while maintaining efficacy against pests. Our commitment to safety extends beyond product formulation to comprehensive training and support for users, ensuring they have the knowledge and resources to handle our products safely and effectively.

When it comes to insect identification, you have something like a lesser grain borer -- they’re incredibly messy eaters that make a lot of dust, so you can think about it from a dust prevention standpoint and that you’re actually preventing a significant amount of dust entering your operation by doing that upfront insect control.

GJ: Can you tell us about Central Life Sciences’ new product, Gravista®-D insecticide?

Wilson: Gravista®-D is a dual-purpose, dry insecticide combining an adulticide with an IGR. It targets adult insects while preventing future generations, offering long-term residual control on various grains. With its ease of application and comprehensive pest control capabilities, Gravista®-D exemplifies our commitment to innovation and industry-leading solutions. We conducted extensive trials to validate its effectiveness across different grain types and storage conditions, ensuring growers and handlers have a reliable solution to protect their grain investments.

GJ: Where can readers find more information about Central Life Sciences’ products?

Wilson: Visit bugfreegrains.com for comprehensive product details, testimonials, and resources, including study data and presentations.

We’re dedicated to supporting growers and handlers in their quest for grain quality and profitability. Our technical support team is also available to answer any questions and provide personalized recommendations based on specific storage needs and challenges.