Fumigation is usually the preferred method of post-harvest pest eradication because the pests can be anywhere within the commodity, storage or processing structure, mill or food-handling establishment. According to P. Ducom, of the French research institute ITCF, “Fumigation is the art of treating food products (or a site) using one or more fumigants. A fumigant is a substance which, under specific temperature and pressure conditions, can be produced in the form of a gas at a fatal concentration for a given harmful living species. It is therefore always a gas. Aerosols, clouds of solid particles (smoke) or liquid (mists) in air are therefore not fumigants.”
For many years, methyl bromide has been a widely used fumigant, but its use is being phased out under the Montreal Protocol due to concerns that it depletes the stratospheric ozone layer. Sulfuryl fluoride gas fumigant, a broad-spectrum post-harvest fumigant being developed by Dow AgroSciences LLC, is a viable alternative to methyl bromide for fumigation of mills, warehouses, storage structures, transportation vehicles and many commodities and foods within them.
ProFume* gas fumigant is a liquefied gas under pressure containing 99.8% sulfuryl fluoride. It is used as a fumigant to control infestations of stored product insects such as Indian meal moth (Plodia interpunctella), Mediterranean flour moth (Ephestia kuehniella), confused flour beetle (Tribolium confusum), red flour beetle (Tribolium castaneum), warehouse beetle (Trogoderma variabile) and saw-toothed grain beetle (Oryzaephilus surinamensis) in emptied flour mills and empty grain storage facilities. Approval for use in the UK was granted 7th July 2004.
Once sulfuryl fluoride enters an insect or other arthropod species through the spiracles in post-embryonic life stages, or diffusion through the egg surface, the compound is broken down to the insecticidally active fluoride anion. This anion disrupts the glycolysis and fatty acid cycles, depriving the insect of the required cellular energy. After inhibition of important enzyme systems, insects attempt to utilise protein and amino acids to maintain a viable energy level. However, these alternative energy producing processes are insufficient to maintain a proper metabolic rate for survival.
Fumigation dosage of ProFume is measured as a product of both concentration and exposure time. Due to variables in structures, the environment, pest species to be controlled, and other fumigation factors, each fumigation is different and therefore the amount of sulfuryl fluoride needed is variable. The ProFume Fumiguide* calculator, a computer-based program, calculates dosage based on input of a wide range of fumigation variables.
Dow AgroSciences continue to research, develop and promote Precision Fumigation™ techniques. Precision Fumigation can be defined as optimising fumigant use to maximise efficiency and minimise risk. Precision Fumigation is achieved by integrating all the factors affecting control, such as pest biology, temperature, exposure time and improved sealing techniques in to the fumigation management plan.
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