Storing cowpea seeds for a season and a reason

| July 9, 2018

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Our Farmer story from Malawi features a farmer who is happy with his airtight PICS bag. Our Script of the week talks about two methods for reducing insect loss in stored cowpeas: using airtight triple bags (the principle of PICS bags), and using airtight metal drums for storage.

Post-harvest crop loss by African farmers is 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. In Kenya, the leaves are used as a vegetable, and the seeds are cooked and served with rice or flat wheat bread. When mixed with maize, it’s called nyoyo, a local delicacy in the Kenyan countryside. The seeds or vegetables can be sold for cash, and the used cobs added to the compost heap.

But farmers can lose their entire cowpea production to insect damage in storage. Storage losses include lost income because of decreased grain quality. For stored cowpeas, the most important insect pests are bruchids. The following script talks about two possible solutions for bruchid control in stored cowpeas: airtight metal drums, and triple bagging.