how to manage post harvest losses

Ways of managing post-harvest losses in maize farming

Maize is an important crop in the world. It has many uses from food to raw material for industries and animal feeds. However, for maize to give a farmer good profit the whole production process must be well done. Post-harvesting handling is a crucial element in this process.

Post-harvesting losses could amount to up to 45% of the yield, this is due to challenges like pest infestation, excess moisture, disease and also birds.

How it happens.

If harvesting in the rainy season, water gets into the husks and causes mould growth. This lowers the grain quality and also leads to health risks for consumers.

Mould development can be identified by shredded husks and damaged kernels on the cob. Some measures can be taken to protect the cobs. Farmers can also use scarecrows which should be strategically placed on the farms before grains fully develop, this is to protect the maize from birds attack.

After harvesting proper storage is necessary to retain good quality.

Why drying is very important

At harvesting, the grain moisture content should be about 20%, for proper storage the moisture should be reduced to about 12%. Maize that has not been properly dried is highly susceptible to mould infestation. The damaged cobs should be separated from the good cobs as they will contaminate and lower the quality of the good grains.

Maize can be dried while the grains are still on the cob, depending on the storage facility and market conditions. Threshing or shelling can be done by hand or by a machine. Hand removal of grains from cobs is affordable and can also be tedious.

Motor-driven shellers are best for large-scale production, it is very important to minimize grain damage during threshing as the damaged grain is prone to attack by insects and fungi. Insect-damaged grains and mouldy ones should be removed.

Read Also: how to farm maize and get 48 bags per acre

The stalk can be a very good source of livestock feed and can also be used as manure. Before harvesting makes sure that the store is in good order. Leakages within the store of storing materials should be repaired or replaced. The storage area should be clean and free from the previous year’s crop residues.

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Various methods can be used for proper storage to prevent the grains from pest attacks. Open-weave sacks can be made from polypropylene or sisal. These bags should be thoroughly cleaned and dried. Improved mud silos and metal silos can also be used.

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