Harvesting and Storing Grains the Right Way (Part 1)
This article was co-authored by Nelson Paraguison, one of Pioneer Hi-Bred’s district agronomists based in Northern Luzon. In this issue, we discuss the right way of harvesting and storing grains. This will help farmers in reducing postharvest losses to maximize their returns, from corn production.
By the time this article comes out, farmers may have already harvested their corn particularly in Luzon. But in some areas in Mindanao, harvesting may start in a few weeks from now. It has been observed that planting is staggered in this region due to the weather and the farmers’ access to better farming technologies. Production technologies have steadily improved in the past 10 years, thanks to the benefits of modern biotechnologies and the breeding and agronomy efforts of seed companies. With increased yields, farmers are happy and happier when they are able to sell their harvest at a good price.
Good storage helps
The problem on the fluctuating grain prices has been around for as long as I can remember in my several years in the corn seed industry. Certainly, there were years that farmers were able to sell at a very satisfactory price but these were mostly confined in the “off-harvest” months-a good reason for some to plant also in the off-season.
For practical reasons, some farmers choose to sell their grains at fresh weight immediately after harvest, while others sell their produce on cobs. But in most cases, some prefer to dry their grains first down to a moisture level of 14%-15% before selling. It’s a known fact however, that drying can be costly especially during the wet season and in the absence of drying and storage facilities in most major corn areas.
For small farms in the Philippines, one good strategy for a farmer is to have a good storage for his grains. This can help them through the periods of unsatisfactory grain prices. Such strategy can give them au added opportunity to fetch a better market price and better income. In this issue, we provide some helpful tips to farmers who may choose to store their harvested corn this season or in the next.
Harvest and postharvest handling of corn in the Philippines needs a lot of improvement. According to statistics, an average of 12.7% losses is incurred from harvesting to storage. To be specific, 1.3% is lost in harvesting, 1% in spilling, 2.7% in shelling, 4.6% in drying and 3.1 % in storage. This includes also the qualitative losses such as damaged kernels caused by insects, deterioration in substance of the grains due to molds, bacteria and other microorganism, and impurities. Thus, timeliness of harvesting corn and proper postharvest handling is very important to ensure quality grains and to effectively minimize losses.
Here are some helpful tips that growers should bear in mind come harvest time.
Knowing when to harvest
There are maturity indexes in corn that indicate- the right time to pick those ears. Grains harvested at the right time or at maturity often last longer and in better condition than those harvested at an immature age. Savings can also be realized from drying mature ears or kernels as the moisture can be lowered faster without sacrificing quality. Remember the following:
1. Harvest your corn when it reaches maturity period depending on the variety. Your best reference will be the planting guide provided in each bag of Pioneer seeds or that from your local Pioneer agronomists. When the husks and most of the leaves are dry, it also tells that your crop is ready to be harvested.
2. One physiological indicator is the black layer that appears on the side opposite of the embryo. You need to sample one ear and get grain samples from the middle portion.
3. Kernels on the cobs are nearly glazed or shiny and hard.
4. The moisture content (MC) is 35% or lower.
By Allan C. Nieves