In many developing countries, 25 to 50% of the total grain value is lost between the harvest and consumption, mainly due to poor storage techniques, farm level wastage, and processing. This leads to lower incomes for farmers and higher prices for buyers. Further, there’s pressure on farmers to increase the production levels to attain higher rice yields and they end up using more land and fertilizers causing mass damage to the natural resources. This article aims at teaching you how to minimize grain losses and maintain rice quality for longer storage periods.
Step 1: Post-production management
Post-production management is all about how to handle the rice; from the time it’s harvested to the time it’s sold. Various processes such as cutting, hauling, cleaning and marketing the rice, etc. are involved. It’s particularly important because it prevents both qualitative and quantitative loss and with poor post-production management, you’re prone to losing as much as 50% of your total yield.
Step 2: Harvesting
This is simply a process of collecting the mature crop from the field; in our case, rice. Harvesting begins with cutting the crop and ends after it’s been prepared to dry. It involves:
– Field drying
– Packing (to send it further for drying)
Harvesting at the correct time ensures that you get the maximum yield, diminishing quality degeneration. There are, however, certain physical losses one has to face during the harvesting operations. These are loosely based on the operations and machinery used during harvesting. These losses:
– Occur during cutting
– Occur during threshing and
– Occur during grain handlings
To minimize, it’s important that you measure losses at each operation of harvesting and work upon it.
Step 3: Drying
The most critical operation once through the harvest, drying reduces the grain’s moisture content to a safe level ideal for storing it for longer durations. Moisture-laden grain is prone to discoloration, development of molds and pest infestation. It also reduces the seed’s rate of germination, thus diminishing the overall grain quality. It happens when you:
– Wait too long before you begin drying
– Don’t dry it long enough, whatever be your purpose
– Wrong techniques
Ideally, you should begin drying within 24 hours after the harvest. The grains should be dried down to different Moisture Content (MC) for different purposes.
– 14% or less MC for storing up to a few months
– 13% or less MC to store for 8 to 12 months
– 9% or less for storing more than a year
– Traditional systems: Sun drying, field drying and stacking
– Mechanical systems: Heated air drying, low-temperature drying, solar drying and grain cooling.