An Overview on Storage of Food Grains
India is an agriculture-based country and has made tremendous progress in the field of grain production during the past years by adopting advanced strategies of production. But all these efforts seem to be nullified by the post-harvest losses. The post-harvest losses have been estimated to be at the extent of 15% from the total production. Due to this loss storage of grains also suffers a 10% loss. Storing of harvested grains is an important step in the post-harvest processes thus it should not be taken for granted.
Importance of Food Storage
There are various reasons that make food storage important for a country. Some of the reasons are-
It supports farmers. Government purchase all the harvested produce of the farmers at Minimum Support Price (MSP).This prevents the farmers from selling their grains at loss in case of excess production.
The government stores the purchased grains to fulfill the food demands of the nation and export the surplus.
Storing of grains also helps a country to combat situations of food shortages if prevalent.
Different Places to Store Grains
Food grains are stored in large quantities in granaries. Thousands of gunny bags containing grains are stored in the granaries which are considered as big rooms with ventilation. Grains are also stored in the Silos to protect them from pests and other factors.
Farmers store grains in big containers (this) of metals, concrete containers, jute bags, or big metallic bins.
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The figure shows a number of silos used to store grains.
Factors that Affects Storage of Grains
As it is already mentioned that 10% of grains are lost alone during storage. This is a very large proportion. There are various factors responsible for these losses during storage. These factors can be grouped into 2 categories as Biotic and Abiotic factors.
These include the living organisms that destroy the stored grains. Insects and rodents like rats are the common organisms that destroy the stored grains. There are around 100 species of insects that attack the stored grains. Beetle, rice moth, Indian meal moth, Red flour beetle are some common insects that attack grains like wheat, rice, barley, pulses, dry fruits, nuts, maize, etc.
The fungus also is a major grain destroyer that affects the quality of the crops. Fungus or molds like Aspergillus and Penicillium not only destroys the grain but also make them poisonous by releasing some toxins which may harm the person eating these grains.
The excretory wastes of these insects, pests, and rodents which they leave on the crops are considered to be very harmful.
Besides the biotic factors, there are some non-living factors that affect the stored grains. These include air, moisture, and temperature. An unbalanced amount of these factors can harm the grains drastically.
Role of Temperature in Grain Storage
The temperature of the granaries and silos or the storage containers is a very important factor that can determine the extent of the post-harvest losses during storage. If grains are stored at high temperatures then they will sweat causing an increase in the moisture which in turn will lead to the development of infections by pests and fungus. Aeration maintains the temperature. The natural circulation of air in the grains lowers the temperature. Maintenance of ambient temperature is necessary to maintain the quality and quantity of stored grains. Grains must be properly cooled before storing them.
Role of Moisture in Grain Storage
Moisture also plays an important role in the safety of the stored grains. Moist and warm conditions are the favorable conditions for insects, pests, and fungus to flourish. The presence of moisture also causes discoloration of grains and reduces its quality. There must be an arrangement for regular checking of the moisture contents for the stored grains. Nowadays electronic moisture measuring meters are available for checking the moisture of the stored grains.
Damages During the Storage
If the grains are not stored properly, or not taken care of, it will lead to the various damages which will affect the progress of the farmer as well as the country. These damages can be direct or indirect.
These are the damages caused by pests, insects, etc. They eat the grains from inside and make them hollow, thus reducing the weight of the grains, discoloration of grains, and foul smell. All of these are direct damages.
This includes the damage that is inflicted from consuming infected grains. Such consumption can cause food poisoning and various worm infections in humans.
1. Mention Some Methods of Storing the Grains from Insects.
There are various methods of storage that can be followed to prevent the attack of insects. These methods are mentioned below-
Godowns should be properly cleaned. There should not be any crevices.
There should be no moisture in the storage rooms and containers. Everything should be dried properly before storing the grains.
There must be proper aeration and temperature and moisture must be checked and controlled.
The use of chemical fumigations in the storage rooms and containers helps in getting rid of pests and other microbes. Various chemicals are available in the market for fumigation.
2. How were the Grains Traditionally Stored?
Earlier farmers used to store the grains in the large metallic, airtight containers after properly sun-drying them. Dried neem leaves were added to the stored grains in large quantities as it has antifungal properties. Grains were also properly dried to avoid moisture in the grains. Containers were kept at a place with moderate temperatures. These were some of the ways by which grains were stored traditionally. Chemical methods were not available so farmers relied on these methods to protect their grains from damage. Advancement in science has helped farmers to reduce storage loss but to a little extent.