Minimising postharvest loss through proper storage

A large percentage of the world’s population consumes grains, which include cereals and pulses. However, even when all the factors of production remain constant, poor handling can compromise quality and quantity of grains, and lead to massive post harvest losses. 

Loss in quantity leads to reduction in the amount available for sale, while poor quality results in reduced market opportunities and nutritional value. Proper post harvest handling, conservation and storage enable grain quantity and quality to be maintained. ips to protect your grains from contamination and spoilage:

Harvest in good time

 It is critical to harvest maize once it shows signs of maturity. Maize left in the field for long is prone to pest attacks and rotting, especially in wet conditions. The moisture absorbed during this extended time will contribute to spoilage and growth of fungi and mycotoxins harmful to the body.

Dry your maize

 Once maize is harvested, it should be dried before storage. The sun’s heat rids maize of moisture and kills pests and their eggs. Stir your grains so that they dry evenly. Maize should have a moisture content of 13.5 per cent before storage. Use a moisture metre to check the moisture level. If not available, farmers can use an empty soda bottle and salt, as explained below:  

How to test for content moisture:

 • Put a handful of dried maize in a dry soda bottle and add ½ handful of salt. 

• Shake the bottle for 2 to 3 minutes. Allow the grains to settle at the bottom of the bottle. If the salt sticks onto the sides of the bottle, the maize is not dry enough for storage. 

• Dry the maize again and repeat the test until no salt sticks on sides of the bottle. The maize can now be stored and there is no danger of it developing mould (or aflatoxins).

Source: The Organic Farmer Magazine

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