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How to store your grain for much longer

Crop By George Mbakaya | 18th Sep, 2020

Ernest Abuto, rice farmer at West Kano irrigation scheme collects rice grains after drying on December 30, 2019. Farmers with ready rice to be harvested are counting losses after their farms got flooded. [Denish Ochieng/ Standard] 

Farmers have started harvesting maize and storing it for a long period is essential. This is because at the time of harvesting, the profit margin is tight and the market low. Therefore, storing grain until the prices are favourable will increase a farmer’s profit. To keep stored grain in the best condition for a long time you have to apply the best practices.

Prepare the storage bins

The first step for quality maize is to ensure the storage facilities are well prepared. Clean out your bins and get rid of any grain left that might have insects in it. Also, check underfloor areas where the insects could be hiding. Fumigate the storage area to get rid of insects.

Right moisture content

When maize is harvested, it is live and contains insects, fungi and other living micro-organisms. Direct storage right from the field increases chances of mold and bacteria attack. This is because the kernels are still alive and harbour pests. Instead, keep the grain aerated and dry them out before storing. Dry the grain to less than 14 per cent moisture content. Once they are dry and as sterile as possible, you can seal them up and keep the environment balanced nicely at the optimum.

Store quality grain

Grain quality does not improve during storage. With that in mind, your grain’s condition at harvest will determine how well it stores. Grain with a low test weight, lots of fines, damaged kernels, and other problems make it harder to store for long periods. Good quality grain increases storage time.

Avoid mixing old and new grain 

Never mix your newly harvested produce with currently stored grain. If you must mix grain to make more room for the new harvest, combine old crops together. Thoroughly clean and prepare bins for storing your new harvest. Mixing new grain that is not yet stable with old grain invites storage problems.

Control temperature and insect activity

Put your grain into a storage system that has good aeration to control the grain temperature. Have temperature cables in the bin for monitoring. Recommendations for the exact temperature to store differ by region and season. Long-term storage can provide the perfect opportunity for unwelcome insects. Avoid infestation by cleaning and sterilising bins, and loading them with good condition, insect-free grain.

Hermetic storage techniques

Hermetic storage technologies such as the triple layer Purdue Improved Crop Storage (PICS), SuperGrain bags, AgroZ bags, GrainPro cocoons and others are being promoted as cheap and effective insecticide-free control devices against insect pests. Use of hermetically sealed containers to control major insect pests works by limiting oxygen access to insects, fungi and other microorganisms living inside the stored grain. Sealed or hermetic storage systems are a very effective means of controlling grain moisture content and insect activity for grain stored in tropical regions.

By placing an airtight barrier between the grain and the outside atmosphere the moisture content of the stored grain will remain the same as when the storage was sealed. Biological activity inside the sealed container will consume the oxygen and as a result, most insects will die. Hermetic storage provides moisture and insect control without pesticides.

Monitor the grain frequently

Regularly check on your grain. Regular checks allow you to spot the first signs of a problem and to remove the ruined grain, leaving the majority of your harvest in perfect condition. Look out for the grain temperature, collect a sample to test the moisture content, watch out for signs of crust and a noticeable smell. Use your hand to feel the grain temperature. An increase in surface moisture is often the first sign of problems.  

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