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Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Farmers advised on post harvest grain handling

By Bob Aston 

Post harvest grain losses have been a common occurrence to most farmers in Kenya. The Ministry of Agriculture in Laikipia County is now teaching farmers on proper maize storage and post harvest handling to reduce food losses. The Storage interventional activity is being provided to farmers to reduce maize grain losses for enhanced food security.
“Poor storage of grains leads to loss of quality, possible production of mycotoxins, swelling and germination of grains,” said Elcy Kigano, Divisional Crop Officer, Ministry of Agriculture, Sipili division.
Elcy demonstrating how to measure insecticide
Post harvest losses is normally caused by poor drying before storing, poor shelling leading to breakages of grains. The storage temperatures should not be too high; the store should be well ventilated and free from pests, moisture in stores cause rotting and discoloration. The proper bags to use for cereals storage should allow optimal aeration.
Elcy said that grains must be dried as soon as possible after harvesting. Farmers were advised to wait until maize is dry in the farm before harvesting. Wet grains attract insects and moulds. Drying will reduce moisture content to between 12% - 15 %. Stored grains should also be maintained in good condition so as to avoid deterioration both in quantity and quality while during storage the grain must remain dry and clean. Microorganisms can attack stored grain before it dries properly when the storage environment is moist, or when it accumulates moisture.
“Careless handling of either maize cobs or grains can lead to spoilage. It is important to handle grains well so as to minimize post harvest losses,” said Elcy.
Elcy said that storage structure should be cleaned thoroughly before depositing grains. Old grains should also be removed from the structure. The entire store including the roof should be dusted with insecticide, especially if a previous infestation was experienced. All potential hiding places for insects should also be dusted.
Grain stores that have not been cleaned properly or dusted will experience attack by insect pests, micro-organisms like bacteria, fungi and yeast and domestic rodents.
Farmer mixing grain that has been put insecticide
Insect pests normally enter the grain, while others contaminate or damage it from outside. Domestic rodents like rat and mice not only feed on the grains but they also contaminate them with urine, feces and other pathogens such as fleas.
Elcy told the farmers to ensure that they sort maize properly before storing. Maize cobs that are of poor quality should not be stored together with the rest.
Elcy advised farmers to dress their maize cobs before putting them in the store with the recommended insecticide. Insecticide should not be put before the maize is fully dry and before dusting.
 “Make sure you measure the insecticide well. Most farmers rarely use provided measures but it is important to do so in order to know the exact quantity to use,” said Elcy.
Farmers were advised to ensure that they Mix 50g of Actellic super dusting powder for every 90 kg bag of grain. The grains have to be thoroughly mixed using a shovel. Some Actellic Super dusting powder should also be sprinkled on the outside of the bag to reduce re infestation.
“It is not recommended to use actellic super on cob maize to control the larger grain borer. Better control of the pests is obtained on shelled maize,” said Elcy.
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