This means that farmers who want to save their maize will have to harvest early before the crop has completely dried in the field as they have done before. All maize should have a moisture content of 13.5 per cent before it can be stored. It is very difficult for farmers to attain this moisture level especially when they harvest while it is raining. Besides, most of the people in the rural areas may not be able acquire a moisture metre to check moisture levels during storage.

 

Farmers can use a simple method to check if their maize is dry enough for storage by the use of an empty soda bottle and some salt:

• After drying your maize, put a handful of maize grains and ½ handful of common table salt in dry soda bottle.

• Shake the bottle for 2 to 3 minutes. Allow the grains to settle at the bottom of the bottle. If the salt sticks onto the walls of the bottle, this is a sign that the maize has not dried well enough for storage.

• Dry the maize again and repeat the test until no salt sticks on sides of the bottle. The maize can then be stored and there is no danger of it developing mould (or aflatoxins) during storage.

Demonstrating a simple and reliable technique to test if maize grain is dry enough to be loaded into metal silos for storage. The grain is placed in a dry clear glass bottle with dry salt, and shaken vigorously for three minutes. If the salt sticks to the sides of the bottle due to moisture from the grain, it is not yet dry enough to be stored.
CIMMYT’s Effective Grain Storage project, funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), is initially focusing on promoting these metal silos with partners in Kenya and Malawi, before widening the initiative to other African countries over a ten-year project. The silos were originally developed for Central America and have been adapted for Africa.
By providing a reliable means to store grain without loss of quality, the silos provide African farmers with a way to control their post-harvest losses. Rather than selling surplus grain straight away, they are able to wait and get a better price for their crop, stabilizing supplies and prices of maize while increasing farmers’ food and income security.
Photo credit: CIMMYT.