Farmers can save more than 25 per cent of cereal harvests to pests by storing their produce in special suffocating bags, which do not require chemicals.
The US originated-Purdue Improved Crop Storage (PICS) bag has three linings, with two inner ones being plastic.
While the outer lining is normal woven sack carrying the produce, the two plastic linings prevent entry of oxygen into the cereals and any organism in the bag would die after the air ‘locked’ inside is depleted. This takes about 48 hours.
Each of the three layers of the PICS is tied tightly.
Among the crops destroyed by these insects include maize, beans, groundnuts, wheat, cow-peas, peanuts, rice, sorghum and pigeon peas.
The Purdue University College of Agriculture, which came up with the bag, says farmers will sell clean produce because no chemical dusting is required to kill insect pests.
“PICS technology eliminates insecticide use and enables farmers to store their grain instead of selling it at harvest when the price is low. The bag would ensure a supply of clean grain for consumption or sale for many months after harvest,” the university’s research says.
In addition, farmers will not incur costs of buying insecticides, which Food and Agricultural Organisation says destroy 25 per cent of cereals while in stores. Consumers globally are charming up to organic foods, which are produced without agro-chemicals.
In using these bags, residual health hazards associated with the dust pesticides commonly applied to secure the harvest while in store will no longer be a worry to consumers.
However, the farmers must at first store clean and pest-free grains given that moths and weevils at times attack crops like maize right from the field.
But farmers must ensure moisture content in the cereals is at the required level of 12 per cent. This would prevent rotting in the bags.
PICS is effective on small pests; this means bigger ones like rats and other rodents must be killed by other means of for instance trapping.
The plastic linings are soft and hard when exposed to hot and cold conditions respectively.
The bag is available in the Kenyan market, costing between Sh250 and Sh300. Bell Industries Limited is one of the companies selling them.