Did you know that poor post-harvest wheat management practices cause more than 30% in wheat losses? This is a lot of food that goes to waste. Farmers have less money in their pockets, while the country will have a shortage of wheat. Today, we will discuss post-harvest losses and how to minimize them.
What are Post-Harvest Losses in Wheat?
It does not make sense to use the best fertilizer for wheat, only for the yields to reduce because of post-harvest losses. Post-harvest losses are experienced during harvesting, storage, supply, processing, and consumption. In 2020, the country produced more than 300,000 tonnes.
Of the 300,000 tonnes produced in the country, 30% was lost during harvesting and storage. Post-harvest losses come in many forms, the most common being nutritional loss, quality loss, spoilage, and commercial quality loss. This article will only discuss ways to ensure you store for long periods.
Tips for Storing Wheat to Reduce Post Harvest Losses
Prepare the Storage Area
The first thing you need to do is to ensure that your storage area is fumigated and free of any moisture. If you had stored wheat grains from the previous harvest, ensure they are not rotten or infected. The grains should be kept separately to avoid contamination.
It is recommended that whole grains such as wheat are stored in a tight-fitting closure that is dark and air-tight.
Only Harvest with the Right Moisture Content
When you harvest, you must ensure that the moisture content is at least 14%. At 14%, you can store the wheat for upto nine months. If you want to store the wheat for more than nine months, then the best moisture content should be below 13%.
If you store wheat with a moisture content above 25%, it will be attacked by fungus, increasing post-harvest losses.
Only Harvest When the Wheat is Mature
Another way to reduce post-harvest losses is by harvesting mature crops. Mature crops have fewer moisture levels meaning they will last for longer periods. You will need to train your pickers to identify mature and immature wheat. The best way to know whether it is mature is by looking at the color.
If the wheat matures, it will have a golden yellow color and very little green. Another way is to break the plant’s seed head and rub it on your palms. When you rub the head, it will release grains. If you bite the grains and realise they are soft, it is not yet time to harvest. However, it is time to harvest if the grains are hard and the color is golden yellow.
Store Quality Grains
To reduce post-harvest losses, ensure that you plant and store quality grains. There are many seed varieties in the market; some can be stored for long periods, while others need to be sold within a few months. Popular varieties grown in the country are Eagle 10, with a maturity of 110 days, and Kenya Korongo, which has a maturity of 120 -130 days.
You can know the quality of a grain by observing the kernels. Storing won’t increase their shelf life if the kernels are cracked or broken.
Do not Mix Kernels
Another tip you need to know is that old, and new kernels should be stored separately. This will help reduce the chances of contamination. The storage units used should be dated and identified according to the seed variety and date of harvest. This way, you will be able to know which seed variety is bad for storing.
Finally, always monitor the conditions of your wheat to identify pests and diseases before they attack the entire storage unit. If possible, use hermetic storage technologies such as super grain Bags and other modern storage bags.
This is a comprehensive guide on tips on how farmers can reduce post-harvest wheat losses using proper harvesting and storing techniques.