Controlling maize storage in Kenya: what really works?

Written by Corporate Communications on . Posted in Africa, Maize

As traditional storage methods are proving less efficient, especially when faced with pests, a team of scientists from CIMMYT and the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute researched the effectiveness of hermetic systems in controlling maize storage pests in Kenya. To identify the most effective system, CIMMYT’s Hugo De Groote, Simon C. Kimenju, Fred Kanampiu, Tadele Tefera, and Jon Hellin, and KARI’s Paddy Likhayo, tested metal silos and super grain bags at three sites in Kenya and concluded that it is technically feasible to control storage insects without insecticides in Africa by using hermetic storage. However, several unanswered questions remain:

  • While metal silos are very effective, they are also expensive. An economic analysis is necessary to determine the size at which silos become economical. Similarly, if super grain bags get perforated during the storage period, they can be used only once. If that is the case, what is their cost compared to other methods in the long run?
  • The speed of oxygen depletion needs to be measured. Is oxygen depleting slowly in the super grain bags, thus allowing some insects to survive and perforate the bags from inside? Or did the larger grain borer found in the bags perforate the bag from outside? Answers to these questions are crucial for further steps in grain protection: if the insects survive slow oxygen depletion, it is necessary to find measures to speed up the process; if the insects perforate the bags from outside, additional protection is needed.
  • Considering the pros (effective) and cons (costly) of metal silos, and the potential onetime- use-only quality of super grain bags, the authors considered the use of plastic rainwater tanks, which are very popular in Kenya and substantially cheaper than metal silos. Further research is needed to determine whether the larger grain borer would drill through the plastic.

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Comments (1)

  • William

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    Thank you Team Hugo De Groote, Simon C. Kimenju, Fred Kanampiu, Tadele Tefera, Jon Hellin (CYMMIT) and Paddy Likhayo (KARI) for focusing the storage discussion with questions,

    Are Metal silos expensive? We know Postharvest losses and wasting inputs, especially disadvantaged labor used to grow the lost crop is expensive. Ghana and from what I read Kenya growers are likely the richest small holder growers in the world. Where else can a grower lose so much after harvest, waste inputs (maybe loan interest) and still be a grower?

    Take comfort as Ertharin Cousin (executive director of the UN World Food Programme in Rome) does knowing that “tackling post-harvest loss is not rocket science. It does not require technological breakthroughs or years of high level scientific research (or economic analysis) as do some of the other challenges we face.”

    When and at what capacity do metal silos become economical?
    Only when growers stop mining with maize and gambling fertilizer to start farming will they be farmers who know the how and why of economical. It is easy for farmers who pay all labor a wage and keep records to “analyze” when the last unit invested returns more than the value of that last unit.

    Will the larger grain borer chew through hermetic bags? It does everywhere else and monitoring if air tight hermetic grain bags are working (no perforations)… Requires they are opened for inspection. But rest easy administrators and technocrats who also wonder about lifting sacks, technically hermetic bags work.

    Will the larger grain borer chew through polytanks? If the LGB decides there is food inside, probably. Until then, Poly water tanks are cheaper, especially if disadvantaged labor can be wasted. If labor receives a wage then adding practical labor saving bulk handing features to polytanks costs more, the result is less and sleeping is harder.

    At first look mobile storage is twice the price / tonne of capacity as stationary metal silo storage… Until a Farm business sees opportunity cost.
    When a farmer sees the opportunity cost of often EMPTY stationary storage compared to always FULL mobile storage the view to a lease or purchase is clear and sleeping is easy.

    When does mobile metal storage benefit national food security?
    When the disadvantaged can tactically and strategically navigate the kinks and missing links in the food value chain or Harvest tenure. Harvest tenure is when disadvantaged groups have the PRACTICAL ability to market what they grow.

    Lease or purchase NeverIdle storage for 1/2 average Postharvest losses and 1/2 missed marketing opportunities and farmers… sleep easier with the other 1/2 in your pocket.

    Thank you for this chance to comment and hear more team logic and who is funding research plans,

    William

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The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) edits and publishes an internet periodical in blog format entitled “CIMMYT.” The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center is domiciled at Km. 45 Carretera México-Veracruz, Col, el Batán, Texcoco, Estado de México, México, C.P. 56237; phone + 52 (55) 5804-2004; www.cimmyt.org. Responsible Editor: Scott Mall. Reserved Right for Exclusive Use granted by the Mexican Copyright Office (valid in Mexico) no. 04-2013-091212312700-203. Responsible for updating this blog: Carissa Wodehouse, communications officer, Km. 45 Carretera México -Veracruz, El Batán, Texcoco, Estado de México. C. P. 56150, México. Weekly update. © CIMMYT 2014.

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