Agribusiness: Hail the airtight insect and rodent pest-killer bag!

Almost half of Kenya's 39% grain losses are due to insects and rodents in storage.

In Summary

Kenyan agriculture scientists have developed airtight hermetic bags and bags made with chemicalsthat kill rodents and insects.

• Insects struggle for air and against heat and carbon dioxide. 

Workers package maize at the NCPB depot in Eldoret
STORAGE: Workers package maize at the NCPB depot in Eldoret
Image: FILE:

Insect pests and rodents account for 35 to 40 per cent of the total 30 per cent of harvest losses, mostly in storage.

And killing the insects and rodents is major challenge crop production.

Agriculture PS Kello Harsama, most losses occur at the storage level, hence, the need for farmers to invest in proper storage systems.

Huge losses and income may soon be a thing of the past if an innovation bag by a scientist from the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (Karlo) goes widespread.

Airtight, reusable bags bags and liners made with killer chemicals could be the answer  in a couple of month. They're effective but form groups so buy in bulk. 

Kalro's Paddy Likhayo of the department of entomology said farmers lose a lot of production from insects, especially maize in storage.

He said agricultural entomology involves research that aims to prevent pests from devouring crops and in storage.

“We lose between 35 to 40 per cent of the production to pests. There are various methods to control the pests in storage and also in the field.

"Most of the huge losses happen in storage level,” he said.

He has developed the rodent repellent hermetic bag to address the problem of grain damage by rodents at the storage level.

Likhayo said there are different emerging technologies including the hermetic storage bag, as well as the metal silo and plastic silo in a range of sizes.

These are bags ideal for the practices of the common small-scale farmers.

He explained the hermetic bag generates carbon dioxide and a little bit of heat that deplete oxygen levels in the bag.

“The bag is air tight and does not allow any inflation of air or water vapour. Thus, the insects will die for lack of oxygen and enhanced carbon dioxide in the bag," he said.

"The insects lose oxygen they struggle to breathe and in that process, they lose a lot of water and therefore die." 

In the storage systems, there are also rodents. “So when the rodents damage the hermetic bag, then it does not function the way it is supposed to. Therefore, grains stored in those bags will be lost to the insects,” Likhayo said.

The researcher said they are working with the private sector to develop the plastic liner inside to the bag and made with a chemical that will repel the rodents. The rodents will detect these volatiles and move away from the bag instead of damaging it.

The volatiles cannot be detected by human beings in terms of smell, only the rodents can.

They have verified the technologies using farmers in Nakuru, Bungoma, Trans Nzoia and in Nandi counties, he said.

“We supplied over 100 bags and about 60 perc ent of them have shown that the bags that were repelling the rodents were not damaged but those that farmers normally use were damaged. These bags were stored in the stores side by side," he said.

“For the remaining 40 per cent of the number of farmers, perhaps the population of the rodents was not enough in the storage so both bags were not damaged,” Likhayo said.

He said this is an indicator that using this technology will be solving two problems, the rodents and the insect pests.  

He confirmed that the technology will be available to farmers in the next one or two months by the private sector.

The bag is called a rodent repellant hermetic bag in order to differentiate it from the normal storage bags.

He said the raw materials are imported so the bag will come at a higher price than the ordinary bags but within the limit that farmers can afford.

Currently, a normal bag that is not repellant to the rodent costs between Sh250 to Sh300 depending on the brand. It has a life span of three to four years.

“On terms of the cost-benefit analyses, the hermetic bags are worth investing in. They will enable the country to save a lot of money  spent when importing grains to meet the deficit,” he added.

He said farmers can access the bags in agrovets that are working with the private sector to help distribute the bags.

He said the bags have contact information so farmers can easily reach the manufacturers to give feedback or request delivery. 

“I encourage farmers to form groups of about 50 people and buy a bale of the hermetic bags. By doing so, the bags can be delivered directly and cut down on the transportation cost,” he said. 

(Editd by V. Graham)

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