Keep harvested crop safely

Saturday May 23 2020

 

By Michael J. Ssali

It has been raining for some months now and most farmers will soon be harvesting grain which they will need to store as a way of sustaining food security in their homes.

This storage also helps farmers wait for selling prices to improve, and perhaps ensuring they have some seed to plant in the next rainy season, for those without the capacity to buy seed from farmers’ shops.

Poor storage is estimated to cause about 30 per cent loss of the food produced in Uganda every year. Poor drying practices, rodents, pests, and improper construction of storage facilities are the leading causes of grain loss.

Timely harvesting is important. Some of the grain is lost in the field to birds and rodents including human thieves because it has matured and ready for harvesting but the farmer has delayed to take it home.

Harvested cereals and legumes must be properly dried. Don’t spread the grain on the bear ground where it may pick up bad smells and foreign objects like stones, soil particles, and animal droppings.

Nobody will want to eat bad smelling grain bearing stones and it always ends up on the rubbish heap even if the farmer succeeds to sell it. Put it on tarpaulin or mats for sun drying. Make sure it is protected from rain. If grain absorbs water it can germinate or rot.

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Moisture facilitates fungi growth which deteriorates grain. Moulting of grain is said to be a health risk for its consumers yet farmers must produce safe food.

Cereals such as maize and millet should be dried up to moisture content of 13 per cent while legumes such as beans and ground nuts should be dried up to 15% before storage. In their groups farmers can buy moisture meters to check how dry their crops are.

The store or granary should be entirely leak proof and clean. Rats and other rodents must be totally locked out. Stored grain may be attacked by weevils, mites, and other insects.

There are air tight bags and plastic drums which can keep grain without letting in oxygen for pests to thrive. Pesticides are an option but they are poisonous so it is important to observe manufacturers’ instructions.

— ssalimichaelj@gmail.com

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