The Sunday News
Dumisani Nsingo, Senior Farming Reporter
THE Department of Crop and Livestock has advised communal farmers to adhere to proper grain preservation methods so as to guard against post-harvest losses especially from the previous season’s crop yields.
Department of Crop and Livestock Matabeleland North provincial agronomist Mr Davison Masendeke said grain storage loss is a major contributor to post-harvest losses and is one of the main causes of food insecurity for smallholder farmers in rural areas.
He said most communal farmers still had grain obtained from the previous season thus it was of paramount importance to preserve it from being attacked by pests so as to enhance their household food security.
“This season has been bad in terms of rains. There has been below normal rains, which means very few farmers harvested any meaningful yields thus we are urging those who still have grain from the previous season’s harvest in their granaries to inspect their facility and ensure there are no pests.
“If there are pests they should remove the grain, clean the granaries and fumigate them with grain protectants and also seal cracks if any. They should then winnow and treat the grain they remove from the granaries with grain proctetants and put it back,” he said.
Most smallholder farmers in rural areas use conventional grain storage structures and handling systems such as woven bags or cribs to store grain.
However, they are ineffective against moulds and insects already present in the grain before storage.
“It should also be of importance to harvest your crop when it is physiologically mature because pests start attacking the grain when it is still on the fields. Upon harvesting one should ensure that the grain is sufficiently dried in roofed cribs so that it dries sufficiently enough before thrashing,” said Mr Masendeke.
Hermetic storage systems are effective alternatives for grain storage as they have minimal storage losses without using any chemicals. However, hermetic bags are prone to damage and hermetic metal silos are cost-prohibitive to most smallholder farmers in developing countries.
Mr Masendeke said there was also a need for farmers to properly store their groundnuts away from direct sunlight and rainfall.
“If groundnuts are not properly stored they risk developing Aflatoxins, a fungal disease, which may be carcinogenic meaning that it has the potential to cause cancer,” he said.