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Plan ahead for getting stores cleaned and equipment serviced

Publication Date: 
27 June 2019

With the end of the storage season in sight, now is a good time to plan and prepare stores for next year’s crop.

Store maintenance

Basic steps include checking that equipment is functioning correctly, such as fans and fridges.

Check that air ducts are unobstructed and in good repair and that lateral shutters work smoothly. Inspect louvres closely for damage or misalignment that prevents them closing fully.

Verify that sensors are accurate by comparing against a good hand held thermometer, ideally in water (at a temperature in the range the store runs at) or, alternatively, melting ice (0°C). Tidy up sensor leads, checking for damaged or stretched cables.

If the system includes a fridge, book in a fridge engineer to service the system so ensure that the fridge gas level is correct, fridge coils are clean and that condensers are working properly and outlets are clear to allow heat to be removed to outside.

It is expensive to control the air within a store and a well-sealed store minimises the cost and improves control. Check store fabric integrity, ensuring that doors seal correctly and repairing gaps where possible.

Remove any outdated chemical signage.

Store hygiene

It is important to clean stores as dust, dirt and potato debris provide a perfect opportunity for carryover of many disease pathogens, which can easily infect the next season’s crops.

It is imperative to remove any major debris – potatoes, rots, lumps of soil and bits of wood. Then consider more intensive cleaning – vacuuming or even power washing walls and floors, especially if there has been any rotting in store.  Sweeping, whilst it will pick up large debris, generally does little other than redistribute the finer dust containing disease spores to other parts of the store. Once clean, stores can be left to dry naturally before applying an approved disinfectant, such as peracetic acid.

Drive-on floors in bulk stores may be particularly difficult to clean but it is a worthwhile job, as air distribution across the store will improve considerably. Soil compressed into grids or slats can drastically interfere with air movement – but don’t just wash it down into ducts and laterals – it needs to be completely removed.

Boxes will also require attention. Remove dust and debris from the previous crop by tipping and/or vacuuming and remember to steam clean any boxes that may have harboured soft rots. Again, a disinfectant spray may be considered for boxes where significant disease occurred or to reduce contamination for high-grade seed storage.

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