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How to dry your maize harvest in wet season

By George Mbakahya
During this season of unrelenting rains, the traditional method of maize drying by spreading the grains on a polythene sheet to dry under the sun is not sustainable. [Kevin Tunoi, Standard]

As days go by, the rains seem to be unrelenting. As the rains hit harder, maize farmers are feeling the heat.

The Ministry of Agriculture estimates that the country will lose about 30 per cent of maize due to the rains.

This impact will be felt more strongly in North Rift where farmers have started harvesting.

Under normal circumstances, maize should be dried to 13 per cent moisture content to avoid rotting and aflatoxin contamination. But, with the heavy rains, farmers cannot dry the maize.

For years as a tradition, farmers have been drying maize using the sun. When still in the field, maize is stalked leaning on each other and left in the field to dry.

The stacked maize would stay in the field for up to three before farmers remove it and shell it for further drying.

After shelling

After shelling, the grain is spread on the polythene sheet to dry under the sun. Unfortunately, this method is no longer possible with the ongoing rains. But there is hope.

This outdated method can be replaced with simple home-made maize drying technologies. One such technology is the EasyDry M500 is an option.

This portable maize drier, dries maize quickly and is effective. The drier can dry 500 kilos of maize to moisture level of 13 per cent in three hours.

The main source of energy are cobs which are burned to provide heat. An in built fan then passes the heat and smoke from burning maize cobs through the dryer’s heat exchange and then out of the chimney.

Another fan, powered by five litres of petrol daily, pushes clean air through other channels into the heat exchange.  

The dry and hot air is then pushed through a bed with maize, hanging on a table like structure, housed within a canvas bag. The maize is regularly turned, every 30 minutes by the dryer operator for effective drying.

 After three hours, 500 kilograms of ‘wet maize’ achieves a moisture content level of about 13.5 per cent, at which point it can be stored.

Mechanical shelling  

Like the mechanical shelling machine which is hired when required, so is the EasyDry M500. The service provider moves from one farmer to another as requested because it can be transported on two motor-cycles.

A fabrication manual and an operator manual are available online, along with a video.  The EasyDry is simple to understand – instead of putting the maize on the ground and letting the sun evaporate the moisture, the maize is suspended and hot air pushed through.

Another relevant technology this season is the GrainPro Collapsible Dryer Case  which is an affordable portable case used to safely and conveniently dry various agricultural commodities.

It eliminates the need for fuel and electricity because it uses solar energy. Designed to minimise post-harvest losses as well as operational expenses, this innovative sun dryer is perfect for patio drying a wide variety of agricultural commodities such as coffee, cacao, rice, and maize.

It is an easy-to-install solution made from woven coated polyethylene (PE), which is twice as strong as ordinary tarpaulin and lighter than reinforced PVC.

Inflatable PE side-walls keep commodities from spilling out of the dryer. An important feature is its ability to protect commodities against re-wetting, as the drying floor can be folded and closed at night or in case of sudden rains to prevent moisture re-absorption.

[The writer is an expert on sustainable agriculture and agricultural solutions]

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