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Two young guns take over from guru of grain storage

After running hundreds of workshops over a quarter of a century, grain storage specialist Philip Burrill has trained the next generation to take the reins.
Photo: Chris Warrick

Grain storage specialist Philip Burrill’s name has become synonymous with quality advice after a quarter of century supporting Queensland and New South Wales grain growers in their quest for best practices in on-farm storage.

But as he officially retires the northern grains industry can be assured his role – though hard to fill – will be competently handled by two newcomers to the Grains Research and Development Corporation’s (GRDC) Grain Storage Extension team.

From this month, Queensland-based storage specialists – who both trained with Mr Burrill - Alex Conway and Brock Dembowski will take over providing support and advice to growers, agronomists, manufacturers and industry stakeholders.

Mr Conway is Toowoomba-based and has a background in agricultural engineering and grain storage research and development. He worked under Mr Burrill early in his extension career and brings an extensive technical knowledge, as well as practical strategies for on-farm grain storage.

Image of Grain storage specialist Philip Burrill has trained Alex Conway and Brock Dembowski

Grain storage specialist Philip Burrill (centre) has trained Alex Conway (left) and Brock Dembowski (right) to continue his legacy in supporting growers manage their on-farm grain storage. Photo: Chris Warrick

While, Mr Dembowski worked with Mr Burrill leading up until his retirement combining their knowledge and passion to improve tropical grain production and storage. Based in Townsville, Mr Dembowski now has a key role supporting North Queensland growers and also works closely with the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) Post Harvest Commodity Protection Unit.

GRDC’s Grain Storage Extension Project national co-ordinator Chris Warrick says growers should be assured that as Mr Burrill retired, the team was well prepared to continue to support growers with the latest on-farm grain storage training and information.

“Growers are definitely not on their own now that Philip has retired. Through the 1800 WEEVIL support line, growers can still contact specialists such as, Alex, Brock or myself with any on-farm storage queries,” Mr Warrick says.

“To often we hear of experts with decades of experience retiring and no one to transition that knowledge to, which is a significant loss to the agricultural industry.

“To the credit of the GRDC, capacity and longevity needs were identified four years ago as a key risk to grain storage extension work in Australia. The solution: invest in training the next generation. Alex and Brock have been shadowing Philip for the past few years, so they were well equipped to take the reins as he retires.”

Mr Burrill has had a long and successful career in Australia agriculture: for 25 years he has been providing specialist grain storage advice and on-farm support to the grains sector.
Widely regarded as one of Australia’s leading grain storage experts, the former senior development agronomist with the Queensland DAF, has been based at the Hermitage Research Facility, outside Warwick.

He has also been a long-term member of GRDC’s grain storage extension team. This team has been pivotal in supporting growers through a doubling of on-farm grain storage capacity over the past 12 years.

Mr Burrill, like his fellow team members has operated on the premise that while not every grain grower has the capacity to buy new storage, every grower should have access to the latest information to select and effectively manage the most appropriate storage options for their farming business.

The GRDC Grain Storage Extension Project was developed to support industry through a period of significant increases in on-farm storage capacity. Mr Burrill’s role had been to extend research findings and provide a feedback loop for grower questions and identify information gaps requiring research.

GRDC Grower Relations Manager – North, Vicki Green says she had utilised Mr Burrill’s expertise as both a grain grower and, in her role, working with the grains sector across Queensland and NSW.

“Philip has the extraordinary capacity to share often complex and technical grain storage management information in a straight-forward, practical way that resonates with growers,” Ms Green says.

“He has been the ‘go-to’ person for those struggling with high moisture content or trying to manage pests and it has been his calm, reassuring voice of reason and expertise that’s resulted in successful on-farm storage for many in our industry.

“He is so well known and widely known that growers and advisers from through Queensland and NSW actively seek him out at field days and other events, to get his advice on silo purchases or storage management systems.

“Philip has also been generous and considered in sharing his advice with silo manufacturers both within Australia and those operating overseas, so ultimately Australian growers have access to quality silos that can be effectively used for fumigation and other critical management measures.”

Going forward growers can continue to access vital support and advice, as well as key resources by contacting the GRDC grain storage hotline on 1800 WEEVIL (1800 933 845) or visiting

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