Kansas State University scientists Kun Yan Zhu and Subramanyam "Subi" Bhadriraju, in collaboration with scientists from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Oklahoma State University, are on the hunt to find the best, safest and most cost-effective ways to manage insects in facilities such as wheat flour mills, rice mills and pasta plants.

Their search was recently bolstered by new USDA funding of $782,000, awarded to Zhu, Bhadriraju, and a team of scientists from USDA´s Center for Grain and Animal Health Research in Manhattan, plus OSU in Stillwater. The team will evaluate, integrate and implement non- fumigation-based pest management approaches for food-processing facilities. The work, to take place over the next three years, builds on work that started in 2008 with initial funding of $784,000 to Subramanyam and others.

"Food processing facilities in the United States are replacing whole structure treatments with methyl bromide (MB)-an ozone depleter, with treatments using sulfuryl fluoride (SF) and heat," said Zhu, who is a professor of entomology at K-State and a principal investigator on the project. "Federal law specifies that the use of MB was to cease by 2005 in developed countries and by 2015 in developing countries, but a process was established where groups could receive critical exemptions while exploring MB alternative strategies." 

Replacing methyl bromide treatment with sulfuryl fluoride and heat treatment also has its drawbacks, he said. SF is less effective at temperatures below 80 degrees F, especially on eggs of stored-product pests. Heat treatment may not be suitable for all facilities and may be more expensive than methyl bromide, plus temperatures over 122 degrees F, if not properly controlled, may have an adverse effect on some structural parts of facilities.

And that´s where the work of the researchers comes in.  Joining K- State´s Zhu and Bhadriraju on the project are USDA researchers Franklin Arthur, James Campbell, Paul Flinn and Emily Jenson; and Brian Adam of OSU.