COLUMBIA, Mo. - With the growing season well under way, now is the time to clean and consolidate grain storage bins in preparation for the harvest, a University of Missouri professor said.

"Harvest is as little as two months down the road for early corn," said Bill Casady, MU extension agricultural engineer. "Most of last year's crop should be gone by now, but if you have grain still in bins, you're probably not alone."

Casady said any leftover grain from 2001 "should at least be consolidated so that most bins are empty and clean." A bin thoroughly cleaned in July "will last until harvest.

"The goal is to eliminate sources of food for rodents, as well as host locations for disease and insect pests," he said. The cleanup must include cleaning pits, augers and transitions, he said, "as well as any other locations in the system where grain can accumulate."

To get ahead of insects before harvest begins, Casady recommended following the cleaning process immediately with an approved insecticide "to protect new crop grain from old crop pests."

Producers building new storage facilities or improving existing ones should take install access doors and self-cleaning components, Casady said. "Accessibility and ease of cleaning should be high-priority considerations," he said. "These features can quickly pay for themselves if they help avoid even just a few docked loads from a little extra mold, insect damage or sprouts from grain exposed to the elements in a hard-to-clean place."

The ability to clean a grain handling system thoroughly also increases producers' opportunity to preserve identity and capture a premium on grain that has some highly valued trait, he said.