Last updated on July 19th, 2017
Diatomaceous Earth, or Diatoms, are a single-celled marine micro-organism found in abundance in large bodies of water. A particular usefulness to humans begin when these tiny organisms die and their skeletal remains settle to the bottom, become fossilized over time and accumulate to produce one of nature’s beneficial substances: diatomaceous earth.
Food-grade diatomaceous earth can be added to your long term storage of grains to protect from insects. Here’s more about it…
Diatomaceous earth is often harvested from areas where large bodies of water once stood and is marketed in two grades – industrial and food grade.
Industrial grade diatomaceous earth is used for many purposes including water filtration systems in swimming pools.
Food grade natural freshwater diatomaceous earth is perhaps best known for its use as a non-toxic insecticide in agriculture for grain storage.
How much Diatomaceous earth to add with a 5-gallon bucket of wheat-berries (grain)?
Food grade diatomaceous earth can be used as an organic method to rid wheat of “critters” and is particularly useful for long-term storage of grains, yet it is not harmful to man or animals. It is also inexpensive and easy to use.
For each 5-gallon container, mix in one cup of food grade diatomaceous earth.
The way I do it is while staging 5-gallon buckets for the process of long-term food storage (with Mylar bag inserts, O2 absorbers, etc..) I will set aside a single bucket for pre-mixing the wheat berries with the diatomaceous earth.
I use a bucket with a Gamma Seal Lid so that I can screw on the lid and roll it around to mix together without spillage.
First I add some grain, then some of the diatomaceous earth, then more grain, etc.. in layers so that it will mix better. Then roll it around for a minute or so. It mixes better if you do half a bucket at a time (with a half cup of the diatomaceous earth).
Note: You might consider doing the mixing and pouring outdoors or in a well ventilated area because the dust can be an issue. Avoid getting this in your eyes or breathing it. You might consider wearing a typical carpenters dust mask.
How does Diatomaceous earth work?
The microscopic sharp points scratch the exoskeleton of insects causing them to dry out and die and the powder also absorbs fats (lipids) from the hard exoskeletons of the insects, drying them even further. It makes an excellent pesticide, effectively controlling aphids, thrips, mites, snails, and slugs without harming worms or beneficial soil microorganisms.
Do not use Industrial grade diatomaceous earth for food storage because it has larger quantities of a highly crystallized form of silica.
Food grade diatomaceous earth for use in food storage has a crystalline silica content of no more than 1-1.5% and has not been heat treated.
When using it, such as mixing with buckets of grain or in the garden, it is a good idea to wear a dust mask and gloves (kitchen gloves are perfect, and rinse off afterwards). Breathing in too much of it may irritate the mucus membranes in the nose and mouth and it will dry out your skin. Once the dust settles, it does not pose a threat.
I can attest to using gloves because the first time I used it with my bare hands it did indeed quickly dry out the skin and was like having rubbed my hands and forearms in fine sandpaper… Washing up and a good dousing of hand lotion remedied the situation.
Weights and Measures
My food grade diatomaceous earth weighs 2.25 ounces per cup.
Typical high-quantity grain storage requires 7-10 pounds per ton of grain. Do the math (presuming 9.5 pounds) and the resulting equivalent for 30 pounds of wheat berries (5-gallon bucket) is 2.28 ounces. Basically 0.75 to 1 cup will do just fine…