Storing cowpea seeds for a season and a reason

    | October 28, 2013

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    As we saw in this week’s story from Cameroon, post-harvest losses of food grown by African farmers are a very serious problem. Inadequate storage facilities, poor harvesting practices, lack of resources, and a host of other factors are responsible. Losses of food to insects and rodents in storage can be very high.

    Cowpea is an extremely important native African crop, especially in West and Central Africa. There are many varieties of cowpeas, about twenty in all. It’s an extremely versatile plant. The leaves are used as a vegetable and, like the seeds, can be sold for cash. The seeds are cooked and served with rice or flat wheat bread. When mixed with maize, it’s called nyoyo, a delicacy in the Kenyan countryside.

    Yet some West African farmers can lose their entire cowpea harvest to insect damage in storage. Any decrease in grain quality caused by pests means that farmers will lose income at the markets when selling, and seeds saved for replanting may no longer be viable.

    For stored cowpeas, the most important insect pests are called bruchids. Our script of the week presents two possible solutions for controlling bruchids in stored cowpeas: triple bagging and storage in metal drums.